During such annual celebrations, the absence of lost loved ones can be tricky to navigate and with exactly zero mentions of Santa, reindeer, gifts or snow within its lyrics, Wham!’s festive offering is so much more than just a Christmas song.
And Last Christmas’s film clip is just as iconic as its accompanying song. Picture this: George Michael smouldering at his former flame (played by model Kathy Hill) – bandmate Andrew Ridgeley’s significant other exactly one year later (what a snake!) – across the dinner table. “I keep my distance, but you still catch my eye,” George croons, those trademark luscious locks with frosted tips accentuating his tanned complexion and perfectly manicured brows. “This year, to save me from tears…” – how dare someone make gorgeous George cry!?
Not to mention, we also notice during said clip that Andrew’s wearing a fancy diamanté brooch, which a flashback reveals George actually gifted his ex while they were still a thing – such brazen re-gifting!
Anyhoo, here’s some more fun facts about our all-time favourite, unconventional Yuletide classic:
George wrote Last Christmas in an hour
The story goes that both Wham! members were watching a footie show at George’s parental home when he suddenly disappeared up to his childhood bedroom for an hour or so. When he eventually reappeared, George excitedly presented the bones of Last Christmas to his bandmate Andrew, who recalled during a 2017 interview: “It was as if he had discovered gold, which, in a sense, he had… George had performed musical alchemy, distilling the essence of Christmas into music.”
Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp appears in the film clip
Wham!’s backing singers, Pepsi and Shirlie, feature in the Last Christmas music video – which was shot at a Swiss ski resort called Saas-Fee – together with Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp (Shirlie’s then-boyf/future hubby). George’s brief for Andrew Morahan – the film clip’s director – was simply to create a “Christmas-themed version of Club Tropicana”. Directly after the shoot, George flew back to London to record Do They Know It’s Christmas? alongside a roll-call of British music royalty: Band Aid.
George also sang on the single that kept Last Christmas from #1
Flexing his majestic pipes on Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, George soulfully belted out, “But say a prayer/ Pray for the other ones/ At Christmas time..” before passing the baton to Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon, who completed the sentence, “…it’s hard/ But when you’re having fun…”. This all-star supergroup’s festive charity song hogged the #1 spot on the UK chart for five consecutive weeks ahead of Wham!’s Crimbo single. Taking their cue from Band Aid, Wham! also donated all of Last Christmas’s royalties to relief efforts for the Ethiopian famine.
Can’t Smile Without You’s songwriters sued George for plagiarism
We personally reckon Wham!’s festive single sounds more like Kool & The Gang’s 1983 track Joanna, but the songwriters of Barry Manilow’s 1978 hit Can’t Smile Without You sued George for plagiarism in the mid-‘80s. The case was dropped after a musicologist listed 60-odd other popular songs that shared similar chord progressions.
George insisted on playing the synth parts himself
As well as writing and producing Last Christmas, George personally jingled sleigh bells on the track and also insisted on playing the Roland Juno-60 synth parts himself. “George wasn’t a musician, he had no training on instruments at all,” engineer Chris Porter has since pointed out. “It was a laborious process, because he was literally playing the keyboards with two or three fingers.”
Last Christmas inspired a movie of the same name
A romantic comedy loosely based on Last Christmas – starring Emilia Clarke (Game Of Thrones) – was released in November, 2019. While he was still around, George green-lit this movie project on one condition: that actress/author Emma Thompson was recruited to write the story (she wound up not only co-authoring the story and screenplay, but also playing a supporting role in the film). Also, the Last Christmas soundtrack is composed entirely of songs by George or Wham! and includes a previously unreleased solo track, This Is How (We Want You To Get High).
Wham!’s Christmas single experienced peak chart success decades after its release
Wham!’s iconic Christmas classic experienced peak chart success four years after George’s tragic passing in 2016. Just a few weeks after Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart (after a 26-year wait), Last Christmas topped the chart for the very first time a colossal 36 years after its original 1984 release and set a new record for the longest time taken for a single to top the charts.