Written and produced by George Michael, this song actually has very little to do with Christmas - it's about a failed relationship. Only the phase "Last Christmas," when the relationship comes to a head, refers to the festive season. Despite this, it has become an annual Christmas standard, especially in the UK.
This was released as a charity record with its proceeds going to famine relief in Ethiopia. Apart from "Do They Know It's Christmas
," which prevented it from reaching #1, "Last Christmas" is the biggest selling Christmas song in the UK. George Michael features on both songs.
The song originated one Sunday in 1984 when George Michael and Andrew Ridgely were visiting Michael's parents. Ridgely recalled to The Mail On Sunday in 2017:
"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."
Numerous artists have covered this song, including Ashley Tisdale, Coldplay, Kim Wilde, Jimmy Eat World, The xx, Kylie Minogue, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Taylor Swift, who reached #28 on the US Country chart with her version. In 2009 a version by the cast of Fox-TV's Glee finally took the song into the Hot 100 when their rendition debuted at #63.
The song didn't chart on the US Hot 100 after its initial release in 1984, as it was only available as a promotional, not commercially available, 7-inch single.
Two chart facts:
"Last Christmas" is the biggest selling single in UK chart history not to reach #1.
In Japan it has sold over 600,000 copies, making it the best-selling single that did not reach that country's Top 10.
The song's music video sees George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley accompanying girlfriends to see friends at their home in a ski resort. The duo's backing singers, Pepsi and Shirlie, also star in the clip along with Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp, the boyfriend and future husband of Shirlie Holliman.
The songwriters of Barry Manilow's hit single "Can't Smile Without You
" sued George Michael for plagiarism in the mid-'80s, claiming that this song lifted its melody from their tune. The case was settled out of court with Michael giving his first year's royalties to Band Aid.
The song's music video was the last time that George Michael was filmed without a beard.
Antenne Carinthia presenter Joe Kohlhofer started his 8 a.m. show on December 18, 2015 by telling his Austrian listeners that he felt people in the area were not in the Christmas spirit. He then proceeded to play "Last Christmas" on loop for almost two hours
as a "Christmas protest."
Kohlhofer blockaded the studio door with a wooden chair, locking out his co-host Patricia Jordan and the station producers. The Austrian DJ eventually stopped playing the Wham! tune only after his 4-year-old daughter was put on the line. She told her father that she didn't like the song.
Wham!'s festive song finally charted following the unexpected death of George Michael on Christmas Day 2016, when it debuted on Billboard's Hot 100 on the listing dated January 7, 2016.
"Last Christmas" reached the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time two years later, when it rose from #43 to #34 on the chart dated December 15, 2018.
In 2019, a movie called Last Christmas
was released, starring Emilia Clarke as a Christmas curmudgeon who finds the spirit. The film, which is loosely and somewhat literally based on the song, features "Last Christmas" along with other tracks from George Michael and Wham!
The soundtrack, which went to #1 in the UK, is comprised entirely of songs by either Michael or Wham!, including a previously unreleased song called "This Is How (We Want You To Get High)."