Culture Club – A Tale of Indifference

Culture Club at their peak © 1982 Jeff Simpson

It says a lot that I remember my first exposure to the group Culture Club. Tellingly, it had nothing to do with the music press or radio… or even MTV. It was in the pages of the frothing tabloid rag The Weekly World News, that I first encountered the phenomenon of Boy George. Leave it to that astounding publication to get their panties into a wad regarding Boy George long before the rest of the US media even had a clue as to what they would be in for! I thought that they would be also-rans that I may have never actually heard with a attention-seeking missile as a lead singer. Effiminate lead singers were a dime a dozen in the Post-Punk era, so I didn’t sweat the details. I cocked an eyebrow and moved on with my life.

Strangely enough, some months later, I actually came to hear the band in the least likely place possible. In my collegiate art classes, it was common to listen to music while working. In early 1982, the station we listened to a lot was WLOQ-FM, Orlando’s mellow “jazz” station that actually offended the least amount of ears. Five years later, and they would be playing many of the NWOBJP artists I was into at the time, but in 1982 there was still a helluva lot of Bob James and that ilk. So when the atmospheric lover’s rock of “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” got substantial airings on this station in early 1982, it caught my ear in the right way and I liked it. At the time, I didn’t know who it was since WLOQ was very light on the DJ chatter. I eventually found out it was the same band I’d read about many months earlier in the WWN and was slightly amazed.

I liked “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” and was shocked that this was the product of the band with the effeminate lead singer causing the tabloid outrage in the UK. It took several months more, but eventually the song managed to cross over to the pop charts in a big way, paving the way for Culture Club to compete with Duran Duran for the mantle of best-selling British New Wave act for a couple of years as we lurched towards the mid-80s. I found it ironic that MTV were among the last to add Culture Club to their playlists given that the band put themselves across so visually. MTV were apparently troubled by actors appearing in ironic blackface in the band’s video and truncated it to eliminate the offending images until a Top Of The Pops lipsync clip was substituted instead! Phew! A breathless nation moves onward!

I eventually bought a used LP copy of “Kissing To Be Clever” to get the song that I liked but the rest of the album was no Maserati. The material other than DYRWTHM was horn-cluttered pop music with mediocre production and repetitive structures. Watered down New Wave on its last legs, and worlds away from the haunting first sing I’d chanced to hear. But I was in the minority. Against all odds, Boy George charmed the entire world, apart from old fuddy duddies who took offense at Nancy boys sashaying around in [gulp] makeup! They were peeling hit singles off of that waxing like c-notes off a Mafia Don’s roll! “Time [Clock Of The Heart]!” “I’ll Tumble For You!” By 1983, you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing Boy George chatting with some talking head.

That year I was perusing the import bins and saw the “new” Culture Club single; “Church Of The Poison Mind.” What a great title! “I’ll gamble a stamp!” I bought it and was rewarded with a quasi-Motown Stevie Wonder-esque number that was ennobled by great backing vocals by Helen Terry. Better still, the B-side was all hers! “Man Shake” featuring her on lead vocals was a killer cut, so the 7″ is in my Record Cell to this day!

Unfortunately, the rest of the “Colour By Numbers” singles that I’d heard [they were inescapable on the radio or MTV] were more tepid blandness, with a special note of distaste to be given to the repugnantly popular “Karma Chameleon!” This is one of my all time worst “must not hear” songs. Popular “New Wave” tracks that have long since worn out their welcomes by torrential overplaying. Infinitely worse in this case since the song was the furthest thing from a favorite in the first place. The resulting quasi-hoedown number was possibly even worse than The Eagles for my ears, and that’s saying a lot.

Having deftly sidestepped the traditional pitfall of the sophomore jinx, the band blithely consolidated their position of world dominance. Only to run smack into a brick wall of disdain for their third album. The leadoff single “The War Song” was no better or worse than anything I’d heard from them before, thought the chorus lyrics were particularly maladroit for this band; never ones to give Noël Coward cause for worry. Nevertheless,  a metaphoric line in the sand had been crossed and the millions of fans they had accrued began to desert them in droves. Tours were cancelled. That sort of thing.  Can’t say I was moved too much one way or another. Fifteen years later, I bought a used CD of “Kissing To Be Clever” to hear that one song again and see if maybe I was too harsh on their debut album. [I sometimes do this – usually to my chagrin] I wasn’t and now I have a copy of it on CD that I still need to unload.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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5 Responses to Culture Club – A Tale of Indifference

  1. Echorich says:

    Culture Club never really hit a lot of high notes for me. Time (Clock of the Heart) is by far my favorite, and probably George’s best vocal recorded and Do You Really…is a classic pop song of the era, but I never found the need to buy any of their albums until the Greatest HIts CD in the mid to late 90’s which included a few post CC BG solo singles. This allowed me to have some of those tracks which predated and decent digital transfer.
    I followed Boy George into his solo career partially because of the train wreck he had become and wanted to see where it would lead. Things looked bright for a moment with the Pascal Gabriel produced No Clause 28 single and the Jesus Loves You Acid House/Rave era, but that was short lived.
    Sir Vero over at So Hip It Hurts introduced all to a clip of George performing Lana Del Ray’s Video Games which is really quite brilliant. So maybe I’ll spend some time following what he’s got to give next.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Pascal Gabriel produced “No Clause 28?” No wonder it sounded good! I only have the Razormaid mix of that so production credits are shaky.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – I felt that Boy George made a better celebrity than musician. He was interesting enough to become notoriously famous, but the music wasn’t there for me.

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      • Echorich says:

        I have to agree with you Monk. He is brilliant at the train wreck; brilliant at the headline making. I loved the long term bitch fighting he engaged in with – first Steve Strange and then Pete Burns. Ultimately all three became cartoon caricatures of themselves, but George has managed to maintain that status for 30 yrs now.
        Quick story – back in 1985, while both CC and Duran Duran were in flux as groups, theiir managers – and drug dealers, to be real – planned a super concert to be held at Angels Stadium in Anaheim around Xmas of that year. NYC was a buzz for week with both bands in town hitting the clubs like Limelight, Palladium and Area hard (I engaged in a water pistol fight with Nick Rhodes and John Taylor and a couple of my girlfriends in the Limelight VIP room one night.) Finally both bands showed up for a huge MTV simulcast world press conference to announce the show. It was held at the Palladium, which was then the state of the art mega club in the City, if not the world. Banks of video screens and laser lighting. All ten band members seated at a cloth covered table to discuss the concert and answer press questions. The presser was fun, made papers all over the world and devolved into a 12 hour private party at the Palladium…I know I drank way too much… But neither band looked like they really cared to be there. George was chilly and unfriendly. John and Andy Duran were totally coked up and cracking themselves up. Nick of course took it all very seriously. Well less than a month later, the concert was cancelled, a few months after that George started showing up all over NYC with gadfly Marilyn who was is personal entree into hard drugs. Within the next year George was arrested on heroin charges and a rehab patient.

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