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Culture Club is a popular English new romantic rock group, that achieved considerable global success in the 1980s. The four band members consist of androgynous lead singer Boy George, Mikey Craig on bass, Roy Hay on guitar and keyboard, and Jon Moss (formerly of The Damned, The Clash, London and Adam and the Ants) on drums and percussion.
Before the formation of Culture Club, George occasionally sang with the British group Bow Wow Wow with 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 Craig. Next came Moss, and finally Hay. The group recorded demos, which were paid for by EMI Records, but the label was unimpressed and decided not to sign the group. Upstart company 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 US presence at the time.
Their first album, 1982's "Kissing to Be Clever", saw the release of their first single "White Boy". Although a clever dance song, it failed to reach the UK or US Top 100 but George was still happy because "5000 people bought my song and didn't even know me". 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 a smash international hit, peaking at #1 in over a dozen countries (#2 in the US). The debut of the band on the UK's flagship chart show Top Of The Pops prompted outlandish headlines in the tabloid newspapers the next day in reaction to George's androgynous look and eccentric dress. "Wally of the week" and "Mr. (or is it Mrs. ?) Weird" were typical of such headlines and made George a huge international celebrity. 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 colorful costumes but George would cut back with a sharp tongue "It's not who did it first, it's who did it better".
Culture Club's 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 US and UK, and "I'll Tumble 4 Ya" also became a Top 10 hit in America. This gave Culture Club the distinction of becoming the first band since The Beatles to garner three Top Ten hits in the US from a debut album. The album sold over two million copies in the U.S. and another three million worldwide at its time of release. George would go on to became a worldwide celebrity and favorite of new music network MTV.
Their second album, "Colour by Numbers", was released in 1983 and first single "Church of the Poison Mind", featuring backing vocalist Helen Terry, reached the UK and US Top 10. Second single "Karma Chameleon" gave the band its second #1 hit in the UK where it sold over one million copies and became the best-selling single of 1983 in that country. It also made #1 in the US, topping the Hot 100 for three weeks, and would eventually hit #1 in sixteen countries and become one of the most played songs of the decade.
The album would go on to have additional hits including "Miss Me Blind" (#5 US), "It's a Miracle" (#4 UK, #13 US), and "Victims" (#3 UK), and sell four million copies in the US and another four million worldwide at its time of release. With that album, Culture Club was the first group ever 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 know a good drag queen when you see one."
The group's backing singer Helen Terry would later began work on her solo album and George and Roy Hay would write "Love Lies Lost" for her album. The pair would also write "Passing Friend" for the upcoming Beach Boys album. Then Culture Club was 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. Royalties were split four ways as with the rest of group's songs at the time. 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 who had also frequently played keyboards for the group.
Despite all this success, trouble was brewing within the Culture Club camp. First, George was occasionally using drugs with money from his newfound fame. Second, unknown to the public, George was romantically involved with the band's drummer Jon Moss. Even band members Craig and Hay were unaware. The 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.
In 1984 the group released it's third album, "Waking Up with the House on Fire". It was a commercial and critical disappointment compared to "Colour by Numbers". The album sold just over a million copies worldwide upon its release, with 500,000 of those 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, and moderate hits in "The Medal Song" (UK #32) and "Mistake No. 3" (US #33). George would later state that he felt the album experienced a lukewarm reception because it was rushed, due to pressure from Virgin and Epic to quickly release a followup album.
At the end of 1984, the band were 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.
By now, George had been abusing drugs for several years and by 1986 he became seriously addicted to cocaine, which then evolved into a heroin addiction. The band continued to lose it's place musically. 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 consisted of decent musical output and seemed capable of returning Culture Club back to hitmaking status as its first single "Move Away" peaked at UK #7 and US #12. But George and Jon could no longer be around each other due to constant relationship battles and, coupled with George's drug addiction, a forthcoming American tour had to be cancelled. 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 the singer denied, and the single stalled. "From Luxury to Heartache" began to fade from the charts and the once promising album eventually sold under one million copies worldwide. By the summer of 1986, George announced that he was indeed addicted to drugs. In July, he was arrested by the British police for possession of cannabis. The band eventually broke up and George pursued a solo career.
In 1998, the band put their issues aside and decided to do a reunion tour. Kicked off with a performance on VH1 Storytellers, the tour was a major success. A new compilation was released based around the Storytellers performance including 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 no. 64 in the UK album chart. Although not a strong seller, it included a moderate UK hit in "Your Kisses Are Charity" (UK#25) and a minor hit with "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, which was released on DVD the following year. Culture Club then became inactive again, largely due to Boy George's concentration on his successful career as a DJ.
Two original members of Culture Club (Craig and Moss), will possibly launch a new tour with another lead singer. (George and Roy Hay have declined to tour). Earlier in 2006, 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 with his replacement, 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.
Phil Pickett, co-writer and keyboard player for Culture Club, performed with tribute band Culture Dub for a special performance for Pink Day at Funderworld in Bournemouth on the 2nd September 2007. Culture Dub perform with Silvio Gigante as Boy George, and on special occasions, guest Mikey Craig.