Culture Club

  • British new wave band formed in 1981 from London England. The members of the band were Boy George (born George O’Dowd – vocals, frontman), Roy Hay (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Mikey Craig (bass guitar, keyboards, backing vocals) and Jon Moss (drums, backing vocals). All members contributed to songwriting.
  • As a teenager, George was attracted to glam rock, and he adopted a life style of androgynous dressing and hanging out at new bohemian clubs. A local music manager invited him to sing with a new wave band he had created, Bow Wow Wow. In 1980, he performed briefly with the band, using the name Lieutenant Lush. He decided to start his own band, and with Mikey Craig, they formed a band named In Praise of Lemmings. He gave himself the stage name Boy George. Guitarist Jon Suede soon joined, and they were renamed Sex Gang Children. Drummer Moss joined, and in 1961, Suede was replaced with Roy Hay. They changed the name of the group to Culture Club, since the members were so diverse – an Irish gay front man, a black bassist, a blonde white guitarist and a Jewish drummer.
  • They recorded some demos, and by early 1982, they were signed to a recording contract. Two singles were released in the spring – they did not chart, but the British press started to take notice of the uniqueness of the lead singer, dressed as a woman, in full make-up. In September, they released a third single, and it was their breakthrough – Do You Really Want to Hurt Me topped the charts in 11 countries, and it reached #2 in the U.S. The following month, these singles were part of their debut album, Kissing to be Clever. A fourth single, Time (Clock of the Heart), was released, and it peaked at #2 on the Hot 100 chart.
  • In 1983, Culture Club released their most successful album, Colour By Numbers. The album topped the UK album chart, and it peaked at #2 in the U.S., certified 4x platinum. Karma Chameleon became the best selling single for the entire year in the UK, and the tenth best selling single in the U.S. in 1984. Two other singles from the album charted highly – Miss Me Blind peaked at #5 and Church of the Poison Mind reached #10 on the Hot 100. The success of their first two albums led to their win as Best New Artist at the 1984 Grammy Awards. Boy George gave the victory speech via satellite, saying “Thanks America, you’ve got style, you’ve got taste, and you know a good drag queen when you see one.”
  • In 1984, they released the Waking Up With the House On Fire album. It was certified platinum, though it was considered a disappointment given their early success. The War Song reached #17 in the U.S. and #2 in the UK, but other singles were less successful. Realizing that they were losing momentum, they moved to a more dance-oriented sound for their 1986 album From Luxury To Heartache. It was difficult to record, as Boy George’s addiction to heroine interfered with its production. Additionally, the four year personal relationship between George and drummer Moss ended, contributing to George’s downward spiral. Their single Move Away managed to reach #12 in the U.S. – it would be their last charting single. Their planned American tour was cancelled that year, and George was arrested for heroine possession in July 1986. After that, the band split up.
  • After rehab, George started a solo career, releasing six albums between 1987 and 1999, with a couple of top 40 hits in the U.S. and several more in the UK. The band attempted a reunion in 1989, but nothing was released after several songs were recorded. In 1998, Moss and George agreed to reconcile, and the group reunited for a successful tour. A new album was released in 1999, but there was little interest in their new music.
  • They performed a 20th anniversary concert in 2002, but became inactive again, as George continued his solo career and worked in theater and fashion, as toured as a DJ. In 2014, Culture Club reformed – a tour was scheduled but then cancelled, and an album was recorded and then shelved. They managed to tour in 2015, and an album was released in 2018, along with another tour.
  • Music fans debate about the impact of Culture Club. There’s no doubt that MTV helped their success. Some herald their impact on the British New Wave movement in the 80s – I have a hard time labeling them as New Wave, and Boy George stated that they were “…a bridge between white rock and black soul.” OK – I’ll go with that. Here’s the video to Karma Chameleon.

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