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Andrew Ridgeley's Magnum Opus

posted Apr 14, 2013, 10:41 AM by Jeff Grable   [ updated Aug 2, 2013, 6:33 AM ]
Andrew Ridgeley of Wham! and that other guy
     Andrew Ridgeley is a name that inevtiably brings one question to people's minds; "who was that other guy Andrew used to perform with in Wham!"  Ultimately, the low-key story of Ridgeley's band-mate is not the subject of this update.
     What follows serves as a testimony against the pitfalls of perfectionism and some arcane music lore sure to surprise the hippest hipster.  The tale starts back in 1981 when two Bushey Meads Comprehensive School students set out on musical journey, but the tale also begins 28 years previously in Kyoto Japan, where a young Shigero Miyamoto hailed from, a man who was ultimately going to prove to be the muse behind the single greatest work of music ever created by Andrew Ridgeley, and perhaps one of the single best pieces of pop music, never to reach mainstream audiences.
     Back to 1981, Ridgeley and that other guy are making music even the British musical press is having
Dance prote
trouble defining.  The term "dance protest group" is coined by a musical journalist striving to meet his column inches and it seemed to have stuck, despite no one properly being able to define what is meant by the term.  From the start, Wham! laid out the path of protest that was to map the band's future musical journey.  They pulled no punches with their hard hitting first single, "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)".  Clearly the band was already defining itself as an anti-war, class warrior, personal freedom bard-duo in a musical career arc paralleled by U2's release of the career defining "Sunday Bloody Sunday".
     Back in Tokyo, Miyamoto's bosses were desperate for a hit in the United States of America.  Miyamoto had steeped himself in the American love epic "Popeye", and sought to produce a hit which played on the beloved story which is a veritable undercurrent in the psyche of every American.  The archetype Bluto found a new face in a more animalistic form, while Olive Oyl sees rebirth as the tellingly anonymous "Lady".  (Ed.: Future incarnations of Miyamoto's masterwork saw Lady ret-conned as "Pauline", bowing to pressure from an engaged feminist grassroots movement.)  Popeye, ever the stereotype of an ignorant, barely comprehensible tattooed sailor, was re-imagined as a more-marketable and contemporary Italian stereotype, Mario the plumber.  The results were timeless and the masterwork that is Donkey Kong, has yet to be surpassed in digital entertainment, even after 30 years.
     The success of Miyamoto's work was the beginning of 20 years of artistic pain for Ridgeley.  For as Wham! began their meteoric rise to the top of the charts, the smash hit Donkey Kong began dominating pinball gaming parlours and crokinole entertainment complexes from Olympia to Clearwater.  On a tour of the United States in support of their smash hit, the heavy handed anti-Thatcher, pro-worker anthem, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" Ridgeley happened upon Miyamoto's masterwork at a stadium show in Davenport.  Todd Marsden, the band's sneaker co-ordinator for the tour reports "Ridgeley just sort of stared at it for several minutes, watching the 'sample play'.  He reached in his pocket but only had British pieces-of-eight and quarter-farthings, then he saw me and asked if I had any change.  I reached in and pulled out a smattering of Buffalo nickels and Seated Liberties, but I managed about a half dozen barber quarters I had been collecting from our change as we toured America.  The look on Andrew's face was enough to see me hand over my stash.  He stretched those 6 quarters into about 30 minutes of gametime."
    30 Minutes of gametime, 2 decades in pursuit of musical perfection.  Ridegely sought to give the world a work of pop music entertainment as idealized and enriching as that he received from his time with Donkey Kong.  Riedegeley saw Donkey Kong as the light that burns the moth, a feeling confirmed when in 1985, Reiedegeeley received a letter in response to his countless correspondences, from Miyamoto himself.  The letter was terse, but spoke of a man exhausted and spent with his masterwork.  It's final words struck Reieidefegely with a poetic pain that reverberated through his spine like a bolt of lightning.  It ended simply, "Can't do more Donkey Kong, working on Zelda now".  Ridgelee saw Zelda as the comforting saccharine that Miyamoto doused himself in now to mend the part of his soul that had been ripped from Miyamoto through the birth of Donkey Kong.
Ridgeley Museum
      The next two years went swiftly for Wham!  The band enjoyed continued commercial success but unbeknownst to their fans, Ripley sought to break free and work on the song that was now consuming his daylight hours, a work entitled "Oh No, Donkey Kong".  A song meant to capture the essence of male anger and fear at the sight of their Lady tied up by a barrel throwing gorilla in a baffling concoction of scaffolding thrown together by MC Escher.
     The other guy in Wham! proved to be more remarkable than his diminished presence in the duo would suggest - in 1986, knowing that the world would never forgive Ripleigh for tearing apart the working man's band and Britain's answer to Bruce Springsteen, decided to fall on his own sword and feign that he developed an ego too large to be a part of Wham! and would set out on his own.  What fame befell the other guy from Wham! few can say, but of Ridegeley, this tale does tell.
     Ridgeleey tirelessly began reworking his magnum opus to Donkey Kong, migrating across various platforms in the process.  "Oh No, Donkey Kong!" saw it's masters moved from analogue to digital tape.  Eventually the number of instrumental sub-tracks became unmanageable for tape systems, and so, with the aid of Peter Gabriel, Ridegeley moved to a dedicated computer system for editing the work.  Gabriel admired Andrew's fastidiousness to mixing and agreed to help but would later describe the process as "terrifying".
Andrew Ridgeley Oh No Donkey Kong
Version 778 of "Oh No, Donkey Kong" - here a track for the double contra cor anglais is show.
     Finally, in 2006, as much out of completeness as exhaustion, Ridigiliy marked the work complete and contacted the labels to find a home for it.  Unfortunately for Andrew, by this time, Donkey Kong no longer symbolized man's struggle to free Lady from Gorilla, and had in fact been relegated to a series of utterly terrible exploitation titles, culminating in Spike Lee's utterly racist "Donkey Kong Jungle Fever" later rebranded "Donkey Kong Country" and stripped of it's double entendre sub-plot.
     A crushed Ridgeley was forced to self-promote the song himself on platforms such as i-Tunes.  The song to date has garnered over 23 downloads, with most reviews by angry users looking for a new Donkey Kong game for their i-Pad.
     Andrew Ridgeley was unavailable for comment as his name is difficult to spell correctly.
Jeff Grable,
Apr 14, 2013, 6:01 PM