One of the dictionary definitions of the word "wham" goes “a solid forceful blow or impact”. That is precisely what I felt when I was scrolling my twitter feeds close to midnight on the Christmas day. I had waited for my daughter to arrive, else I would have fallen asleep. The first tweet was BBC breaking news about George Michael. As 2016 was officially the year that gave birth to fake news, I was hoping this was one such. I resorted to my faithful news provider The Guardian and there was this news ticker, breaking news!
It should have been breaking hearts.
Last Christmas was the first song that I knew the lyrics of. I was in my teens and this song was a definition of “how to keep things simple”.
A melodious tune, honeyed voice, mellifluous music in the background and lyrics that would make it the official anthem of every broken heart for years to come.
These were the pre-Google days and pre-Youtube days. Listening to a song at the click of a button was years away.
Growing up in India, having been schooled in vernacular medium, English as a language was still as foreign and fearsome as it could get. If one had to hum along with the song, one needed to know the lyrics and there was only one way to get the lyrics.
Listen and try to decipher.
I do not know how many of you had seen the hilarious film Jumpin Jack Flash featuring the inimitable Whoppi Goldberg. She gets clues which she links to the eponymous number by Rolling Stones. In a scene that is so real and funny, she loads a cassette into her cassette player and starts playing the song. She pulls out her scribble pad and starts writing the lyrics. After about 7 hours you have the scene where she collapses on the floor next to the cassette player, still belting out the song, pleading “Come on guys speak English”
I so related to this scene as I was going through the same ordeal trying to do the same with, the much simpler, Last Christmas.
I was sitting on the floor listening to his golden voice and trying to write out the lyrics as I kept playing forward and reverse and even though George Michael had a much easy way of rendering a song compared to the manic renditions of Mick Jagger, it did not help me one little bit.
For years I was humming along with what I understood as the original lyrics.
Years later when songs and online lyrics were accessible I would die laughing.
Some of my notable goof-ups, which I was confidently belting out loud along with George Michael were
“But you still patch me eye” (I was always imaging a Long John Silver at this line and wondering what was the connection)
“Well it’s been a thousand fires” (Here I was patting self on the back on such a wonderful metaphor)
“We are too known to saying” (again I saw him speaking for all of us)
“Passed your room, saw the guy there” (I was fairly certain of this part as an explanation of betrayal)
The next four lines were a jumble. I sang different sounds each time as I was like Whoppi Goldberg crumbled next to the cassette recorder.
I have traveled quite a distance from those early years with exposure to great music and learning to appreciate greater artists. To be honest, George Michael will not feature in my top 10 today.
But mention English songs, Last Christmas will always be the first song on my mind.
Since yesterday I am now forced to remember it as Lost Christmas!