CHINA - 1985/04/07: Young children sporting "Mao" jackets and caps gape at George Michael (left) and Andrew Ridgeley, of the pop group Wham who are visiting the Great Wall as they promote the first-ever gig by a Western pop band in communist China.

Wham played a concert at Beijing's People's Stadium, thereby becoming a milestone not only in pop but also in Chinese history, even if most Chinese hadn't a clue who they were and even fewer actually got to see them in action.. (Photo by Peter Charlesworth/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Peter Charlesworth/LightRocket/Getty Images
CHINA - 1985/04/07: Young children sporting "Mao" jackets and caps gape at George Michael (left) and Andrew Ridgeley, of the pop group Wham who are visiting the Great Wall as they promote the first-ever gig by a Western pop band in communist China. Wham played a concert at Beijing's People's Stadium, thereby becoming a milestone not only in pop but also in Chinese history, even if most Chinese hadn't a clue who they were and even fewer actually got to see them in action.. (Photo by Peter Charlesworth/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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(CNN) —  

Fans who attended Wham!’s 1985 concert in Beijing have been recalling the historic show following the death of George Michael on Sunday.

Michael – together with his music partner Andrew Ridgeley – became the first western pop act to perform in China after 18-months of successful negotiations between the Chinese government and Wham’s agent, Simon Napier-Bell.

George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, play the first-ever gig by a Western pop band in communist China.
Peter Charlesworth/LightRocket/Getty Images
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Author Lu Jun, who was one of the 15,000 people at Wham!’s Worker’s Gymnasium concert in Beijing in April 1985, recalled to CNN that the the audience was “calm” and restrained,” while foreign visitors were jumping up and down in time with the music.

Lu said police would stop the Chinese spectators from behaving in an “overexcited” manner, but they turned a blind eye to foreigners.

’Cultural exchange’

Mao Danqing, then a student a Peking University, recalled the concert as being “like a cultural exchange activity.”

“Before Wham! came to China, the Chinese stage performance was very artificial and unnatural,” Mao, now living in Japan, told CNN.

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“I had never watched such a concert before. How could the music, the sound and the people perform in that way? “

Fans of Wham! enjoy the concert in Beijing.
Peter Charlesworth/LightRocket/Getty Images
Fans of Wham! enjoy the concert in Beijing.

Both men remained fans of Wham! and Michael’s solo work and both said the concert had a long-standing impact on their lives.

Lu, recalls it being such a rare occurrence that many people “felt desperate to hear music from outside.”

“People began to change, they wore jeans,” he said.

“The music opened people’s minds and subconsciously freed a generation.”

’Heart shaking’

Mao recalled the “heart shaking” feeling Wham! gave him and his friends.

“Wham! was special,” Mao told CNN. “They are elements of China’s reform.

George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley of Wham! pose with fans.
Michael Putland/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley of Wham! pose with fans.

“During the mid-1980s, many foreign movies, novels and music were introduced to China without any preparation for people. They just suddenly showed up.

“Wham! was symbolic of more a lifestyle as opposed to just music. They represented freedom, enthusiasm and passion, natural and unrestrained,” he said.

“That’s the lifestyle every Chinese young person was trying to imitate in college at that time. Wham! represented enlightenment in China at that time.”

Mengchen Zhang and Nanlin Fang reported from Beijing, James Masters wrote from London.