Friday, 19 December 2014

'Last Christmas' turns 30: a festive tribute

I am batshit crazy for Christmas. Crazy in the sense that possibly only Michael Buble can understand. Fairy lights, tacky tinsel, turkey with aall the trimmings, mince pies (with a liberal amount of cream), Love Actually (sorry, feminist principles), Home Alone (2, naturally), the annual Selfridges pilgrimage, general good-will to all men, helped along by lashings of mulled wine and, er, more booze...these are just a few of my favourite festive things.

The soundtrack to all of this merriment is of course one that comprises mainly of the Christmas classics by Wizzard, Slade, The Pogues et al. For others, this Christmas catalogue might represent little more than an annual assault on the ears, but for me, it's what makes December 1st a notable date for the diary: Official Listening To Christmas Music Is Now Perfectly Acceptable Day.

As a child, making Christmas compilations was one of my number one favourite activities, and today, my Spotify playlist is a thing of tinsel-tastic wonder (no, YOU'RE sad). But while Chris Rea and Elton John came and went, there's one song that no Christmas compilation could ever be without. None other than Wham!'s Last Christmas, of course.

This year marks three whole decades since George Michael's festive hit first graced the charts, and to celebrate the anniversary of a song that people the world over are still tipsily dancing/snogging at the office party to, I've decided to take a look back at its surprisingly rich history...

1) Last Christmas was originally written and produced by George Michael himself. It started life upstairs at Michael's parents' house - he penned the hit while the other half of the duo, Andrew Ridgeley, sat watching Match of the Day downstairs.

2) The song was actually part of a double A side, released with Wham! track Everything She Wants. Somewhat ironically for a song that's still popular 30 years on, this was intended to give the festive release some longevity into the new year.

3) Released the same year as the original Band Aid, Wham! missed out on the top spot to Bob Geldof's charity single, peaking at number 2 in 1984's Christmas chart.

4) This makes it the biggest selling single in UK chart history not to have reached number one.

5) George also of course featured in the 1984 Band Aid, and the band charitably donated all the profits from their own Christmas single to Geldof's cause, which amounted to about £250,000.

6) The profits certainly didn't stop there though: Last Christmas still makes George Michael a reported £300, 000 a year (perhaps accounting for his limited solo catalogue...).

7) It's not just us Brits still crooning along to this 80s classic. The song has been a hit all over the world, and the Germans in particular seem to see it as echt klasse; it's the most successful Christmas single of all time in Germany, having spent nearly 100 weeks in the singles chart there, and gaining its peak position of number 4 as recently as 2008.

8) No discussion of Last Christmas could fail to mention the blinder of a video that accompanied it. Filmed in Swedish ski resort Saas-Fee, to celebrate the song's 30th anniversary, the resort is offering packages in apartments and hotels that they say are rewound to 1984: making the reality of frolicking a la George in ridiculous hooded attire a slightly more affordable reality.

9) The video marks the last ever appearance of a clean-shaven Michael - the band's next video for Everything She Wants was the first outing of his now distinctive goatee, and he's been wearing it ever since.

10) It also featured a cameo from Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp, who would go on to marry Wham! backing singer Shirlie Holliman.

11) The song has truly stood the test of time: according to Spotify, last year it was the most streamed single on Christmas day.

12) There has been a huge number of Last Christmas covers (though none have come even remotely close to the success of the original). Whigfield, Taylor Swift, and most recently, diminutive pop star who I know little else about Ariana Grande have all recorded their own versions.

Altogether now...Oooooo ohhhhhhhhhhhhh