Culture Club

Culture Club were a Grammy Award-winning British pop group that formed in the early 1980s. The band consisted of Boy George (lead vocals), Mikey Craig (bass guitar), Roy Hay (guitar and keyboards), and Jon Moss (drums and percussion). Culture Club had hit songs in various countries around the world. From the time of the band's inception in 1982 to its dissolution in 1986, they had amassed ten Top Forty hits in both their native U.K. and in the U.S., and during their reunion period, in 1998-2002, they scored more: a UK #4 and UK #25, as well as their lowest-charting single ever (the double A-side "Cold Shoulder"/"Starman", which stalled at #43).


Formation and Kissing to Be Clever: 1981-1983

In 1981, Boy George used to occasionally sing with the group Bow Wow Wow under the stage name "Lieutenant Lush". His popularity in this role caused friction with the group's lead singer Annabella Lwin. After his tenure with the group, George decided to start his own band and enlisted Mikey Craig. Next came Jon Moss, and finally Roy Hay. The group recorded demos, which were paid for by EMI Records, but the label was unimpressed and decided not to sign the group. Virgin Records heard the demos and signed the group in the UK, and Epic Records signed them in the US as Virgin did not have a U.S. presence at the time.

Their first album, Kissing to Be Clever (1982), saw the release of their first single "White Boy". Although the song failed to reach the UK or U.S. Top 100, George was still happy because "5000 people bought my song and didn't even know me." The next single "I'm Afraid of Me" also failed at radio. The release of the third single "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me", a reggae-influenced number, went to #1 in the UK in late 1982 and became an international hit, peaking at #1 in over a dozen countries (#2 US), and sold 6.5 million copies worldwide. The debut of the band on Top of the Pops caused headlines such as "Wally of the week" and "Mr. (or is it Mrs. ?) Weird" in the tabloids in reaction to George's androgynous look and eccentric dress. Pete Burns, lead singer of the pop/new wave band Dead or Alive would later claim he was the first to wear braids, big hats, and colourful costumes, but George would cut back with a sharp tongued remark, "It's not who did it first, it's who did it better".

The follow-up single "Time (Clock of the Heart)", featuring George's soulful vocals over an R&B groove, became another Top 10 hit in the U.S. (#2) and UK (#3). "I'll Tumble 4 Ya" also became a Top Ten hit in the U.S. (#9) and in Canada. This made Culture Club the first group since The Beatles to have three Top Ten hits from a debut album in America. Kissing to Be Clever sold over two million copies in the U.S., and another three million worldwide at the time of its release, propelling George to international stardom.

Colour by Numbers and international acclaim: 1983-1984

The group's second album, Colour by Numbers, was released in 1983. The first single "Church of the Poison Mind", featuring backing vocalist Helen Terry, reached the UK and U.S. Top 10, continuing the group's success. The second single "Karma Chameleon" gave the band its second #1 hit in the UK, where it sold 1.4 million copies and became the best-selling single of 1983 in that country. It also hit #1 in the US for three weeks, selling 1.3 million copies; and would eventually hit #1 in sixteen countries, and sold seven million copies worldwide. Colour by Numbers would have more hits, such as "Miss Me Blind" (#5 US), "It's a Miracle" (#4 UK, #13 US), and "Victims" (#3 UK), (these three singles featuring R&B singer Jermaine Stewart on background vocals), and sold four million copies in the U.S. and another five million worldwide at its time of release. With that album, Culture Club was the first group in history to have a diamond album (10 times platinum) in Canada, for more than a million copies sold. The band also won the 1984 Grammy Award for Best New Artist, where George gave a speech via satellite stating, "Thanks America, you've got style, you've got taste, and you know a good drag queen when you see one."

The group's back-up singer, Helen Terry, began work on her solo album, for which George and Hay wrote the song "Love Lies Lost". The pair also wrote "Passing Friend" for the Beach Boys' album. Culture Club were asked to write two songs for the soundtrack to the movie Electric Dreams. George and Hay wrote "The Dream" and "Love Is Love", with the latter being released as a single in Canada and Japan, the E.P "love is love" became a hit in Japan. George also collaborated on "Electric Dreams", sung by P. P. Arnold. The song was written with Phil Pickett, who had co-written "Karma Chameleon" with the band and frequently played keyboards for the group.

Despite all this success, trouble was brewing within Culture Club. First, George was occasionally using drugs with money from his new-found fame. Second, unknown to Craig and Hay, George was romantically involved with the group's drummer, Jon Moss. Their relationship lasted for over four years and was often turbulent, with physical and verbal abuse. The pressure to hide the relationship from the press and the public started to take its toll on the band.

Waking Up with the House on Fire, From Luxury to Heartache and decline: 1984-1986

In 1984, the group released its third album, Waking Up with the House on Fire. It was a commercial and critical disappointment compared to Colour By Numbers. The album sold two and a half million copies worldwide upon its release, with about one million of those sold in the US. The album had one hit single in "The War Song" which went top ten and top twenty in the UK and US, respectively. Other singles like "Mistake No. 3" (US #33) and "The Medal Song" (UK #32) would become modest hits. George later stated he felt the album experienced a lukewarm reception because of half-hearted material he felt they released due to pressure from Virgin and Epic to quickly release a follow-up to Colour By Numbers. According to him, the band had just come off an exhausting world tour of North America and Australia in 1984 and as a result the fatigue ended up coming off on the album. Many music insiders also feel that Culture Club and Boy George may have fallen victim to overexposure in both the British and American press by the end of 1984.

At the end of 1984, the band was recruited by Bob Geldof to attend the Band Aid recording, consisting of mostly internationally-known UK and Irish recording stars. George was in New York City when Geldof called him, but managed to catch the final Concorde of the day to London and was the last singer to record a vocal track for the song "Do They Know It's Christmas". The song would eventually become an international hit, raising millions for famine victims in Africa.

George had been abusing drugs for several years and by 1986 he became seriously addicted to cocaine, which then evolved into a heroin addiction. As a result, the band continued to lose its place musically. The recording of their 1986 album From Luxury to Heartache dragged on for so long that producer Arif Mardin had to abandon the sessions due to prior commitments and leave it to engineer Lew Hahn to record the final vocals. Songs like "Gusto Blusto" and "Reasons" took days for the addicted singer to finish. Nevertheless, the album seemed capable of returning Culture Club back to hit-making status as the first single "Move Away" peaked at UK #7 and US #12. However, George and Jon could no longer be around each other due to constant relationship battles and, coupled with George's drug problem, a forthcoming American tour had to be canceled. By the time of the release of the second single "God Thank You Woman", news of George's drug addiction began to circulate in British and American tabloids, which were denied by the singer, and the second single stalled on the charts. From Luxury to Heartache began to fade from the charts as well and the album eventually sold fewer than one million copies worldwide. By the summer of 1986, George admitted that he was indeed addicted to drugs. In July, he was arrested by the British police for possession of cannabis. The band broke up and George pursued a solo career with several UK hits. George would struggle with his drug addiction off and on for several years as a solo artist before kicking the habit.


After a few solo albums and many pressures from his manager, Tony Gordon, Boy George agreed to try some songs with the band again, in 1989. A few songwriting sessions took with the band and it went quite well, resulting in more than a dozen songs, including Why, I Need Love, Beautiful Fool and many others (that are still unreleased to this day). At least 4 demos were recorded with Peter Asher in 1990 but some band members were not pleased with the results. Boy George himself felt it "had a retro feel" and was more excited about his current projects like his record label, More Protein, and his dance-oriented project, named Jesus Loves You. Then, after few arguments, the reunion was cancelled for good.

In 1998, George and Jon put their differences aside and the band reunited to do a reunion tour, kicking off with a performance on VH1 Storytellers. The tour was a major success. A compilation album based around the Storytellers performance was released, and went platinum in UK, which included new songs such as "I Just Wanna Be Loved", which hit UK #4. "I Just Wanna Be Loved" had been written during the Peter Asher reunion sessions in the early 1990s.

Their 1999 studio album Don't Mind If I Do peaked at #64 in the UK. It included moderate UK hits in "Your Kisses Are Charity" (UK #25) and "Cold Shoulder" (UK #43).

The band went on to tour, then reunited again for a 20th anniversary concert in 2002 at the Royal Albert Hall. This performance was released on DVD the following year. Culture Club then became inactive again, largely due to George's successful DJ career.

In 2006, two original members of Culture Club (Craig and Moss), tried to launch a new tour with another lead singer. (George and Roy Hay had declined to tour). Early that year, the band's record company placed an ad for a lead singer to "...take part in a 2007 World Tour and TV Series." The new singer, Sam Butcher was selected because of his own personality, "not a Boy George lookalike." George expressed his displeasure in the press, even though Culture Club's MySpace page says otherwise. A tour was announced for December 2006 in the UK, but was postponed to give the new line-up time to finish recording their album. Without official press statements, in 2007, band manager Tony Gordon, said that the project was "on hold," while drummer Jon Moss stated that the project was shelved.




Official biography

  • De Graaf, Kasper and Garrett, Malcolm (1983). Culture Club: When Cameras Go Crazy. London & New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-17879-4

Other biographies

  • David, Maria (1984). Boy George and Culture Club. Southampton: Crescent. ISBN 0-517-45474-2
  • Ginsberg, Merle (1984). Boy George: The Whole Outrageous Story Behind the Sensation of the Eighties. 1st ed. USA, Dell Publishing Co. Inc.; paperback edition Kent & London, UK, NEL-New English Library. Paperback ISBN 0-450-05790-9
  • Rimmer, David (1986). Like Punk Never Happened: Culture Club and the New Pop. London: Faber & Faber. ISBN 0-571-13739-3
  • Robins, Wayne (1984). Culture Club. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-32216-9


  • Kissing to Be Clever (including "Time (Clock of the Heart)" - 1982), London & Suffolk, West Central Printing Co. Ltd., distr. Music Sales Ltd.
  • Colour by Numbers (1983), London & Suffolk, West Central Printing Co. Ltd., distr. Music Sales Ltd.
  • Waking Up with the House on Fire (1984), London & Suffolk, West Central Printing Co. Ltd., distr. Music Sales Ltd.
  • From Luxury to Heartache (1986), Virgin Music (Publishers) Ltd., distr. IMP-International Music Publications, Essex, England
  • Culture Club (Songbook) (10 of their best songs - 1987), Virgin Music (Publishers) Ltd., distr. IMP-International Music Publications, Essex, England

N.B. Each of the first four songbooks includes a detailed official biography, which is each time updated: this way, such songbooks, corresponding to the band's first four albums, chronicle the early official biography of Culture Club, from 1982 to 1986.

External links

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