Wham!’s “Last Christmas” celebrated the 35th anniversary of its release on December 3, 2019. The song, which tells the singer’s tale of woe at running into the lover who spurned him last holiday season, remains as one of the most played Christmas songs. It even inspired a romantic comedy-drama movie using its title this year!
The Atlantic perfectly described the long-lasting appeal of the song “Last Christmas” :
It’s the ultimate Christmas tune for the modern secular person whose holiday memories are more about personal joys and defeats rather than a wider cultural celebration, as the video—about a ski retreat with friends and a lot of hairspray—hints.
Here are 12 things about the iconic Wham! classic Christmas song “Last Christmas”:
1. Michael Debuts on Hot 100 Songwriters Chart Thanks to ‘Last Christmas’
On December 14, 2019, the late George Michael finally made his debut at the U.S. Billboard’s Hot 100 Songwriters chart. He ranked no. 8, thanks to continued gains for the classic Wham! carol “Last Christmas.”
The weekly Hot 100 Songwriters and Hot 100 Producers charts are based on total points accrued by a songwriter and producer, respectively, for each attributed song that appears on the Hot 100. With the strong performance of “Last Christmas” and the movie soundtrack, Michael finally made it to the Hot 100 Songwriters chart.
2. Song peaks at #17 in the U.S. Charts — in 2019!
The song charted in US Billboard only after the death of George Michael. While the song was first released in 1984, “Last Christmas” didn’t hit the Hot 100 of the U.S. Billboard charts until 2016. That time, the song reached #25 in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The song, which is certified as Platinum 2X in the U.S., peaked at #3 in the Billboard Holiday 100 chart.
3. The ‘Last Christmas’ movie soundtrack is doing well in the charts
The album soundtrack of the Last Christmas movie debuted in the U.S. Billboard Soundtrack album charts at #2 on November 23, 2019. For the week of December 28, 2019, the soundtrack is at #3 position.
The soundtrack peaked at #55 in the Billboard 200 Album charts.
The soundtrack also charted in the UK, reaching #9 in UK’s Official Albums Chart Top 100, and #1 in UK’s Official Soundtrack Albums Chart
4. It’s the best-selling single to never reach #1 in UK charts
“Last Christmas” remains the highest-selling UK single not to top the chart. The song peaked at #2 both in 1984 when it was first released, blocked by the all-star charity single by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” (Michael appeared on that track, singing the opening lines of its second verse.).
5. ‘Last Christmas’ was written by Michael in his childhood bedroom
According to Andrew Ridgeley in the article he wrote for The Daily Mail:
LAST Christmas had its beginnings on an ordinary Sunday two years earlier, in 1984. George and I were visiting his 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.
6. Song was produced, written by and arranged by George Michael
It’s the understatement of the century to say that the singer created “Last Christmas.” According to an article in The Guardian, Michael’s engineer Chris Porter said that the then 21-year old “wrote, produced, performed and painstakingly played every single instrument on the track.”
Yes, even the sleigh bells:
Porter remembers “desperately wanting to play sleigh bells”, but like everything else, they were jangled only by Michael himself.
However, the process was not easy:
“George wasn’t a musician,” says Porter, “he had no training on instruments at all.” He nevertheless insisted on doing everything himself. “It was a laborious process, because he was literally playing the keyboards with two or three fingers,” he says.
‘Last Christmas’ was recorded in August 1984 at Advision Studios. Activision Studios is a UK recording studio in Central London that was used to be the place where some of the biggest pop and rock records of the 60s and 70s were recorded, including several albums of David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Pet Shop Boys, among others. Aside from ‘Last Christmas’, Wham! used the studio to do the documentary of their China tour, “Wham! In China – Foreign Skies.”
7. The song is one of the most covered Christmas tunes in recent memory
“Last Christmas” has become one of the most-covered Christmas tunes in recent memory, with more than 500 artists paying tribute to its majesty. Not too shabby for a 35-year-old song.
In fact, there was a site that was launched in 2006 that tracked and listed all covers of Last Christmas. Until the site’s demise in 2012 (websites are not cheap to maintain), they listed a total of 485 covers of the song!
Check out a list of Wham!’s Last Christmas: List of Cover Versions — which is just a dip in the bucket of all covers of the song!
8. 42K Daily YouTube Views During Non-Christmas season
According to research by Viberate, the average daily YouTube views of Last Christmas during the non-season period (Jan 1- Oct 1) in 2019 was 42K.
But when Christmas season arrives, daily views of Last Christmas hit more than 1 million per day.
In 2017, the song broke the 1 million daily views on November 20; while it broke the 1 million barrier earlier in 2018 on November 18.
9. Wham! + Mariah Carey’s Christmas songs = 1 Billion YouTube Views
The most popular Christmas songs of the modern era are Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” followed by Wham!’s Last Christmas. While each one has not reached a total of a billion views, the combined YouTube views of both songs have crossed the billion mark. As of this writing, the original Last Christmas video has 497,854,622 views on YouTube while the 4K version, which premiered on Dec. 13, 2019, has been viewed 12,374,014 times.
Add to that Mariah’s song with 626,285,889 views, and the two songs have a total of 1.1 billion views!
10. Barry Manilow sued George Michael for plagiarism
American singer Barry Manilow sued George for plagiarism, contending that “Last Christmas” was too close for comfort to his 1978 hit “Can’t Smile Without You.” Michael insisted that he hadn’t even subconsciously copied Manilow’s song.
The lawsuit soon disappeared, though with varying explanations.
The Sydney Morning Herald in 1986 reported that the lawsuit was withdrawn after it was widely publicized that all royalties from the song were going to African famine relief anyway (The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney Australia), May 20, 1986, page 15).
On the other hand, Michael’s engineer Chris Porter said in The Guardian that “the case was thrown out when a musicologist presented 60-odd songs from the past century that had a comparable chord sequence and melody.”
11. Two chalets were used for the iconic video
The iconic video of Last Christmas video was shot in two chalets in Saas-Fee, Switzerland in the Saas Valley in the Swiss Alps. Chalet Schliechten, the postcard-perfect location tucked away at the edge of Saas-Fee, was used for the external shots of the holiday location, and its garden with the typical, wooden fence was featured in the snowball fight scene. The renovated chalet is available for rent at about $827 per night. For the interior scenes, Chalet Steinmatte was used.
12. The hate is real
Starting in 2010, there’s a game that has been gaining steam in the past years called Whamageddon. It is a game played during the Christmas season in which players try to go from December 1 to Christmas Day without hearing Wham!’s “Last Christmas” song. The key is to avoid hearing the song; otherwise, they are out of the game and have to post “#Whamageddon” on social media to indicate that they have lost. You will then be counted on the memorial Whamhalla webpage https://www.whamageddon.com/ as a “victim of the Last Christmas menace.”
Also in 2010, the Bulgarians have named “Last Christmas” as the most annoying Christmas song ever based on an online poll of 28,110. The DDB advertising agency, which conducted an online poll, said that 19 percent of the respondents named “Last Christmas” as the most annoying. Yordan Zhechev, creative director of the DDB agency which organized the poll, urged radio stations not to include the poll winners in their Christmas programs, if they want to keep their audience. Others on the list included Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas”, Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad”, and Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time.”
- Wham!’s Last Christmas: List of Cover Versions
- Emma Thompson on George Michael and the ‘Last Christmas’ Movie
- Paul Feig on George Michael’s Music in the ‘Last Christmas” Movie
- ‘Last Christmas’ Movie Production Notes
- George Michael Interview with Capital FM Radio with Dr. Fox (Dec 1998)