Happy Holidays 1984: Wham! Releases "Last Christmas"

WHAM! Last Christmas art
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(Columbia/Epic)

The way his partner in Wham!, Andrew Ridgely, remembers it, the birth of "Last Christmas" happened on an otherwise ordinary day at home with George Michaels and his folks in 1984.

"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," Ridgely told The Daily Mail in 2017.

"When he came back down, such was his excitement, it was as if he had discovered gold which, in a sense, he had," Ridgely continued. "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."

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Released in early December of 1984, "Last Christmas" was an instant smash hit. Wham! had already scored a pair of #1 hits in the UK that year, and this holiday tune was poised to be the third. It was not meant to be.

"Last Christmas" would go on to the best-selling song not to achieve #1 status in the UK due to the monster charity hit, "Do They Know it's Christmas?" Released as a double-A side single with "Everything She Wants," the group would go on to donate the proceeds from the record to the same cause of Ethiopian famine release.

While the song was a hit around the world, it initially didn't even chart in America, where it wasn't released as a single. The song eventually charted in the US after George Michael's tragic death on Christmas Day 2016. Now a regular presence on the charts every holiday season, the Hot 100 peak position is #25, which happened January 5, 2019.

The song arrived with a festive music video shot in the Swiss ski resort of Saas Fe that captured the dreamy feeling of the track.

"It was a glorious affair, and the two days we spent shooting it were a riot of laughter and fun, which I think comes across," Ridgely remembered. "We invited most of our close friends to take part in the video, which was based around the idea of a friends’ Christmas away in a mountain chalet. George and I arrived in the evening a few hours after the others, as we’d had other commitments that day - and we were greeted by what to all intents and purposes was a party in full swing. Not the ideal preparation for an early start and a requirement to look and perform at ones best. But naturally we joined in. A questionable decision, which was compounded by a late night skinny dip in the hotel pool. As the day unfolded and the scenes were shot, the sense that we were creating an authentic Christmas tale grew - part of the reason why the song and the video captures so many people’s ideal of Christmas."

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