The Story of… 'Last Christmas' by Wham! – as told by Andrew Ridgeley – Smooth Radio

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20 December 2023, 14:38
The Story of… 'Last Christmas' with Andrew Ridgeley
By Tom Eames
Wham!'s 'Last Christmas' is an undisputed Christmas classic, and we always love hearing it every December.
You guys clearly love it too, as it was voted the overwhelming winner of our Best Christmas Song poll, and fans have tried to get it to be Christmas number one, in tribute to George Michael, who sadly passed away on Christmas Day in 2016.
But do you know the fascinating history of the song? What inspired it? Who stars in the iconic video? All you'd ever need to know is right here…
We spoke to Wham! legend Andrew Ridgeley about the making of the famous song, and you can watch his reflections on 'Last Christmas' in the video above.
George Michael both produced and wrote the song, and it became part of a double A-side single with 'Everything She Wants'. What a deal!
Wham's greatest music videos: Andrew Ridgeley breaks down his biggest hits | Smooth's Video Rewind
The song actually has very little to do with Christmas! It's mainly about a failed relationship, and coming face to face with them a year later.
Only the phase 'Last Christmas' – when the relationship comes to a head – actually refers to the festive season.
Andrew later revealed that the song came about when they were visiting George's 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."
Wham! – Last Christmas (Official 4K Video)
The iconic video sees George and Andrew Ridgeley join their girlfriends to see friends at a ski resort (some scenes were filmed at Saas-Fee, Switzerland).
Andrew is dating a girl (model Kathy Hill), who was previously with George, and the song is aimed at her. A flashback shows George giving her a brooch, while in the present day Andrew is now wearing it. How dare she!
Martin Kemp's 80s Story
The video features cameos from the duo's backing singers Pepsi and Shirlie.
It was said for many years that it also had a very brief appearance from Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp, the boyfriend and future husband of Shirlie Holliman.
However, Martin later confirmed to us in 2022 that this was not true! Watch the video above to see his story about the classic clip.
The video marked the last filmed appearance of a clean-shaven George, as he sported a beard in the video for 'Everything She Wants', and he kept the look going for the rest of his career.
Originally, the Christmas number one battle of 1984 looked to be between Wham! and Frankie Goes to Hollywood with 'The Power of Love'.
However, the Band Aid project from Bob Geldof and Midge Ure came about, meaning that Wham! had to settle for second place that year. George also took part in Band Aid.
Wham! donated all of their 'Last Christmas/Everything She Wants' royalties to the Ethiopian famine.
For 36 years, it was the best-selling UK single ever to not hit the top, with over 2 million copies sold.
In 2017, it reached number 2 (equalling its highest peak), after George Michael fans began campaigning for it to get the Christmas number 1 in tribute of the singer, after his death on Christmas Day, 2016.
It felt like it was never going to happen, but Wham! finally achieved the number one with 'Last Christmas' in the first week of 2021.
Thanks to heavy Christmas Day streams and downloads in the final week of 2020, Wham! overtook LadBaby and Mariah Carey to grab the number one single, 36 years in the waiting.
It then repeated the feat in December 2022.
The Carpenters – I Can't Smile Without You
On behalf of the writers of the song 'Can't Smile Without You' – made famous by Barry Manilow and The Carpenters – publishing company Dick James Music sued George for plagiarism in the mid-1980s, claiming that 'Last Christmas' lifted its melody.
However, the case was dismissed.
Last Christmas – Jimmy Eat World
Among the covers of the years: Whigfield, Billie Piper, Coldplay, Kylie Minogue, Jimmy Eat World, Joe McElderry, Crazy Frog (yes), Cascada, Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Taylor Swift, Glee Cast, Gwen Stefani…
Last Christmas cast Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding talk Wham! | Interview | Smooth Radio
In 2017, it was announced that a film inspired by the song was being made. Emma Thompson is expected to star in the movie based on the classic festive tune.
Thompson's co-writer Bryony Kimmings first revealed that the late George Michael collaborated on the concept for Last Christmas before his death in 2016.
Emilia Clarke – best known for playing a dragon-riding Daenerys in Game of Thrones, stars in Universal’s festive film alongside Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding.
Along with Wham!'s titular festive classic, the film features music from the late George Michael. The film also premiered brand new unreleased material by the legendary artist, who died on Christmas Day, 2016.
Wham's greatest music videos: Andrew Ridgeley breaks down his biggest hits | Smooth's Video Rewind
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