Is this the worst record ever made?
It has to be. Andrew Ridgeley’s 1990 ‘comeback’ single Shake truly is car crash stuff. The video is appropriately nasty, but ignore it if you can and just listen to the song: after the cak-handed, overwrought acoustic intro, there’s this ‘intriguing’ and ‘dramatic’ pregnant pause – during which, it seems, Ridgeley trips up and falls into a drum kit. Incredibly, they kept that bit in the final recording and somehow passed it off as a real drum intro.
Few remember Ridgeley’s solo debut (and, thus far, only) album Son Of Albert. Fewer still own it, or remember it with any affection whatsoever. Arguably, it is the the worst record ever made – of course, we’re not allowed to say that accolade applies to Freddie Mercury’s Mr Bad Guy anymore, because he’s dead. But that’s another discussion for another day.
Poor Andrew, though; while George Michael got all the credit and plaudits (i.e. blame) for Wham!, the man Smash Hits called “the Rickmansworth cowboy” was generally thought to be a bit of a lemon; eye candy for some, rhinoplasty model for others, purveyor of misplaced shuttlecocks to everyone else.
Then, in 1986, just as George donned his aviator shades, stubble and leather jacket (and somehow sold that image back to the Americans!) to become one of the planet’s biggest stars, Andrew went off to try his hand at Formula 3 racing – and promptly disappeared into the high-life’s equivalent of obscurity.
Of all the ways Andrew could have come back into public view, Shake and Son Of Albert were quite possibly the biggest miscalculation of his career. Track after track of quite incomprehensible musical incompetence, marketed, without irony, in the earnest belief that Ridgeley originals featuring guitars and real drums were somehow brave and boundary-pushing. No, no, no. And as for the stetson…
Quite what anyone involved was thinking when the completed album was signed off is anyone’s guess. 1990 was, bear in mind, the beginning of a UK recession, with all that entails: job losses, venerable UK businesses and music publications going bust, property going into negative equity – no one at CBS (soon to become Sony) seemed to realise that taking up the option of an Andrew Ridgeley solo album may just look like devil-may-care opulence of the worst order.
It was all academic anyway. Those who bought the record quickly regretted it, and Son Of Albert took no time whatsoever to disappear from record shop racks and be deleted from the CBS catalogue, almost as if it had never happened.
Cheerfully for all of us, it did happen. God bless you, Andrew Ridgeley, wherever you are.