New Wave Hall Of Shame: Culture Club – Karma Chameleon

NEW-WAVE-HALL-OF-SHAME-karma-chameleonIf ever there was a New Wave period song that I heard far too many times to ever enjoy again, it would have been this world-conquering single by Culture Club.  What makes it so much worse is that I hated this song from the get go! This simpering, quasi-country-lite number by the far too popular Culture Club was insanely popular. Eyeballs-rolling-up-white-in-the-socket-like-Jack-Nicholson, popular. Possibly the most popular song of the eighties by people who were not Michael Jackson! The numbers don’t lie:

Chart (1983-1984) Peak Position
Australian Singles Chart – 1
Austrian Singles Chart – 3
Belgian Singles Chart – 1
Canadian Hot 100 – 1
Denmark Singles Chart – 1
Dutch Top 40 – 1
European Hot 100 Singles – 1
Finnish Singles Chart – 3
German Singles Chart – 2
Irish Singles Chart – 1
Italian Singles Chart – 4
Japan Hot 100 – 1
New Zealand Singles Chart – 1
Norwegian Singles Chart – 1
Swedish Singles Chart – 1
Swiss Singles Chart – 1
UK Singles Chart – 1
US Billboard Hot 100 – 1

¡Mamacita! It chills my blood to consider anything so universally popular!!! And what in hell is the story with Italy, Germany, Finland, and Austria? Did Branson run out of payola?! This tune was likely aided in its chart decimation by hordes of blue-haired grannies buying the single for their Victrolas. It is surely the most toothless example of pop music I’ve ever heard. Nowhere to be heard in its insufferable 3:51 length is the sex and danger that, say… The Monkees, bring to the table!

culture club - karmachameleonUK12AI can’t begin to count the times I must have heard this via the cancer of cultural exposure. I sure didn’t own a copy, and by 1983, had not listened to commercial radio for three years or more. But MTV and just the simple act of leaving my home and entering public places must have exposed me to this song countless times. Sure, the band joined Motley Crüe on the MTV blacklist. I’d change the channel so fast by the time this was mounting its assault on the pop charts that I’d get blisters. But to this day, I can heard this tune on public music systems I have no control over and it sours my mood in a trice.

The only way that this insipid little number could have been more irritating to me would have been if the band had secured the talents of Stevie Wonder for the sappy harmonica solo From Hell. Goodness knows that they were popular enough at the time to have afforded his day rate, but thankfully, this mooted teamup never happened. If there’s anything I hate more than Culture Club at their worst, it’s Stevie Wonder’s Patented Harmonica Solos®!

I just did a bit of research and betcha-by-golly-wow it appears that this single does have a significant saving grace. There does not seem to be any extended versions of it on 12″ single the world over! So let it not be said that there is no silver lining to my enmity towards this song! As much as I disdain this little ditty, it could have been far, far worse. After all, there sound have been a 12″ single mix with a Stevie Wonder harmonica solo during the extended middle eight!

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About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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11 Responses to New Wave Hall Of Shame: Culture Club – Karma Chameleon

  1. While I’ve never enjoyed this song either, and find it as insipid as you do, I do think Mr. O’Dowd is, like a lot of performers, a man with a talent but NO ability to choose projects wisely!! He has done some STELLAR vocal work on RARE occasion and then a lot of dross. We get too much of that in this world. I don’t mind when performers misstep occasionally — but the hit-to-miss ratio has to be way higher before you get to be in my INFOTAINMENT OMNIPLEX, buster!


  2. Echorich says:

    Culture Club always smelled of corporate product to me. Yeah I knew about George and his McLaren/Leigh Bowery/Pistols/Ants connection, that he partied with all the Punk Era night creatures, etc., but it didn’t translate on vinyl. Culture Club wasn’t dangerous – insidious, but not dangerous. Sure there are some amazing pop moment in their catalogue – Time, Do You Really Want To Hurt Me, even Miss Me Blind, and The War Song (because I like to be perverse), but most of their work is just this side of mind numbing for me. The worst offender is certainly Karma Chameleon. The first time I saw the video I thought, is George trying to do Showboat in drag? Horrible.
    I have to agree with Chas in that George has had some pretty impressive moments – his move to dance music – No Clause 28, most of the Jesus Loves You period and even his solo album where he apes Paula Abdul and New Jack Swing has it’s moments. If you’ve heard his version of Lana Del Rey’s Video Games, you know there is still an amazing singer there who needs someone to give him another chance.


  3. George was a hat-check clerk at the Blitz club in London run by Steve Strange. At the time and in that place he was not at all unusual, just a somewhat more stylish queen than most …


  4. Tim says:

    Do you have others in this series? I know the candidates that I have for the Hall of Shame but I am keeping my mouth shut for now, it is your blog after all.


  5. Tim says:

    Ah yes I remember reading those other two. I’m easily able to think of more egregious offenders that deserve a summons to War Crimes Against 80’s Music Tribunal at the Hague, but then again, I’m only human.


    • Echorich says:

      Interesting how that tribunal would be in the “Hague” can they try Hague in The Hague…now I’m just working off the wit (low as it may be) here, but as many good things as one Stephen Hague has brought us, he has much to answer for (to me at least) in the late 80’s…


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