This is a true story.
For a few years, I have known of the existence of the website last-christmas.com. The sole purpose of this website is to aggregate and archive covers of Wham!’s 1984 smash hit “Last Christmas.” If the song wasn’t already enshrined in the pantheon of 80’s holiday hits, this website certainly helped to cement its legacy, possibly even positioning it at the very top.
I consider myself a full-on holiday music connoisseur and as such, “Last Christmas” has never been one of my favorite songs. Usually I tend to steer clear of the overplayed hits, unless its stuff from Motown or the Phil Spector record. However, since learning of the last-christmas website, it’s been my secret plan to delve into their extensive archives and emerge with a mixtape that represented both my personal tastes and my obsessive/completist tendencies.
When the website came back online this December, I quickly snatched up the archives from 2006-2010, which came in at a whopping 470 songs, totaling nearly 33 hours and 2.44 GB. I dreaded the thought of auditioning all of these myself, but somehow the idea of sharing this chore made it seem both tolerable and potentially fun. So that’s how I ended up convincing a van full of people to listen to nothing but Last Christmas covers for the majority of a weekend car trip from Boston to DC and back.
What did we learn? Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights:
This song is a much bigger hit abroad than it’s ever been in the United States. I would guess that at least 30% of these covers come from non-English speaking countries
Of the many non-English versions, a large percentage were from rap artists. They would leave the smooth chorus intact, but then start dropping their rhymes over the absent verses. I have no idea if these were even Christmas-themed raps. Many of them seemed to be Korean. One of them was 9 minutes long.
There are a lot of awful techno covers of Last Christmas. I mean, there’s lots of awful techno music and lots of Last Christmas covers, so I guess this makes sense. It was still annoying though.
In nearly 500 cover versions, hardly anyone even attempted to replicate the soulful exhalations that George Michael drops in both the intro and outro to the song. C’mon guys!
Remixes are unequivocally terrible. This applies to almost all areas of music, not just Last Christmas. There are like a billion remixes out there in the world and in my whole life, I’ve hear about 5 remixes that I would want to hear again. Gah!
Anything that started with chimes was an instant out.
I think our favorite part of the song because the whispered “Merry Christmas” bit that happens halfway through the first verse. It was particularly interesting to see how this part was handled in the different cover versions. Bonus points if it’s extra whispery.
We became suckers for either passion or vision. We wanted to hear artists who were living and dying by every line of the song. Either that or we wanted to hear it get pushed in totally new directions. Straight up cover versions simply didn’t cut it. The more we heard them, the more we began to appreciate Wham!
Our 90 minute mixture features the original Wham! version followed by 23 different cover versions. All told, I believe we spent about 12-15 hours listening to and rating nearly 500 Last Christmas covers. On a 5 star scale, we rated about 90 versions with 3 stars or better and from there began relistening to assemble our mixtape.
If you want a physical copy of this cassette, email me at pauldegeorge at gmail dot com and I’ll see if I can hook it up. I may run out of tapes soon.
Otherwise, you should download away!
Ultimate Last Christmas Mixtape! (zip file, 212MB)
Das Palast Orchester & Max Raabe
George Michael’s 8” Stocking
The Hairy Bottlers
Giuseppe Bovo Orchestra
Return of the Ice Cube Trays
The Boss Hogs
Compiled by Paul DeGeorge with assistance from Joe DeGeorge, Jacob Nathan, Emily Barnett, Neil Cicierega, Ming Doyle, Alora Lanzillotta and Justin Michaelman.
Thanks to last-christmas.com and Wham!