Reviews

Wham! / Last Christmas RSD vinyl

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Wham!‘s Last Christmas is arguably the best Christmas single EVER. It is the fun of the early 1980s distilled into a seemingly effortless pop song that was played everywhere at the time; school discos, supermarkets, on the radio (of course) and obviously every Christmas party. It was the perfect sign-off to the best year pop music has seen (1984) and it sold well over a million copies making it apparently the biggest selling number two of all time in the UK (Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas kept if off the top spot).

Ears do not normally deceive and Last Christmas sounded like a classic on first listen. George Michael had the midas touch during those 12 months having delivered Careless Whisper in July (bookended by Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and Freedom!!) and now Last Christmas in December. Just like chart sparring partners Frankie Goes To Hollywood George Michael was oh-so-close to bagging four number one singles in 1984.

Last Christmas has been reissued as a 30th anniversary twelve-inch coloured vinyl but it’s a US-only Black Friday Record Store Day special edition. This is problematic for the UK-based SDE but thankfully those kind folks at Legacy Recordings sent one over for evaluation.

It looks fantastic. The record comes in a transparent plastic sleeve with the title, artist and Record Store Day logo on a sticker. The twelve-inch record is appropriately Christmassy, pressed on green and red translucent vinyl and the typefaces are correct and of-the-era. A 12″x 12″ insert provides all the artwork with the familiar photos of George and Andrew Ridgeley larking around, as well as lyrics.

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The A-side of this new anniversary twelve-inch is the standard seven-inch version of Last Christmas while the B-side is a previously unreleased instrumental version of the song. It’s actually rather surprising that the instrumental is previously unreleased because unprolific George was always shoving instrumental versions of A-sides on the flip-side of Wham! singles (this was the case for all the previous Make It Big singles – including Careless Whisper). I guess the fact that Last Christmas was a double A-side with Everything She Wants was the only thing that stopped this happening for the fourth  single in a row. Incidentally, the new instrumental does still have the backing vocals in place which is quite cool when you’re singing along.

A few quibbles…. This is pressed on 33rpm vinyl. At less than four and a half minutes per side, 45rpm would have been preferred. Also, the musical content is a little stingy. Why not put the extended Pudding Mix on here as well? Even better, how about the rare alternate Pudding Mix from the original Japanese twelve-inch single? I guess any ‘previously unreleased’ Wham! track is a minor miracle but still, it would have been nice to see something similar to the glow-in-the-dark Ghostbusters RSD release which compiled most of the remixes across two sides.

As an aside, the SDE copy was badly warped, although it still played okay. This may well be as a result of its trip across the atlantic rather than any manufacturing issues.

Does this seasonal gift indicate that George Michael’s apparently frosty relationship with both his own Wham! back catalogue and record executives is thawing? We wouldn’t bet on it, but for now let’s just conclude and say that this is a delightful item to add to your collection. Of course, you could give it to someone special…

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42 responses to Wham! / Last Christmas RSD vinyl

  1. Mike the Fisher says:

    What’s different with the Japanese Pudding Mix?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Details as Stefano has mentioned. Basically it’s a unique edit of the Pudding Mix, runs to 4.45 but has the ‘new’ vocals at the end that aren’t in the standard 7″

  2. Stefano says:

    The instrumental version: that’s a nice addition! Pity it isn’t available digitally.

  3. Stefano says:

    The alternative version on the Japanese 12″ is an edit of the Pudding Mix, leaving out a verse. It has got some additional backing vocals from George (at 2.15 – 2.24 minutes) not found in any other mix. There’s some slightly different keyboard arrangements towards the end too.

  4. Steven C says:

    I live in the U.S. and waited to pick this one up… amongst 8 or so other titles. The vinyl was fairly light/thin… which likely contributed to the warping. Surprised by that as well.

    Also, interesting in case you haven’t heard, the “Morrissey Curates The Ramones” Black Friday release I also picked up, the people in the queue with me that morning (American Ramones fans) were incredibly angry with this record. Primarily by the back cover art. They felt Morrissey was trying to force some sort of homo-erotic artwork onto a Ramones record. I think it’s a good compilation either way.

    • Paul English says:

      The Ramones played Dublin in 1978, 1980 and 1985. Some of the angriest (and easily outraged) people I know attended one or more of those gigs.

  5. Mike Cox says:

    I wish it was available digitally as well. In addition, it would be nice if George would wake up and make the fans happy with some Wham reissues, etc.

  6. Cindy says:

    Wow! I ordered a copy on EBay (yeah, I know, but I couldn’t get to a store that day and I HAD to have it) and now I can’t wait for it to arrive! Thanks for reviewing this Paul!

  7. BRENEZ Alain says:

    I ordered mine on Dusty Groove. Most of the Black Friday RSD items were unavailable in Europe; so I spent a few hours chasing them down on the web. For info , I found the Neil Young box set at £104 on Amazon UK which is a good price (it has a $160 price tag in the US).

  8. Griffin says:

    Why don’t they release a 30th Anniversary Limited Edition CD single as well? Or digital downloads on itunes/7digital?

    Last Christmas (Single Version) 4:25
    Last Christmas (Instrumental) 4:25
    Last Christmas (Long Version/Alternate Version) 4:45
    Last Christmas (Pudding Mix) 6:46

    I like the Instrumental, but I don’t have a turn table to play it! Vinyl is fragile to ship. And big box/package always leads to import taxes etc.

    And it’s like going backwards in time (history’s repeating itself)! Record companies issueing stuff on vinyl. People getting vinyl again. Then waiting/hoping to get tracks on CD/digital one day! Can’t they just make our lives easier by giving us those in digital or on CD? If they don’t do it now I don’t think I can get all those in my present life! And they can never get/earn my money! The younger generations will never pay for/buy this Last Christmas Instrumental like us who cherish the 80’s music!

  9. Lenny K. says:

    There were two different takes of “Last Christmas”:

    Take 1

    Full Mix: unreleased

    Short Single Mix 4:24 (Epic A/GA 4949, B-Side of Epic A 4973) To my knowledge, this was never releases on a CD.

    Long Mix but without 3rd verse 4:49 (Japanese 12″, early UK/NL 12″ pressings TA 4949, mislabeled as Pudding mix 6:47, B-Side of Epic 12.4973 “Everything She Wants”). This was released on a few CDs, e.g. The Essential NOW That’s What I Call Christmas (UMG Recordings B0011941-02, 2008)

    Take 2

    Full Mix aka Pudding Mix 6:47
    Appeared on Epic A 12.4949 and on subsequent Wham! Releases

    Short Single Mix: 4:24
    This is the now familiar version, but I don’t know when it appeared for the first time. It appeared on this german Compilation: http://www.discogs.com/Various-Smash-Hits/release/527452
    Maybe its first release on a 7″ was in 1985?

  10. Shane says:

    Well the goal of RSD is clear. But in general I agree, they should probably issue every vinyl along with a simple pressed CD, be it in a white envelope or something fancier. IF, IF, they don’t want to spend money to make a real CD release, which I’m sure many would welcome.

    I love they are doing this release, if I am able to get it.

  11. mino says:

    Hey Folks! Don’t you understand that “THEY” do not care about what we’d like to have? Otherwise an expanded & remastered reissues of Wham!’s back catologue would be already out!

  12. Justin says:

    Ahh the memories. First kiss at 13 was at a school disco while this was playing. Not my favourite, but in that situation you go with the flow. ;-)

  13. Todd R. says:

    Oh good grief. Happy to learn of all these alternates (turns out I own them already – just didn’t know it). And I’m happy to have WHAM! finally get the credit for all the hundreds of covers the song has gotten in the last 30 years. Would love to own the 12″ for the nostalgia – but I’d never play it anyhow.
    Yes, Yogs and Co. had a fairly simple system for b-sides etc – but all the descripencies between mixes has just started to drive me nuts. I mean who has 2 versions of an extended mix? (WHAM! “Freedom”, “I’m Your Man”, “Last Christmas”) Ridiculous. I hope it’s just record-company mismanagement – but then again – suffering through the FAITH reissue (no instrumental of “Father Figure”, and studio and live-b-sides outside of the project release times….) only proves me right.
    MAKE IT BIG deserves a deluxe reissue – include the alternate “Careless Whisper”, the remixed (and full length) “Everything She Wants”, and somehow a definitive extended version of “Freedom”, then perhaps the instrumentals for fun, or even the b-side “Blue” that really never had a true home (till it was included in the send off “Music From The Edge Of Heaven/The Final”). “Last Christmas” could be put there as well, seeing as it was released as part of “Everything She Wants” everywhere else but the US. Don’t even get me started on the FANTASTIC album……

  14. Craig says:

    I kinda know how George felt when writing this song. As it happens, last Christmas I gave someone my heart and then on Boxing Day she gave it away. It was to her hotter friend though so I wasn’t overly fussed.

  15. J. Moore says:

    I am lucky to have a copy of the ’88 3″ mini-disc of this song and the “Pudding” remix. It is a great holiday tune. Almost a favorite of mine but I give the edge to Elton John’s “Step into Christmas.” :-)

    Pretty sure ’84 was the original release on vinyl, with the B-side, “Credit Card Baby.”

  16. Shane says:

    I read somewhere that GM is supposedly interested in a one-off WHAM! concert reunion. Could his opinion be changing and deluxe reissues on the horizon?

  17. Marc Peberdy says:

    In response to the article questioning why the instrumental version is unreleased and not put on the b-side as other Wham! singles.

    Last Christmas was a double A side, with Everything She Wants, which was then promoted as the A side as soon as Christmas was over extending the life of the single well into January.

    This was considered very clever marketing and was commented on at the time as most Christmas singles fall straight out of the charts, the week after Christmas.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Indeed. This was mentioned in the article… “I guess the fact that Last Christmas was a double A-side with Everything She Wants was the only thing that stopped this happening for the fourth single in a row”

  18. Steve Marine says:

    “…the best year pop music has seen (1984) …”
    I couldn’t agree with you more.

  19. Márton says:

    It’s not US only, I could buy it the EMI record shop in Vienna, Austria.

  20. KimandJamie says:

    We bought three of these LE 30th anniversary Last Christmas RSR and all three were warped and quickly jumped on both sides. Major disappointment. They were purchased at LA Record Store Amoeba on Black Friday.

  21. Johnathan says:

    This weekend, finally had time to open the “LC” 12″ I purchased in Seattle on Black Friday. Same as you, Paul, and KimandJamie — warped! The main side played ok, but I seemed to noticed it on the instrumental flip, and the rear of the tone arm on my turntable was catching the edge of the vinyl as it inched further along. So disappointed.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      So much for my theory that it was due to mine being shipped across the atlantic! Sounds like a much wider problem.

      • Terence Delaney says:

        Same here, i got 3 of them from different sources and i think 1 or 2 of them were warped, but i converted 1 to mp3..luckily

  22. Julian H says:

    “Wham!‘s Last Christmas is arguably the best Christmas single EVER.”

    ….

  23. DjPaulT says:

    I was able to grab two copies from two different stores in my area. I realize that picture discs and some colored vinyl have sound issues. I played both copies of “Last Christmas” and this vinyl sounds pretty bad. The mastering and pressing leave you with lots of distortion and drop outs. Think they were going for looks on this one instead of quality.

    My recommendation is to take the vinyl out of the pvc sleeve and store it in something else the pvc sleeve sticking to the vinyl will ruin it.

  24. Freddy says:

    I feel gay even reading the review.

  25. Pingback:Top 10 disappointments of 2014 | superdeluxeedition

  26. Ulrich says:

    I wonder if they fixed the pitch issue on the single mix. I hate when it speeds up and never play the single mix, only the Pudding Mix.

  27. John M says:

    Is that pitch issue on the 5″CD issue (2 and/or 3 track version)? I have the 3″ three track release and presumed it might only be on that issue.

    My turntable only plays 45rpm so I gave this 12″ a miss – from the sound of things re sound quality, pretty glad I did anyway even if my record player wasn’t so anti-33rpm :)

    • Ulrich says:

      It’s on a 5″ three track disc. But the pitch issue is present at my 7″ vinyl too, so I guess it’s mastered that way. About 63 seconds in, it speeds up, and it really annoys me, they put some thing like that out. I’ve always could tell by just listening, but now I’ve got a DJ cd-player with a bpm counter, and if I remember correctly it’s an increase of 2%.

  28. John M says:

    Wow, that’s some oversight re quality control at the label.

  29. Colin Murphy says:

    I ordered this from Amazon. Jesus, probably the worst vinyl pressing ever…

  30. darkroman says:

    I hunted high and low for this, and it cost a fortune, but what a disappointment! This 12inch comes housed in a PVC sleeve to show off the coloured vinyl, but it is so thin and cheap I’m surprised it didn’t disintegrate in transit! Secondly, there is no sleeve, there is a just a very lightweight paper, double sided panel in front of the vinyl. The photo looks like it has been scanned from the original artwork, the end result being very poor. As for the vinyl… how is it possible to produce something so thin! This is more like a cheap flexi disc rather than a vinyl 12inch record! Finally, why bother with the dual coloured vinyl? Makes no sense and is just a waste. However, at least we get a new Wham track, well kind of! The instrumental of Last Christmas is exclusive to this release and clocks in at 4:25mins BUT… IT IS NOT AN INSTRUMENTAL.!!!!! The verses are instrumental, but George Michal still sings the choruses, the background melodies and the middle eight! So it’s by no means an instrumental! Well I guess it has taken thirty years to get this, so better late than never :-)

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      I actually prefer ‘backing tracks’ to instrumentals. More fun when you sing along when back vocal’s come and ‘join in’ :)

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