memories of the ’80s – Last Christmas by Wham!

Popular Brit pop duo Wham! hit the charts with its own holiday creation – Last Christmas.

Recorded in 1984, the same year as the powerhouse song by Band Aid Don’t They Know It’s Christmas? , the song was written and produced by George Michael.

Released as a single in December 1994, with the B side Everything She Wants, the single fought for the top of the charts against Band Aid and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power of Love.

The sweetness of the song paired with a snowy music video filmed in Switzerland, helped the song hit number two and spend 13 weeks on the chart in 1984.

But the song kept going, hitting the charts in 1985 and 1987 as well as part of the holiday music celebrations in the UK and the rest of Europe for the rest of the decade.

Consequent versions of the song have been recorded by Whigfield, Billie, Jimmy Eat World, Hilary Duff, Ashley Tisdale, Crazy Frog, Cascada, Alcazar and Joe McElderry.

And the song exists well into the 21st century, thanks to the pop stylings of Wham! and the latest version by Ariana Grande. But its the original that has been voted one of the 10 best Christmas songs of the past decades in the UK.

 

memories of the ’70s – Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas

Bing Crosby’s last television Christmas special had a unique pop culture inclusion – a duet with David Bowie for Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas.

The storyline of the holiday special was a visit to England by the Crosby family to see a distant relative. Co-starring Crosby’s wife Kathryn as well as some of his children: Nathaniel, Harry and Mary.

Bowie comes over to the manor house to introduce himself, saying that Crosby’s relative always let him come use the piano. Bing and David chat, and end up singing together, a pretty rendition of a unique mash up of the Little Drummer Boy and Peace on Earth.

Aired in November 1977, a month after Crosby’s death, the poignant duet has become a radio and television classic of the holiday time period, since at that point, Bowie was not known for doing any traditional music and wanted to become more mainstream.

Peace on Earth was written specifically for Bowie for the special because he didn’t want to sing the Little Drummer Boy, originally written in 1941. And although it aired in North America and the UK, the single by Crosby/Bowie was only released officially in 1982 as a B side to the song Heroes.

But for every holiday season, this Crosby/Bowie duet is a classic of Christmas.

 

 

 

 

memories of the ’80s – Fairytale of New York

Although the lyrics may not be the heartwarming standard of Christmas songs, the emotions and tune of Shane McGowan and Jem Finer’s song Fairytale of New York has become a seasonal classic.

Written as a traditional Irish folk song, McGowan initially started writing the song while in bed with double pneumonia in 1985, but it wasn’t quite the song that he and The Pogues wanted. After a tour to New York City and the US in 1986, McGowan returned to the song, adding in more details after spending time within the Irish community in NYC.

Produced by Steve Lillywhite, McGowan initially recorded both the male and female parts of the duet. But Lillywhite decided to ask his wife, singer  Kristy MacColl to take on the female role and worked with the singers independently to create the duet for The Pogues’ album If I Should Fall From Grace with God.

The bittersweet call and response of the song between a couple reminiscing about the past and dealing with the present day, with the man in the drunk tank and the way they’ve dealt with their alcoholism and drug addictions made for a memorable song. The language of the song is bawdy and judgemental, reflecting the working class speech of McGowan.

Released in November 1987, the song hit the Irish charts and stayed at number one for five weeks. In the UK, the song climbed to number two, with MacColl and The Pogues appearing on the Top of the Pops.

The song’s music video helped propel the song to the top of the charts in the US and Canada, showing the two singers in New York City and with actor Matt Dillon in a cameo as a police officer.

Reissued in 2012, as the song celebrated its 25th anniversary and is still played every holiday season.