Culture Club

Culture Club

“Do you really want to hurt me?
Do you really want to make me cry?”

With the advent of MTV, bands that focused on visual style began to dominate the pop charts. Few were as visually stylish as Culture Club. Each member of the group wore colorful, new-wave togs, but Boy George was the most attention-getting by far: His gender-bending mix of makeup, hair-dye and frilly clothing (including dresses) made him a magazine-cover fixture. He also happened to be a fine songwriter, turning Culture Club into one of the most successful hitmaking bands of the 1980′s.

All the band’s members were British music scene veterans who had worked with groups like Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow and the Clash. They settled on the ‘Culture Club’ name in 1981 and began recording the next year. They soon hit it big in the U.K. with “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me,” a soulful lost-love lament with up-to-date production and a heartrending, torchy vocal from Boy George. In early 1983, it became a #2 hit in the U.S., and its video, which prominently featured Boy George’s androgynous look, caused a commotion on the still-young MTV network.

Culture Club continued to score big hits throughout 1983. They followed up their initial success with another #2 chart smash, “Time (Clock of the Heart),” a Motown-styled ballad complete with wailing saxophone. The reggae-tinged “I’ll Tumble For You” mixed horns with the sing-along chorus of the title and went Top-10. Meanwhile, their debut album Kissing To Be Clever became a Top-15 hit on the album charts. The group closed the year with the soulful stomper “Church of the Poison Mind,” which featured a memorable gospel-style backing vocal on the chorus and gave Culture Club another Top-10 hit.

1984 began with a #1 smash for Culture Club in the form of “Karma Chameleon,” which also had a memorable video set on a Louisiana riverboat. Their second album, Colour By Numbers, soared to #2 as Boy George and the band became a favored pin-up in teen magazines. They won Best New Artist Grammy in 1984, and their hits continued throughout the year with the orchestra-backed “Miss Me Blind” and the peppy, horn-driven “It’s A Miracle.” By this time, fashion-mavens and teens alike were emulating the ‘Boy George look.’

Culture Club mounted a major U.S. tour at the end of 1984, complete with backup singers and a horn section. They also released another album, Waking up With The House On Fire, and scored a Top-20 hit from it with “The War Song.” The band took a break for much of 1985, but returned the next year with From Luxury To Heartache. They also made a memorable guest appearance on an episode of The A-Team, which depicted them playing in a honky-tonk for a surly group of down-home types. The group scored one last hit, the soulful “Move Away,” before disbanding in early 1987.

The members of Culture Club continued to pursue music after the group’s demise. Most notably, Boy George maintained his international presence as a solo artist, scoring a hit in 1992 with his elegant version of “The Crying Game” (from the film of the same name). When 80′s nostalgia became hip in the late 90′s, Culture Club reunited and played several successful concerts in 1998. The band reunited again in 2002, performing a memorable 20th anniversary concert at Royal Albert Hall that was released on DVD.

In 2006, two members of the group thought the public might accept a version of the the band with a different lead singer. They were sorely mistaken and plans for a tour quickly scrapped. Without Boy George, it just wasnt Culture Club as far as their fan base was concerned. Thankfully, it would appear that these loyal followers will soon get their wish for a full reunion. As of this writing (2014), it has been reported that the band is indeed back together, recording new material for an upcoming album that they will support with an extensive tour, proving yet again that the band’s unique fusion of soul and new-wave has yet to go out of style.

If you were a fan of Culture Club back in the day, maybe even made a few wardrobe decisions based on their colorful style, we’d love to hear all of your recollections in our comments section below as we tip our hats to this great 80s band.

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