Last Christmas :: Wham!
from the album, Music From the Edge of Heaven

Last Christmas is a song by British pop duo Wham!, released on Epic Records in 1984, on a double A-side with Everything She Wants. It was written and produced by George Michael, and has been covered by many artists since its original release.

Wham! had been a dominant force in the UK Singles Chart in 1984 and news that they were planning a Christmas single meant that a battle for the coveted Christmas # 1 spot in the UK seemed set to be between Wham! and the year’s other big act, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, who had achieved a third # 1 in early December with The Power of Love. The Band Aid project helmed by Bob Geldof, however, produced the # 1 single Do They Know It’s Christmas?. Wham!’s offering peaked at # 2 for much of the period, although George’s involvement in Band Aid meant that Wham! still had an input. Wham! subsequently topped the monies raised by Band Aid by donating all of their Last Christmas/Everything She Wants royalties to the Ethiopian famine appeal.

The single sold well over a million copies and became the biggest selling single in UK chart history not to reach # 1. A year later, it was re-issued for Christmas again (this time without a billed flip-side) and got to # 6. A second re-issue at Christmas 1986—by which time Wham! had split—stalled outside the top 40.

The song gradually sold in Japan, and finally became the best-selling single that did not reach that country’s top-10 chart, selling more than 600,000 copies and peaking on the chart at # 12 in 1992.

Since 1997, the song has entered the German singles chart every year, even managing to peak at # 4 in 2007. The song also regularly re-enters the airplay chart within the top 5 every year.

In 2007, the track re-entered the UK Top 20 and hit the UK iTunes Top 10.

In 2008, the song re-entered the UK Singles Chart again, this time at #36 and peaking at # 26.

In 2009, the song re-entered the UK Singles Chart at number # 39. The song also re-entered the Spanish Lista de Canciones (singles chart) at number # 9.

On December 13, 2011, the song re-entered the UK Singles Chart at number # 26. The song also re-entered the Billboard Holiday Chart, peaking at # 10.

In Germany, the song is the most successful Christmas single of all time, having spent 104 weeks on the German Singles Chart and attained a peak position of # 4 In January 2008, the song fell from # 4 to # 64 there, also making it the biggest fall out of the top ten on the singles chart.

Due to perceived similarities between Last Christmas and Barry Manilow’s Can’t Smile Without You an out-of-court settlement was reached in which the first year’s royalties were donated to the one-year-old Band Aid charity.

The video (see above) shows George Michael and band partner Andrew Ridgeley accompanying girlfriends to see friends at an unspecified ski resort—although the cable-car that can be seen in two shots is from Saas-Fee, Switzerland. It becomes clear early on that the character of Andrew’s girlfriend (played by model Kathy Hill) was previously in a relationship with George, and that the song is aimed at her. She can easily be spotted throughout the video by the fact that she’s usually wearing red, while everyone else is wearing more muted colors.

There is a brief flashback to Last Christmas showing George Michael’s character presenting her with a jeweled brooch. By means of a rapid shift in fabric colors (red to black) and its positioning (stem up, stem down) it is suggested that she’s still wearing it, and didn’t return it to him when they parted ways. On numerous occasions George presents a thoughtful, confused expression, suggesting his conflicting emotions.

Her seeming indifference to Andrew Ridgeley’s open displays of affection makes the viewer wonder if Andrew’s heart is the next to be broken. However, at the end of the video everyone leaves properly “paired off,” so perhaps it’s being suggested that George has worked out his conflicts and confusion and now realizes he is after all with the right girl.

The video also featured the duo’s erstwhile backing singers Pepsi and Shirlie and Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp, the boyfriend and future husband of Shirlie Holliman. The video also marks the last filmed appearance of a clean shaven George Michael, as he sported a beard (which he has had since then) in the video for Everything She Wants.

Editor’s Note: This song now has a kitchy feel to it, is a little over-played, and comes across as more fluff than heartbreaking, but at the time of release I was nursing my wounds from a break-up and it stung to hear. Though, when sung-a-long to one late afternoon while driving close to the ocean it felt cathartic. Funny how music can evolve through time and radio play, isn’t it? No matter though, despite how over-played (and over-covered) the song is, I still have a soft spot for it.

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