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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Last Christmas, I Gave You Some Wham!

Hello, everyone! I hope that you're feeling great because we're entering Day #8 on “A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR”!

And on this day, we're steering the Sunday Jukebox smack dab into the 1980s!  

Because we are smack dab in the middle of December, today's Sunday Jukebox entry will focus on a Christmas song.  And as it so happens, this song just happens to be almost three decades old!

The singers of this festive hit?  George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, who between 1981 and 1986 performed together as the British pop duo, Wham!  

I'll give you a little bit of information about this band before I post today's holiday favourite.  As the year 1984 was drawing to a close, Wham! was already making it big with the release of their sophomore album, "Make It Big" in their native UK.  "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", "Careless Whisper", and "Freedom" were already huge radio hits in the United Kingdom, and in North America, the band was starting to get some recognition as well, with "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" becoming a #1 hit in November 1984 and staying on top of the charts for three weeks.  

By December 1984, Wham! had a ton of projects on the go.  George Michael had lent his voice to the collaborative charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas", which would end up being one of the biggest Christmas singles ever released in the United Kingdom.  And, just a few days before Christmas 1984, the band was getting ready to release the final single from "Make It Big".   

Now, the final single was released as two separate songs.  And back in the days of the early 1980s, singles were still released on LP's, with an A-side and a B-side.  The A-side was the widely successful "Everything She Wants" (which coincidentally happens to be my very favourite Wham! single), and that single topped the charts in both Canada and the United States.  

But, the B-side...because the single was released in December of '84, the B-side was a Christmas themed song.  And, who knew that this Christmas single would end up becoming a worldwide success?

Would you like to have a listen for yourselves?  I'm just going to go ahead and post the video right now.  We'll discuss and make fun of the video later on in this blog entry.  

ARTIST:  Wham!
SONG:  Last Christmas
ALBUM:  Music from the Edge of Heaven
DATE RELEASED:  December 20, 1984

USELESS TRIVIA:  This video would be one of the last videos that would feature George Michael without facial hair.  Beginning in 1985, George would begin growing his now signature beard.

So, in regards to "Last Christmas", I have heard some rather mixed opinions about this Christmas classic.  There are some people who absolutely love this song, and consider it to be a modern contemporary piece to any holiday playlist.  I think that back when this single first hit the shores of North America, my sister really liked this song, as she was a fan of Wham! back in the day (though my sister admittedly had more of a crush on Andrew Ridgeley than she did George Michael).  

But then there are those who find the single to be the epitome of cheese and wish that the single was never recorded.  Trust me, I know at least a couple of people who rush to change the radio station whenever they play the song "Last Christmas" because the can't stand it.

As for my own thoughts about the single...I admit that my opinions are mixed.  As far as a Christmas song goes, it's not the best one that I have ever heard, but it is far from being the worst.  I mean, if you take a look at the video, it's got that right mixture of holiday postcard and gouda and parmesan cheeses...and while that combination might seem quite insane to sort of works.

Apparently, the video is set at a ski resort during a Christmas vacation that the boys of Wham! are taking along with a few of their closest friends.  Among them are British pop duo Pepsi & Shirlee, and Spandau Ballet bassist/EastEnders actor Martin Kemp.  Although this particular ski resort is meant to be just like any other ski resort in the world, it is later revealed through clues in the cable car scenes that the setting of the video is in Switzerland.

(Hey, when you are a part of one of the top selling groups of 1984, you can afford to go anywhere you want!)

Now, at first glance, this music video looks like a nice, warm, wonderfully festive place to be.  After all, it's filled with food, friends, warm fires, and lots of love and romance.

But wait!  There is a little bit of tension between George and Andrew.  Which is surprising, since in the video, both George and Andrew are paired up with a girl each.  But there is something about Andrew's girl that makes George a little bit uncomfortable.

Which seems kind of strange upon retrospect given how infamously he came out of the closet fourteen years after this single was released.  But, again...we've already discussed this story in the blog during a previous entry.  No need to revisit that here.

Back in 1984, George's sexuality was still under lock and key, and at the time this video was filmed, George was quite uncomfortable with Andrew's choice of girlfriend...because some time prior to this video being filmed, George himself had been in a relationship with Andrew's woman!

I know!  Scandalous, isn't it?  

But, wait.  Where is the proof?  What makes us think that Andrew was dating George's former flame?  Consider this.

Clue #1:  You can easily tell apart the woman that has been linked to both Andrew and George by one distinguishing characteristic.  She is the only woman wearing red!  Now, interestingly enough, the main character in "The Scarlet Letter" wore a bright red "A" for adultery...and red is a known colour that represents passion and lust.  Not suggesting that our mystery girl cheated on George with Andrew, of course.  There's no proof of that.  But, it's interesting how the lady in red seems to interact with everyone at the ski lodge.  And, I'll get to more of that in a second.

Clue #2:  Since the song talks about how last Christmas, George gave the girl his heart, but the very next day, she gave it away, clearly, we're going to see some flashbacks of Christmas past...a time in which George was happier and in love with whom he believed was the one.  In this case, during Christmas past, George had bestowed a present of a golden brooch to his love, only for the girl to kick him to the curb just twenty-four hours later.  

But interestingly enough, when the action shifts towards the present day, we discover that the girl is still wearing the brooch that George gave to her!  Now, considering that George and the girl are supposed to be finito by this time, you can understand why George might feel a little bit heartsick and confused.  Certainly, she seems to be sending some rather mixed signals.  And, as if that wasn't bad enough...

Clue #3:  Have you noticed how much love and affection that the girl seems to give to her newest beau, Andrew?  Yeah, me either.  You know, come to think of it, I think that the girl seems to be treating Andrew with a lot of indifference, given that he seems to want to do everything for her (and quite possibly to her).  In fact, I have to be honest with you.  If I were in Andrew's position where I had a girl rebuff my advances even though she made me believe that I were her one and only...I'd likely have questions too.

Of course, since nearly every holiday video has to have a happy ending, everyone is paired up at the end of the video, Andrew is still with his new girl, and George has seemingly moved on with his new squeeze.  

(Of course, in real life, it is assumed that George is still single, while Andrew has been linked with Bananarama's Keren Woodward for well over twenty years.)

Still, the single did do a lot of good besides being a worldwide hit.  Did you know that Michael and Ridgeley donated all of the proceeds from the royalties taken in from "Everything She Wants/Last Christmas" to the Ethiopian famine relief?  It's true!  After all, George Michael did sing on the Band-Aid track the same time that "Last Christmas" was released.

And, here's one more final fact that I should bring up before I close the book on "Last Christmas".  Did you know that the single is considered to be the most successful Christmas themed single in the country of Germany?  Believe it or not, the single spent a total of two consecutive YEARS on the German pop charts!  That's 104 weeks on the charts between 1984 and 1986!  And, the single has since entered the German charts at least once during the year since 1997!  

Not bad for a Wham! single, huh?

Coming up tomorrow in Day #9 of A Pop Culture Addict's Advent Calendar, we're going to be taking a look at a made-for-television movie that came out in 2002...that was based on a song that makes many people...well...cringe in disgust.

Never knew that a pair of shoes could elicit such harsh emotions...but we'll discuss all that tomorrow!

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