The 1980s was an era where such gender-bending fashion icons as Prince, Annie Lennox, Michael Jackson and Pete Burns, Dead or Alive’s lead singer, were rampant on the Top 40 charts.
No blast from the ‘80s pop past would be complete without the music and the style of George O’Dowd, aka Boy George, who embodied the essence of that era even before he burst upon the international music scene as the lead signer of Culture Club – the 1980s mega-group that has reunited for a world tour that’s heading to Phoenix Aug. 23.
Boy George, who always wore make up and dressed in fashions that were flashy and feminine, rose from the London nightclub scene and reflected the cultural New Wave that swept through England, the United States and the music charts.
Often associated with the second British Wave in music, Culture Club, which formed in 1981, capitalized on their strong signature look and monopolized the new cable network called MTV.
Boy George’s presence and influence was everywhere. He even made the cover ofCosmopolitan, a women’s magazine. When asked in an interview by The Huffington Post whether he associated more to being male or female, he answered, “I wanted to kind of look like a woman. And I did for a while – and then I got hairy!”
In an infamous moment of Grammy history, Joan Rivers was on hand when Culture Club won the 1983 Best New Artist award. In a live telecast from London, Boy George remarked “Thank you, America. You’ve got taste, style and know a good drag queen when you see one.”
Yet, Culture Club’s impact extended far beyond Boy George’s flamboyant persona and tabloid headlines. Along with Boy George, Culture Club’s original lineup included Mikey Craig (bass), Roy Hay (guitar, keyboards) and Jon Moss (drums and percussion). The group achieved stunning success, scoring three Top Ten U.S. hits from their debut album, Kissing to Be Clever, and becoming the first group to hit that milestone since the Beatles. They sold more than 50 million records with ten singles that reached the Top 40. “Time (Clock of the Heart)” is included on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.
In his article “Rock: British Culture Club,” Stephen Holden, music critic for The New York Times, said “Culture Club blends soul, rock, funk, reggae and salsa into a music that programmatically reconciles white, black and Latin styles.” He added that, “Mr. O’Dowd made the group’s best songs – the Motown-flavored ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me’ and the Latin-inflected dance tune ‘I’ll Tumble 4 Ya’ – shine like jewels.”
The aim of Culture Club’s music, as described by Boy George, is “to be creatively fluid to make everything we do a little different. We want to be a bridge between white rock and black soul,” he said, adding that he wants “Culture Club to represent all peoples and minorities.”
Despite group’s commercial success, significant pressures within the band led to its’ break-up. Boy George’s drug addiction and the end of George’s and drummer Jon Moss’ four-year relationship took its toll. The group split after their 1986 album, From Luxury to Heartache, amidst growing tensions in the band.
Flash forward to 2016 and all four original members have rejoined forces for the reunion tour.
Click here to read the interview with Culture Club drummer, Jon Moss, and click here to buy tickets to see Culture Club August 21st in Las Vegas at Pearl Concert Theatre or see Culture Club August 23rd in Phoenix at Celebrity Theatre!