• Rob Butterfield


A stint with the Bad Boys of pop…

Me, with a Pina Colada at Club Tropicana, Ibiza 1993.

It’s a little-known fact that I once played bass in Wham!. I’m talking early eighties when things were really on the ascendancy for messrs Michael and Ridgeley. They’d had hits with Young Guns (Go for it) in late 1982 and a re-issue of Wham Rap in early 1983 (previously released but didn’t chart when released in June 1982). Later the same year (May) saw the release of Bad Boys followed by Club Tropicana in July which was to become the hit of the summer. Wham! were literally everywhere and luckily for me our paths crossed whilst I was, spookily enough, in a bar called Club Tropicana in San Antonio in Ibiza - that’s where the picture above was taken.

I was approaching 21 and on holiday with some mates doing what most chaps of that age did in Ibiza in 1983 – partying hard. Anyhow, long story short, I’d become friendly with the bar owners and they knew that I was an aspiring bass player. Word had got around that Wham! were on the island doing some promo stuff but were unexpectedly short of a bassist. The bar owner had a cousin who’s greengrocer’s sister knew someone from the management team of CBS (the record label) and she very conveniently pointed them in my direction.

So, there I am sitting in Club Tropicana, sipping on a Pina Colada wearing my best white Wham! style short shorts, suitably tanned and hip looking, when this linen-suited record industry type sidles up beside me and says “You must be Rob?”

“I guess I must be” I replied “and who might you be?”

“Justin Lambrini, CBS Records…” he shook my hand. “Word on the street is you’re a bass player and my boys need your help.”

Details of what was required were exchanged, we downed a couple more Pina Colada’s and then climbed into Justin’s chauffeur driven limo and headed off to a secret rehearsal room just outside San Mateo where I’d meet up with George and Andrew (oh yeah, we were gonna be on first name terms baby!) along with the rest of the band; Darren, Kevin, Howard, Pepsi and Shirlie.

Wham! live summer 1993 - I'm on the left, just out of shot.

I’d spend the next month with the Wham! clan, hitting Barcelona, Rome, Frankfurt and finally the UK but sadly it would end rather abruptly when one of their backing singers (Shirlie) took a bit of a shine to me and things got a bit heavy. I had to move on, I wasn’t ready for commitment at that time. She went on to marry the bass player from Spandau Ballet. I'd later meet up with Martin Kemp at a festival in 2018 but I kept shtum about my previous form with his Mrs.

So, there you go, another little secret from my musical past. It’s just a distant memory for me now. Unfortunately I moved on before Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, Careless Whisper and Last Christmas became monster hits for the boys; otherwise things may have been very different for me. But I’m happy how things have turned out, because now, every year on April 1st, I get to play the fool.

All together now… Club Tropicana drinks are free, fun and sunshine there’s enough for everyone!

If you'd like to read other 'foolish tales' about my musical career check out my story from April 1st 2019 talking about when I was in Coldplay.

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