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

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

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By Mark Savage
BBC music reporter

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image copyrightSony Music
image captionThe song was written while George Michael (right) watched a football match
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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 famously held off the top spot by Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?

It has subsequently returned to the top 10 a further six times.

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 seven that year.

It actually came much closer to achieving that goal a year later when it returned to number two in the chart immediately after Christmas – but 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 in 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.”

Wham in 1984image 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 Shirley, model Kathy Hill, and Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp – who was then dating his future wife Shirley, 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.

Figure captionWarning: Third party content may contain adverts

The singer jetted back from the film shoot to record his vocals for Do They Know It’s Christmas – which would eventually hold Wham!’s song off the top spot.

In a gesture of solidarity with Band Aid, however, the duo donated all the royalties from Last Christmas to Ethiopian famine relief.

At the time of its initial release, Last Christmas was part of a Wham! double A-side single, along with Everything She Wants.

Although immediately after Christmas, radio stations started playing Everything She Wants and the band did a Top of the Pops appearance to promote it, the colossal sales of Do They Know It’s Christmas meant it was never to top the chart at the time.

Wham have lost one chart record, and set another

Prior to today’s chart, Last Christmas was the UK’s biggest-selling single never to have reached number one – accumulating 1.9 million sales across its lifetime, according to the Official Chart Company.

That title now passes on to Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger (1.55 million sales), which was a number two hit in 2011.

But Last Christmas does now hold a new chart record – for the longest time taken for a single to reach number one.

The previous record-holder was Tony Christie’s (Is This The Way To) Amarillo? which had a 34-year gap between its original release and topping the chart for Comic Relief in 2005.

Figure captionWarning: Third party content may contain adverts

And we’re still streaming festive songs…

Wham!’s record is the second long-toothed classic to claim chart glory in recent weeks, after Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You reached number one in December, 26 years after its release.

Christmas songs continue to dominate this week’s chart countdown, with 28 festive tracks inside the top 40.

However, as festive streams decline, some other songs have seen their fortunes turn around – with Little Mix’s Sweet Melody returning to the top 10; and Ed Sheeran’s new single Afterglow reaching a new peak of 13.

In the albums chart, Michael Bublé’s Christmas album returned to number one for the first time in nine years, displacing Paul McCartney’s latest record, McCartney III.

Taylor Swift’s second surprise album of 2020, Evermore, held steady at number two; while Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia jumped 15 places to number three after featuring prominently in a number of end-of-year polls.

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