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Music / Culture Club

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Weird clothes, catchy-as-fuck melodies, and totally nonsensical lyrics.note 

Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon,
You come and go, you come and go
Loving would be easy if your colours were like my dream
Red, gold and green, red, gold and green
"Karma Chameleon"

Culture Club are a British New Wave band with an eclectic sound influenced by Soul, Reggae and Glam Rock.

As part of the same New Romantic fashion movement that propelled bands like Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet to fame in The '80s, the group had a series of hugely successful hit singles on both sides of the Atlantic before splitting up in the middle of the decade. The band consisted of Mikey Craig on bass, Jon Moss on drums and Roy Hay on guitar and keyboards. The most famous member of the group was the androgynous, flamboyant lead singer George Alan "Boy George" O'Dowd, a charismatic front man with a distinctive soulful voice. The name comes from the multicultural backgrounds of the members, as well as the diverse influences on their musical style.

Their first album Kissing To Be Clever brought them hits in both Britain and America, including "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?", "Time (Clock Of The Heart)" and "I'll Tumble 4 Ya", and established them as one of the most popular and talked about pop groups of the early 1980s. Their peak came with their sophomore long-player Colour By Numbers, which sold four million copies in America, launched the international number-one hit "Karma Chameleon" and secured the band the Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

While further successes followed, Culture Club weren't able to top what they achieved with Colour By Numbers. At the same time, tensions were running high within the band; in particular, George and Jon (who had been involved in a clandestine romantic relationship) started to grow distant from one another and could become physically violent towards each other. By the time George was arrested for possession of heroin in the mid-1980s, the band was essentially finished. Boy George would go on to become a solo artist, with his best-known work being a cover of the song "The Crying Game" for the motion picture of the same name.

After being portrayed in a 2010 Boy George biopic on The BBC (Worried About the Boy), the band members' various health problems stymied new projects until 2016, when the four reunited for a world tour.

Jon would leave the band in May 2021 following some disputes over compensation.


Do you really want to trope me?

  • Album Title Drop: "Miss Me Blind", off Colour By Numbers, references the previous album.
    But you know I'm never really sure if you're just kissing to be clever
  • Blackface: Used in the "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" music video as Boy George is convicted by a jury of jazz-handing minstrels (next to real Black people, no less). Director Julian Temple explained that it was meant to symbolize the hypocrisy of gay judges in Britain supporting anti-LGBT legislation, but it fell on deaf ears in the US, where the racist legacy of blackface was far more deeply felt.
  • B-Side: "Mystery Boy", "Colour By Numbers", and "Don't Go Down That Street" for the band, "Use Me" for Boy George's solo work.
  • Call-Back: A slightly rephrased one in "Move Away", referencing "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me."
    I hurt you, darling; I made you cry. I hurt you, darling; don't ask me why.
  • Camp Gay: Take a wild guess.
  • Costume Porn: In the Karma Chameleon video, not necessarily period, but definitely beautiful.
  • Cover Version: "Everything I Own" by Bread on Boy George's solo album Sold, and "The Crying Game" by Dave Berry.
    • From the band proper: "Crystal Blue Persuasion", and "Melting Pot", by Blue Mink.
    • Averted with the band's version of "Hello Goodbye", as it is not a cover of The Beatles song by that name.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Boy George had the tendency to make witty comments during interviews, like saying he “preferred a cup of tea to sex” and describing himself as “a poof with muscles".
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "Because time won't give me time..."
  • Did Not Get The Guy: Jon & George's relationship ended this way.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: In the early days, some mistook Boy George for a girl. He took this misconception in good humour (a lot of the time he seemed to be playing it up to bother the rock critics, who shied away from addressing his androgynous image) and accepted a Grammy with the words:
    Thanks America. You've got style, you've got taste, and you know a good drag queen when you see one.
    • It even inspired a Country Music novelty hit, "Where's the Dress?" by Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley (which opened with a note-for-note re-creation of the intro to "Karma Chameleon").
    • When word of a potential biopic came up in 2019, he named Sophie Turner as his top choice to play him. Turner herself quickly said she'd be up for it.
  • Fiery Redhead: For the Waking Up With The House On Fire album (and the "War Song" video), Boy George sported a mane of frizzy bright red hair.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Dead or Alive singer Pete Burns accused George of ripping off his androgynous image, to which George replied "It's not who did it first, it's who didn't it best." Nevertheless, the two had an otherwise civil, if begrudging, relationship. George was even kind enough to pay for Burns's funeral.
  • Gender-Inclusive Writing: Most of the love songs use the word "lover" instead of "she" or "her".
  • Genre-Busting: While they're usually put under the pretty broad category of New Wave, their albums had songs influenced by reggae, soul, glam rock, soft rock, power ballads and Motown.
  • Genre Shift: From Luxury To Heartache shifted to Synth Pop; Don't Mind If I Do shifted to modern Pop. Neither was successful. Life seems to be an updated version of their old sound, making it...New New Wave?
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: After contracting throat disease, George's voice became this.
  • Karma Houdini: The topic of the song "Karma Chameleon" (although the chameleon gets his comeuppance in the video).
  • Kimono Fanservice: Found in the video for "Miss Me Blind".
  • Letters 2 Numbers: "I'll Tumble 4 Ya".
  • Love Hurts: "Karma Chameleon", "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me", "Victims"...pretty much every song they recorded about love was this, with outright Silly Love Songs being rare. This came from George's (lead songwriter) personal experiences, as he had many turbulent, and ultimately failed, relationships with several mennote .
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Miss Me Blind", "Mannequin", "Boy, Boy (I'm The Boy)", "Reasons", and "Move Away".
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "I'm Afraid of Me" is probably the happiest song in history using its title as the chorus hook.
    • It's amazing how little people seem to realise that "Karma Chameleon" is about a troubled relationship.
    • "Miss Me Blind", a love-gone-sour tune set to an irresistibly catchy backdrop.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Averted by George, who was attractive enough to be one, but didn't sell himself on his looks at all.
  • New Romantic: One of the most prominent bands in the genre.
  • New Wave: One of the most triumphant examples; they were too poppy to be rock, but too rocky to be pop, leading to the label being coined to define them as well as similar bands, like Spandau Ballet.
  • New Sound Album: From Luxury To Heartache, which abandoned the soul-influenced pop rock sound of their previous works in favor of Synth-Popnote . It didn't go over well with critics or fans & only had one hit singlenote , thus leading to the band breaking up shortly after its release.
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" has been interpreted as this. Lyrics like "Precious kisses words that burn me" and "Come inside and catch my tears" can get dirty minds racing...however, George has stated that the song was about "all the men" he dated up to that point, including Jon.
  • Shirtless Scene: Mikey Craig, almost often enough to make him Mr. Fanservice.
  • Silly Love Songs: "Love Is Love" & "The Dream" from the movie Electric Dreams, as well as "God, Thank You Woman" & "Mannequin".
  • The Something Song: "The War Song" from Waking Up With The House On Fire. Also "The Medal Song" from the same album.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Before Culture Club, George occasionally performed with the Malcolm McLaren group Bow Wow Wow until he was kicked out for overshadowing the lead singer.
  • Stage Names: Boy George, a.k.a. George Alan O'Dowd.
  • Synth-Pop: They switched over to this in From Luxury To Heartache. The fans weren't amused, and neither were the critics.
  • The Masochism Tango: Boy George & Jon Moss were a superb example.
  • The Prima Donna: Boy George, which lead to problems during the making of Colour By Numbers. During the production of the song "Miss Me Blind", for example, Roy & George disagreed about the inclusion of the long guitar solo, which George insisted shouldn't be kept in, despite the fact that everyone else in the studio disagreed with him. Roy eventually snuck it in when George wasn't in the studio.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: "Time (Clock of the Heart)", but subtly handled, with the key change happening at the start of the instrumental bridge and continuing for the rest of the song.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "I'll Tumble 4 Ya" (though they replace "ya" with "you" every fourth repetition).
    • "Mistake No. 3" almost qualifies, were it not for "and make" preceding the Title Drop. Same goes for (in the) "Church of the Poison Mind".
    • "I'm Afraid Of Me".
  • Title Track: Interestingly, "Colour By Numbers" was a B-side that was never released on the album of the same name until recently on the CD remaster. Also, "Life" from the album of the same name.
  • Visual Kei: All over the "Miss Me Blind" video.
  • War Is Hell: "The War Song".
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Over half their songs. To wit:
    • "Karma Chameleon" makes a tad bit of sense, with the lyrics seemingly describing wanting a tortuous lovernote  to get Laser-Guided Karma, but then says dreams can be made up solely of solid colours, being "red, gold and green" - a line that has baffled listeners for decades (though in a 2018 response to a fan on Twitter, George confirmed the longstanding theory that it was a Shout-Out to the Rastafarian colours).
    • "Mannequin" has lyrics that start off bizarre and dive straight into the Twilight Zone. The speaker describes his lover as being a mannequin, apparently creating him, making you wonder if this is the first Silly Love Song ever written from the point of view of a Mad Scientist. And then there's the nonsensical lyrical shoehorns like "laughter and political sway"...
    • "Too Bad" is Random Events Plot: the song. The speaker begins by mentioning The American Dream, then says his kids hate everything except a vaguely-defined "game", then says that someone gave the person he's singing to a heart - that's right, a mid-lyric Romantic Plot Tumor.


Video Example(s):


Do They Know Its Christmastime

A group of 80s British rockers (originally called Band Aid, but for legal reasons changed to Live Aid) sing a song about Christmas in Africa to raise money for Ethiopians suffering through famine. The Pop-Up Video provides details about their efforts.

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Main / CharityMotivationSong

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