On this day in 1961, George O'Dowd, who became famous as Boy George of
Culture Club, was born in Eltham, Kent, England. Culture Club came
together at the start of the '80s, when cross-dressing singer Boy George,
in search of a band after having briefly been a member of Bow
Wow Wow, met bassist and former DJ Mike Craig. They were
introduced to Jon Moss, a drummer who had worked with the Clash, the
Damned and Adam and the Ants. In 1981, guitarist/keyboardist Ron Hay
joined the three and George began calling the band Culture Club.
In 1982, as George's androgynous image began attracting media attention in
Culture Club were signed to Virgin Records, which released their debut,
Kissing to Be Clever. The album featured George's soulful vocals
combined with catchy dance-pop. Its single
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Culture_Club/Do_You_Really_Want_To_ Hurt_Me.ram">"Do You Really Want to Hurt Me"
Hurt_Me.ram">"Do You Really Want to Hurt Me"(RealAudio excerpt)
topped the U.K. chart for three weeks.
Early the next year, the album entered the U.S. charts, where it remained
for 88 weeks.
George's heavy makeup, flowing dresses and quick wit made a media
splash and installed the group as favorites of the fledgling cable music
channel MTV, helping to propel "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" to #2 in
the States. Culture Club were now a
worldwide pop phenomenon.
The band's second album, Colour by
Numbers, followed quickly and became a
multi-platinum smash in the U.K., U.S., Australia, Japan, Canada and New
Zealand. The irresistible single "Karma Chameleon" topped the
Hot 100 for three weeks; the album almost certainly would have made #1 were
not on the charts at the same time as Michael Jackson's phenomenally
Culture Club enjoyed three other hits from Colour by
Numbers, including "Church of
the Poison Mind," and won 1983's Best New Artist Grammy Award.
The next album, Waking Up With the House on Fire (1984), was a
surprising critical and commercial failure relative to Culture Club's first
offerings, derailing their seemingly unstoppable ride to the top.
A final Culture Club album, issued in 1986, was ignored for the most part.
The band's rapid fall from the charts, coupled with growing irritation
with George's campy public persona, quickly thrust Culture Club into the
Boy George's personal life also took a downward turn, marked by a split
with his lover,
Moss, the demise of Culture Club and his addiction to heroin, which he
began to flaunt in the media. In the summer of 1986, a friend overdosed in his
home. By the end of the year, the British
tabloids were reporting Boy George's own death as very likely and seemed to
be rooting for it.
After a drug arrest, George entered rehab. He then resurfaced, in 1987,
with four U.K. hits, including "Everything I Own" -- a remake of a hit by
the '70s soft-rock group Bread -- and the
title track of his first solo album, Sold. But he wasn't able to
duplicate this success in America.
In the early '90s, George joined the Hare Krishna movement and played in a
band called Jesus Loves You. In 1992, he had a minor U.K. hit with the
title track to the hit film "The Crying Game," a song that reached #15 in
the U.S. in 1993. Two years later, George released an autobiography, "Take
It Like A Man," and did the media rounds to promote it, speaking candidly
about his once-closeted homosexuality and his tempestuous relationship with
Moss. George's album from that year, Cheapness and
Beauty, sold fairly well in the U.K. and received some decent
After laying low for a while, George contributed the title
track to the 1998 film "Welcome to Woop Woop." He also was seen on the
Culture Club segment of cable channel VH1's "Behind the Music," saying he
hoped to talk to estranged ex-lover Moss at some point, but that he
doubted Moss would agree to it. It was a bit of a surprise, then, when
Culture Club -- featuring all four original members -- announced a summer
tour during which they'd be paired with fellow '80s acts the Human
League and Howard Jones.
Other birthdays: Rod Argent (Argent/Zombies), 53; Jimmy Lea (Slade), 46;
Chris DeGarmo (Queensryche), 35; and Mike Scaccia (Revolting Cocks), 33.