17 December 2009
Yes, yes, it's Last Christmas by Wham!, the biggest selling single of the 1980s which didn't go to number one in the charts.
Now look, I don't mind this song but at the same time I can't say I'd be devastated if I barely heard it at Christmas ever again. For all that, I'm mentioning it now because the current George Michael solo effort for Christmas is so dire.
Last Christmas is a cynical bit of work by George, in that he has written a rather basic lovelorn tale but manacled Christmas rather crudely into it in order to guarantee it a niche every year. Had it been Last Summer, for example, or Last September, the song wouldn't have been guaranteed any airplay at all once it had left the charts, never mind summer or September airplay, but any semi-passable Christmas song, irrespective of the tenuous links to the festive season within it, is dug out by radio stations and shops everywhere when December comes round.
The thing I do like is the video, and what it proves beyond all doubt is that Andrew Ridgeley is a shit best friend. He's now clearly enjoying what dear Charles would call "night-time adventure" with George's ex but somehow the two bessies have found themselves at the same alpine Christmas do and Andrew is happy to let discretion go hang, ignoring his chum's feelings and doing lots of necking with his squeeze before George's very eyes.
The first glimpse of the past comes when George is helping to decorate the Christmas tree as the party is prepared (Shirlie Holliman and her awesome hair leading the table-setting team in the foreground) and his ex is also charged with adding trinkets to the tree. George drops some tinsel, stoops to catch it and their eyes meet. If looks could kill...
The rather tired flashback subsequently explains all, as George and the ex have the least compelling running race in the fresh snow, with George stumbling unconvincingly. The connection to the present is established courtesy of a rather cheap looking brooch that was handed over as a gift and, of course, the unfeeling ex is now wearing it while Andrew bites chunks from her neck. George must have been a real git for them both to treat him like this.
Still, it's soon forgotten as we return to the present and everyone leaps into a cable car to go ski-ing. And, well, that's about it. Martin Kemp is in the video, of course, as Shirlie's boyfriend in 1984 who remains happily married to her to this day. I'm assuming the rest are hired actors and I don't recognise anyone.
This sold more than a million copies for Christmas 1984 and won by a mile the battle most folk were expecting - that of Wham! versus Frankie Goes To Hollywood, by a mile the year's two prime acts, for the Christmas number one. Well, almost so, except Bob Geldof stuck his oar in and so a million-selling number two single was instead cut as Band Aid - featuring George singing with his eyes closed anyway - took hold of the festive charts.
The best thing about Last Christmas is actually the equal billing of the flip side, again a shrewd bit of work as it guaranteed the single's continued presence on the radio after Boxing Day. Everything She Wants remains, very simply, the best song George Michael wrote during his Wham! days and, frankly, it's also better than a considerable chunk of self-help stuff he has written since he first went solo. Could have done without the screaming, but go on, fill your (fur-lined) boots...