1984 was a hugely memorable year for me.
So many great films were released: Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills cop, Gremlins to name but three as well as the introduction to the world of cinema of the wonderful John Hughes.
World events were also hard to ignore: Apple launched its first personal computers on an unsuspecting globe, Virgin Atlantic was launched by Richard Branson, The space shuttle had its third mission, DNA fingerprinting was introduced for the first time, and tragically Indira Ghandi was assassinated and AIDS was first reported as a threat
In terms of music, there was some brilliant pop music emerging, Madonna was on the rise, Frankie Goes to Hollywood said ‘Relax’ and it was the year that Bob Geldof and Midge Ure created ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’ which shook and changed the world.
But the song I remember best, released on the 3rd December, was this fantastic slice of Christmas romanticism by George Michael.
When I was at school it was a fact that you couldn’t like pop music if you were a ‘rocker’ or ‘metal head’ – it was such a strong ‘ethic’ that friends would desert you should you commit the heinous crime of making the slightest uttering to the contrary. Seriously! But I didn’t believe that load of old nonsense, I was a fan of EVERYTHING as it seemed crazy to me to ignore the talent and life affirming qualities of so much great music.
I’d secretly been a fan of WHAM since they emerged – it was the songs, George Michael was, from the very start, a talent of extraordinary ability who’s songs were pure pop and enormously accessible – yeah, they were bubble gum and saccharine sweet, but they were so well conceived and possessed of that magic X-factor (a genuine use of that phrase here) that they ignited a fresh, joyful pop movement that captivated the world and for no small reason.
This track became a huge hit and has been covered by many. It’s sentiment at first glance, doesn’t appear to be anything complicated but scratch the surface and there is clearly a deeply rooted sense of yearning and heartbreak going on here. For a gay man in the early 80’s, especially a pop icon loved by millions of women and men alike, it must have been incredibly difficult for George. Homophobia was still not challenged and this year saw the terrible nature of AIDS rear it’s dreadful head, which only served the haters with more ammunition.
To write a song that truly lasts the test of time is perhaps the hardest thing to do in the art of music. No one I’ve ever met can genuinely pin point or reveal a true formula of what it takes to make a hit, but one thing is for sure, there are those artist that become part of the very fabric of our times, that seemingly and effortlessly produce music that enters the collective consciousness and George Michael is one.
I unashamedly love this song and wish I could write something this good.
I haven’t got this right really, once you start examining the metre and rhythm of the words, it once again reveals what a genius he was. I’ve done my best.
It is without doubt the greatest – and maybe ONLY – Christmas heartbreak song.