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Wham!’s ‘Last Christmas’ Reaches Top Spot on UK’s Singles Chart, 29 Years Later; Andrew Ridgeley Reacts

For many Americans, their only reference to one of the UK’s much-coveted cultural phenomena, the Christmas number-one, is the holiday movie, “Love Actually.” In the film, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2023, the character Billy Mac, a washed-up pop star, yearns to regain relevance by scoring the top spot the week of Christmas with his song “Christmas Is All Around.” But across the pond, it’s seen as sort of a big deal every December...READ THE FULL ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE▶▶

In a way, there’s a story this week that’s like art imitating life. Because 2023 marks the 29th anniversary of the release of Wham’s “Last Christmas” single. Just like the character in the movie, Andrew Ridgeley (the other member of the duo; singer-songwriter George Michael passed away in 2016) heard the news live, just seconds before the song was announced by the BBC as the country’s new number-one song for Christmas.

Ridgeley told BBC News the story of how George wrote the song in 1984, on a “little four-track studio” he had set up in his childhood bedroom:

Inspiration struck out of the blue, while the singer was hanging out at his parents’ house in Hertfordshire.

“There was a footy [soccer] match on the telly and he suddenly jumped up and disappeared upstairs where he had a little four-track studio,” Ridgeley told BBC News.

“About an hour later, he came back and said, ‘Andy Andy, you’ve got to listen to this’. I rarely saw him as excited or as animated as that.

“And as soon as I heard it, it was so apparent that it had all the hallmarks of a Christmas classic. It was a jaw-dropping moment.”

He said that George, especially, set it as a goal for himself:

He felt any great songwriter should be able to write a Christmas hit to order. Unfortunately, it’s taken too long for George – but he’d be absolutely over the moon.

Ridgeley shared in a 1984 interview with Ireland’s RTÉ that a real-life relationship close to him inspired the track:

One of my mother’s friends had a romance at Christmas, which is what the song is about. She got jilted and when she heard it, she burst into tears.

Ironically, it might have been partly George’s fault that Wham!’s song didn’t climb to number one when it was first released. Gen Xers might recall that he was one of the lead singers in “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” the Band Aid charity single for Ethiopian hunger relief. That single held the Christmas number-one spot, with Wham! left idling at number two.

In the new interview, Ridgeley admitted “it was a huge disappointment to us both when it didn’t reach number one because, in our opinion, it was nailed-on…[Then it was t]hwarted for many years subsequent to that – the perennial bridesmaid – over recent years it seems it’s become part of the fabric of Christmas for a lot of people.”

Some of us have been playing the unofficial game/trend known as “Whamageddon,” in which people try to outlast their friends during the time following Thanksgiving by not hearing the original song. (There’s an exception for situations when someone hears a cover of the song; you’re not knocked out by those.)

Ridgeley also mentioned that with the modern advent of streaming being the benchmark for a song’s popularity, songs even older than “Last Christmas” have charted at the top. Indeed, my colleague Jennifer Oliver O’Connell wrote about Peggy Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” doing just that–when it reached the Billboard 100 number one after 65 years!

But as the BBC points out, “….Last Christmas is now the UK’s third-biggest song of all time, with a lifetime total of 5.34 million chart units – a measure that combines streams and sales.”

To paraphrase Adam Sandler’s “The Hanukkah Song,” that’s not too shabby.

About the author

Kylian Walterlin

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