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.

 

memories of the ’70s – Happy Xmas (War is Over)

John Lennon combined his anti-war stance and a holiday sentiment in the 1971 song Happy Xmas (War is Over), which has become a holiday classic.

After the success of his album Imagine, Lennon realized a gentle touch would get across his antiwar stance and he wrote this song while living with Yoko Ono at New York City’s St. Regis Hotel.

Recorded a few months later in their Greenwich Village home, Lennon asked Phil Spector to produce the song, and worked with his wife Yoko, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, made up of young singers from ages four to 12.

One of the unique moments of the song is when Lennon whispers Happy Christmas Julian – a small shout out to his son, while Yoko whispers Happy Christmas Kyoko, a small shout out to her daughter.

Released on Apple Records in December 1971 in the United States, the song was the first Christmas-related song released by a former Beatle. Its success was not immediate, due to the late release and lack of promotion.

Fans on the other side of the Atlantic had to wait a year before the song was released in the UK due to a copyright dispute, but when released in November 1972, the song hit number four on the UK charts and was immediately played every holiday season, especially after Lennon’s death in 1980.

Since Lennon’s death, many artists had covered this song including Andy Williams, Neil Diamond, Celine Dion, Diana Ross, Jimmy Buffet, Jessica Simpson, Darlene Love and the Moody Blues.

 

memories of the ’80s – Cry by Godley and Creme

Seasoned musicians for decades, and a stint in the band 10cc, the duo Godley and Creme had their one hit wonder of the 1980s with the song Cry.

Having worked and performed together for years, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme celebrated 25 years of their professional partnership with the album History Mix Volume 1, released in 1985.

Working with JJ Jeczalik from The Art of Noise, the duo remixed their past songs, playing with different beats and sounds to reinvent their backlist. But there were also two singles on the album, including the song Cry.

The single hit it big with radio airplay, but got even bigger because of its music video. The twosome had plenty of experience with the medium, producing videos for many Brit artists including Duran Duran, Ultravox, Wang Chung and The Police since 1979.

The video used a technique called analogue cross fading – shot in black and white, the faces of the singers morphed into faces of other individuals – old and young, different ethnicities and both genders – all to sing the song.

Check out the video here.

It became Godley & Creme’s only top 40 hit on the Billboard charts as well as earning them one hit wonder status on the pop music charts around the world for this distinctive ballad.

memories of the ’80s – It’s My Life by Talk Talk

File:It's my life (talk talk).jpgAs the Brit new wave sound emerged in the early ’80s, several bands rolled out potential hits, including the band Talk Talk with their hit single It’s My Life.

Written by band members Mark Hollis and Tim Friese-Greene, this song was the title track of the band’s second album. Released as a single in January 1984, the song hit the mid-charts in the UK.

But in many other European countries and in North America, the song was more popular, hitting top 10 in the USA and Canada, and getting constant airplay in Italy, Belgium, Austria, Germany and Australia.

Despite the band’s early successes, their dislike of the pop music trends encouraged them into experimentation – even with their initial music video for It’s My Life, which featured a grumpy Hollis lip synching the lyrics badly.

Their label EMI complained about the first video, and the band redid the music video but still mocked the lip synching and music video stereotypes in the second, more widely seen version showcasing wildlife.

The band also used James Marsh as their cover artist, encouraging his unique design and art skills to create distinct albums that weren’t just about marketing.

So although new wave dance types swayed to this song in their fave club, the band’s goal was to not be top 40 radio, even though this song was.

memories of the ’80s – Everlasting Love

The power of this song – Everlasting Love – has meant repeated versions in the past decades, with each time making it a one hit wonder and a Billboard chart hit every time.

Written by Buzz Cason and Mac Gayden, the song was written for Motown signer Robert Knight, who originally recorded the song in Nashville in 1967.

Hitting number 13 on the Billboard charts, this song was recorded and released again in 1968 by Love Affair and again in 1974 by Carl Carlton, whose version was the most successful, hitting top five on Billboard charts.

In 1981, CBS recording artists Rex Smith and Rebecca Sweet decided to record the song for a third time, hoping to get a Billboard hit. Smith had a previous Billboard chart hit in the late 1970s and was a Teen Beat hearthrob, while Sweet was just at the beginning of her singing career, and included the song on her debut album And He Kissed Me.

The duo’s version of Everlasting Love was a bit less Motown and soul and more pop, and came with a music video, perfect for MTV and MuchMusic to spin endlessly. Smith included the single on his album Everlasting Love.

The duo’s version hit #32 in August 1981, and climbed the charts in Europe to hit top 10, influencing the young teen generation with their 1980s pop styled version.

But they weren’t the only ones to record this song in the 1980s – German pop star Sandra, also recorded her version in 1987, hitting the top 10 charts in several European countries including Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, France and Italy.

This song is one that lives on in each decade, but in each time period became a one hit wonder.