Afternoon all! And a hearty welcome to December on my blog! I do realise it has been something of a very long while since I last wrote an entry (a month. That’s usual, I know). Once again, feet of blame must rest firmly at the door of ‘real life shit’, and it’s only now things have calmed down again I can do some serious bloggage again. So to celebrate it’s now December, and the fact we are now but 19 days away from my favourite time of the year (Christmas), I felt it only appropriate to do a #CrazyStupidPlaylist today about Christmas songs.
More specifically, my playlist today is about one Christmas song in particular. ‘Last Christmas’, the tip for the top of the festive charts in 1984 for pop’s biggest selling act of the year – or one of them, anyway – in Wham, only got as far as #2 behind the original recording of the legendary Band Aid single, but went onto sell millions of copies worldwide, becoming a Yuletide classic for all the years after, and has been covered by as many as 60 different artists over the last three decades. And now, I’ve specially curated my top 5 personal favourite covers of this Christmas hit for you – consider it an early present if you will.
1. THE PUPPINI SISTERS
(Available on ‘Christmas with the Puppini Sisters’, Verve, 2010)
Retro lady trio The Puppini Sisters have always had a unique sound which immediately calls to mind some of the old classic crooners from the 50’s and 60’s – Doris Day and the Andrews Sisters, for example. Their take on all things festive for their Christmas album in 2010 was no exception, and ‘Last Christmas’ was given the magic Puppini touch, giving it a dreamy, waltzy take on the song, all hi hats and double bass and generally swoony gorgeousness. Also be sure to check out their version of ‘Jingle Bells’ with Michael Buble on his own ‘Christmas’ album – heaven in a song.
2. BILLIE PIPER
(Available on ‘She Wants You’ CD single, Innocent, 1998)
Time was, about 15 years ago, that Billie Piper wasn’t known as either an award winning actress of stage and screen, or as Rose Tyler, the feisty sidekick first to Christopher Eccleston, then David Tennant, on the BBC’s revived series of ‘Doctor Who’. Nope. Once upon a time, she was in fact a chart topping popstar, and still to this day holds the UK record as the youngest female performer to debut at #1 (she was 15 when ‘Because We Want To’ achieved the feat). At the height of her pop powers in the late 90s, she did this poptastic cover of George and Andrew’s classic whilst dressed in a massive furry white parka (cf. East 17) to perform it on ‘Blue Peter’. For that halcyon memory alone, it gets my vote.
3. OLLY MURS
(Available on ‘Never Been Better: Special Edition’, Epic, 2015)
Taking it right up to date now is friend of the blog and our idol Mr Murs with his cover of the song as recorded for his appearance in the Live Lounge on BBC Radio 1 this time last year, now added to the current repacked edition of his chart topping fourth album. His vocal performance is wistfully soulful and moving on this, and really captures the melancholy of the lyrics which is often forgotten about when you’ve heard the original back so many times. And it’s all the more proof of why the man needs to get a Christmas album all of his own recorded.
(Available on ‘Last Christmas’ CD single, EMI, 2001)
You know that a song, Christmas based or otherwise, is timeless and adaptable when it can be turned to virtually any style of music you care to think of. Such was the case in 2001, when obscure Latvian dance outfit BTH reworked it into a trance-o’clock banger to compete for that year’s Christmas chart topper. It tanked out just inside the top 30 in the end, but it’s proof that there’s nothing a 128bpm rave can’t do to improve your Christmas party.
5. JIMMY EAT WORLD
(Available on ‘Bleed American – The Deluxe Edition’, DreamWorks, 2001)
Usually more renowned for their high energy, nu-punk pop outings, US rockers Jimmy Eat World released their cover of ‘Last Christmas’ as a bonus track on a special re-release of their fourth album in 2001. Their take on it is perhaps the most unique on my list, in that it keeps a bit of its 80s origins intact with an almost Pet Shop Boys-esque electro beat but with a slight feel of folk to proceedings as well. It strangely works.