Happy Holidays! Since it’s the first year of my blog, and since it’s the last year for my Annual Holiday Show on my little 20-year-old 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), I wanted to present to you THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS, or, 31 of my favorite 80s holiday musical treats.
The song for Day 2 of the 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS is a longtime guilty pleasure for me, and remains as one of the most popular holiday songs since its release in 1984: “Last Christmas” by Wham!
Wham! had a huge year in 1984, not just in their U.K. homeland, but worldwide, and upon its U.K. release (as a double A-sided single with “Everything She Wants”), “Last Christmas” was in the running for the coveted “Christmas No. 1 single” on the U.K. singles chart with Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “The Power Of Love” (from their brilliant double album debut, WELCOME TO THE PLEASUREDOME).
Well, on December 8, 1984, two days before “Last Christmas” was released, “The Power Of Love” did reach the No. 1 spot in the U.K., but I don’t think either act could have anticipated the reach of Bob Geldof (of The Boomtown Rats) and Midge Ure (of Ultravox), and Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, the benefit record they wrote and put together to fight famine in Ethiopia.
With the help of many (mostly) British recording artists (including George Michael of Wham!; and on the 12” remix in a spoken word message, Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes To Hollywood), “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” not only became that coveted “Christmas No. 1” for 1984, it stayed at No. 1 in the U.K. for five weeks and became the biggest-selling single for the entire 1980s, and was the U.K.’s biggest-selling single of all-time through 1997, when Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind 1997” claimed the title.
As much as George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley would have liked to see their “Last Christmas” be the “Christmas No. 1” in the U.K. for Xmas 1984, I’m betting they were more than okay settling for No. 2 behind “Do They Know It’s Christmas?’
On a related note, all money and royalties received for the “Last Christmas” / “Everything She Wants” single went to the Ethiopian famine relief effort. Over the years, “Last Christmas” returned to the U.K. singles chart (between 1986 and 2015) eleven more times, reaching No. 6 in 1986, No. 14 in 2007 and No. 18 in 2015. As of June 2016, “Last Christmas” has sold 1.8 million singles in the U.K. alone, and is the biggest-selling single in the U.K. to not reach No. 1.
Though not a hit here in North America upon its release (their first U.S. Top 40 hit, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” had finished its 3-week stay at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 a week before the release of “Last Christmas”), it was a hit around the globe, reaching No. 2 in Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Norway and Sweden, No. 3 in Australia, Denmark, Finland and Greece, No. 4 in Austria and Germany (where it spent a whopping 88 weeks on the chart!), No. 6 in Switzerland, No. 8 in Poland and No. 9 in Spain.
FUNNY TRUE STORY: This, um, last Christmas (Xmas 2015), an Austrian radio DJ was disciplined when he intentionally played “Last Christmas” 24 times in a row. The guy barricaded himself in the studio, away from his co-host and producers so they couldn’t change the song. If he played the Pudding Mix of the song, which is 6-and-a-half minutes long, for example, those radio listeners heard 2-and-a-half hours of “Last Christmas” back to back to back. Good times. This marathon-of-sorts started at 8:00am and stopped a couple hours later when the DJ’s four-year-old daughter called to complain. Can’t please everybody. As a result of his little stunt, this DJ had to work Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Since its release, “Last Christmas” has been covered dozens of times, from the likes of Coldplay, The Puppini Sisters, the GLEE cast, Savage Garden, Manic Street Preachers, Carly Rae Jepsen, Arctic Monkeys, Metro Station, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, and Richard Cheese, whose version is more of a parody. From his 2006 album, SILENT NIGHTCLUB, his 20-second cover begins “somewhat” normal, but ten seconds in, he says, “We were gonna do a swingin’ lounge version of ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham!, but that song sucks. Next tune!”
While I do consider “Last Christmas” to be a longtime guilty pleasure, my tolerance level for the song is way better than that of Richard Cheese. I’ve often played it on my annual holiday shows, and may play it one more time, for this “Last Christmas” show…