The Story of 'Last Christmas' by Wham!

Music 14/12/2018

It's Christmas song time! You've probably been hearing all your favourite carols being blasted for the last month or so in your local malls and supermarkets, and you may or may not admit to loving them. 

One of our personal faves is Wham!'s 'Last Christmas', so we thought we'd give you a little background on the song's history, especially as this Christmas Day will be the 2nd anniversary since George Michael's passing.

Who wrote it?
'Last Christmas' was both produced and written by George Michael himself, and it became part of a double A-side single with 'Everything She Wants'.

What's it about?
Funnily enough, the song has very little to do with Christmas. It's mainly (pretty obviously) about a failed relationship and coming face to face with them a year later. 

What inspired it?
Andrew revealed later that the song came about when the pair were visiting George's parents:

"We'd had a bite to eat and were sitting together relaxing with the television on in the background when, almost unnoticed, George disappeared upstairs for an hour or so. When he came back down, such was his excitement, it was as if he had discovered gold which, in a sense, he had."

"We went to his old room, the room in which we had spent hours as kids recording pastiches of radio shows and jingles, the room where he kept a keyboard and something on which to record his sparks of inspiration, and he played me the introduction and the beguiling, wistful chorus melody to 'Last Christmas.' It was a moment of wonder."

"George had performed musical alchemy, distilling the essence of Christmas into music. Adding a lyric which told the tale of betrayed love was a masterstroke and, as he did so often, he touched hearts."

The video
The music video for the song actually features cameos from the duo's backing singers Pepsi and Shirlie, as well as a super brief appearance from Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemo, who was Shirlie Holliman's boyfriend at the time and went on to be her husband.

The video was also the last filmed appearance where George didn't have a beard - it featured him clean-shaven, and he didn't appear this way for the rest of his career.

Charts and sales
While it was a huge hit, the song never actually reached number one. Originally, the Christmas number one battle of 1984 looked to be between Wham! and Frankie Goes to Hollywood with 'The Power of Love'. Bob Geldof's Band Aid soon took the stage though, pushing Wham! into second place. George did take part in Band Aid though, and Wham! donated all of their 'Last Christmas/Everything She Wants' royalties to the Ethiopian famine. 

'Last Christmas' is in fact the best-selling UK single to never reach the top of the charts, with over 2 million copies sold. The song reached number 2 again last year after George Michael fans campaigned for it to get to Christmas number 1 in tribute of the singer's death the previous year. It has re-entered the charts every year since 2007. 

Plagiarism
Publishing company Dick James Music sued George Michael in the mid-1980s, claiming that 'Last Christmas' stole the melody from the song 'Can't Smile Without You' by Barry Manilow and The Carpenters. The case was dismissed though. Have listen to 'Can't Smile Without You' below and see if you can hear the similarity.