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Video: How George Michael’s Wham! became the first western pop band to play in communist China

George Michael’s Wham! made history in 1985, after they became the first western pop band to perform in communist China.

It took their manager Simon Napier-Bell 18 months to carefully negotiate the gig with the Chinese authorities.

george michael

Photo: Legacy Recordings.

Wham! were chosen over Freddie Mercury’s Queen, for their wholesome image.

It was during a time when Beijing was keen to welcome foreign investment and open up to the world.

On April 7, a crowd of 12,000 packed the People’s Gymnasium in Beijing, paying the equivalent of HK$13.5 for a ticket. But the atmosphere was subdued as few in the audience had ever seen a live rock show.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Michael said after the show: “It was the hardest performance I’ve ever given in my life. I couldn’t believe how quiet the crowd was at first… I didn’t realise that they weren’t clapping because they thought we were begging for applause.”

“And I didn’t realise that they weren’t good at clapping in time to Western music because their sense of rhythm is so different to ours,” he said.

The duo went on to become the first western group to sell cassettes in China.

“Since we started in this business it`s been my greatest ambition to get my music to reach as many people as possible,” Michael said.

“And as China has the largest population in the world my dream has come true.”

Michael died on Sunday aged 53.

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Video: How George Michael's Wham! became the first western pop band to play in communist China