Wednesday, May 21, 2014

32 Years With Boy George & Culture Club

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In the Fall of 1982, the world, and especially the United States, were abuzz about the a new band coming out of England. Culture Club was made up by bassist Mikey Craig, Roy Hay on guitar and keyboards, and drummer Jon Moss. But the person everyone was talking about was lead vocalist Boy George, who sported braids and heavy makeup, bringing the term "gender bender" to the mainstream. He came out of the club scene, where daring costumes and larger-than-life personalities made his stand out. He formed the band, and was a strong part of the New Romantic movement.

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In 1982, Culture Club released their first album, 'Kissing to be Clever'. Aside from the talk of Boy George's appearance, people were also noticing that great music the band was making. The first single off the album was "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?", which made it to #2 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song was an engaging love song that showed off the best of George's voice, allowing him to show strength, softness, and to deliver his truth on in. There is a hypnotic quality to the song, and 32 years later, when I hear the opening, I can't hep but smile. This is Culture Club with the music video for "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?"

With the great success of the first album, Culture Club quickly followed it up with the second, 'Colour By Numbers', in 1983. The first single off the album was one of my favorites, "Church of the Poison Mind", a soulful song that brings a bit of Gospel to the plate. The song did well, earning a #!0 on the Billboard Hot 100. But it was the second dingle that earned Culture Club their first #1 song on the Billboard charts. Also released in 1983, "Karma Chameleon" was upbeat and filled with charm, and the undeniable talent of Boy George. Set on the Mississippi River over a century prior, the three band members donned costumes of Riverboat gamblers, while Boy George was anachronistically featured as himself. This is the music video for Culture Club's "Karma Chameleon".

A few years later, the band was not getting along, and the sales were definitely slowing up, so Culture Club decided to call it a day. By George was not on the sidelines for very long, as he went on to a solo career. Most of his success was in the UK and Europe, for his solo material didn't seem to really gel with the American audience. But the one song that did was the 1992 release "The Crying Game", the theme song for the movie 'Ace Ventura: Pet Detective', starring Jim Carrey. It went to #15 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song had a real retro feel, which should not be surprising, considering it was written in 1964. It was also produced by the great Pet Shop Boys. This is Boy George with his hit cover of "The Crying Game".

The new millennium has been a mixed bag for George. It began with his great success with 'Taboo', a huge hit in London's West End. The American version didn't repeat this, as rewrites and other issues caused the production to close after just 100 performances. George also battled his demons, entering rehab on several occasions. He also had other legal issues stemming from drug addiction to false imprisonment of a rent boy. By 2010, Boy George had committed to living a sober life, and to put his time in prison behind him. "Amazing Grace" was his first post-prison single, a track off the album 'Ordinary Alien'. I loved the song, and this the music video is cool. This is Boy George with "Amazing Grace".

It has been a blast being a fan of Boy George over the past 32 years. It has been great to see the musical progression of this talented performer, from one decade to the next. To learn more about Boy George, visit his official website. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, and 'like' him on Facebook. You can purchase 'At Worst: The Best of Boy George and Culture Club' from iTunes and Amazon. It includes three out of the four songs mentioned here (not "Amazing Grace"). You can also find his latest album, 'This is What I Do' on iTunes and Amazon.

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