Wham!'s Last Christmas goes to number one for the first time

By on January 2, 2021

By Mark Savage
BBC music reporter

image copyrightSony Music

image captionThe song was written while George Michael (right) watched a football match

Wham!’s Last Christmas has topped the UK singles chart for the first time, 36 years after it was first released.

The festive classic was streamed 9.2 million times over the last week, knocking LadBaby’s Don’t Stop Me Eating off the top spot.

First released in December 1984, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley’s song was held off the top spot by Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Ridgeley said he was “somewhat amazed” the record had now reached number one.

He said he was “delighted” and “profoundly pleased” at the news, “albeit 36 years after its first release which is, perhaps more than anything, a testament to its timeless appeal and charm”.

“It is a fitting tribute to George’s song-writing genius and one of which he would have been immensely proud and utterly thrilled,” Ridgeley added.

Since the song was released in 1984, it has returned to the top 10 a further six times.

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Fans had previously launched a campaign to get it to number one in 2017, to mark the first anniversary of George Michael’s untimely death on Christmas Day 2016.

But it only reached number two – and was thwarted by Ed Sheeran’s Perfect.

Its lyrics also inspired Dame Emma Thompson to write the movie Last Christmas, which was released in cinemas last Christmas.

How George Michael ‘discovered gold’

Last Christmas was written by George Michael in his childhood bedroom in February 1984, “and as far as I was concerned it was a number one”, he told Smash Hits in 1986.

Inspiration struck out of the blue, while the singer was watching a football match at his parents’ house in Hertfordshire.

“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,” recalled Ridgeley in his 2017 memoir.

“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… and he played me the introduction and the beguiling, wistful chorus melody to Last Christmas. It was a moment of wonder.”

image copyrightPA Media
image captionWham! in March 1984, shortly after Last Christmas was written

The song was subsequently recorded in the middle of August at London’s Advision Studios, which Michael plastered in Christmas decorations to set the mood.

The cheesy-but-cheerful video was shot later that year in Switzerland, featuring Wham’s backing singers Pepsi and Shirlie, model Kathy Hill, and Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp – who was then dating his future wife Shirlie, so came along for the trip.

Alongside its famous chunky knitwear, and central role for a silver brooch, the video also marked the final time Michael would be seen without his trademark designer stubble.