Harbingers of the so-called 'new pop' that swept through the UK charts in the early 80s, Culture Club was formed by Boy George (vocals), Roy Hay (guitar/keyboards), Mikey Craig (bass) and Jon Moss (drums). The band came together in 1981 after George, a nightclub habitué, had briefly appeared with Bow Wow Wow (under the name Lieutenant Lush) and played alongside Craig in the Sex Gang Children. Drummer Moss had the most band experience having already appeared with London, the Damned and Adam Ant.
After failing an audition with EMI Records, Culture Club signed to Virgin Records in the spring of 1982, and released a couple of non-chart singles, 'White Boy' and 'I'm Afraid Of Me'. By autumn of that year, however, the band was firmly established as one of the most popular new acts in the country. The melodic and subtly arranged 'Do You Really Want To Hurt Me"' took them to number 1 in the UK and they deserved another chart-topper with the Top 3 follow-up, 'Time (Clock Of The Heart)'. Although their first album Kissing To Be Clever lacked the consistent excellence of their singles, it was still a fine pop record. By this time, George was already one of pop's major talking points with his dreadlocks, make-up and androgynous persona. Never short of a quote for the press, he would later stress such virtues as celibacy with the anti-sex quip, 'I'd rather have a cup of tea'.
The launching of MTV in the USA ensured that many UK acts were infiltrating the American charts and the colourful persona of George, coupled with the irresistible charm of Culture Club's melodies, effectively broke them in America early in 1983. Kissing To Be Clever climbed into the Top 20 of the US album charts, while their two UK singles hits both reached number 2. Suddenly, Culture Club was one of the most popular bands in the world. Back at home, the passionate 'Church Of The Poison Mind', with Helen Terry on counter vocals with George, gave them another number 2 hit. The band reached their commercial peak later that year with the release of the infectious 'Karma Chameleon', which topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic and sold in excess of a million copies. The second album, Colour By Numbers was another UK number 1 and was only kept off the top in the US by Michael Jackson's top-selling Thriller. The momentum was maintained through 1983-84 with strong singles such as 'Victims', 'It's A Miracle' and 'Miss You Blind', which charted in either the US or UK Top 10. Ironically, it was one their biggest UK hits which presaged Culture Club's fall from critical grace. In October 1984, 'The War Song' hit number 2 but was widely criticized for its simplistic politicizing. Thereafter, chart performances took an increasing backseat to the tabloid newspaper adventures of George. Indeed, 1986's 'Move Away' was to be their only other Top 10 hit during the 80s. The media-conscious singer had signed a Faustian pact with Fleet Street, which led to his downfall in 1986. Having confessed that he was a heroin addict, he was persecuted by the press and was eventually arrested for possession of cannabis. Early in 1987, he appeared on the high-rating UK television chat show Wogan and declared that he was cured. The announcement coincided with the news that Culture Club no longer existed.
George would continue to enjoy chart-topping success as a soloist and later as an in-demand DJ. A resurgence of all things 80s led to Culture Club re-forming in 1998, with the sweet reggae ballad 'I Just Wanna Be Loved' debuting at number 4 in the UK singles chart in October. Another excellent song, 'Your Kisses Are Charity', stalled outside the Top 20 the following August. Their first studio album since 1986, Don't Mind If I Do, was released shortly afterwards.
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