In the aftermath of reunion tours by everyone from the Sex Pistols to
the original Kiss, perhaps it is no surprise that the '80s new-wave
quartet Culture Club are back in business.
"I don't know if this is a rebirth or a revisit at this stage, to be
honest," Culture Club guitarist Roy Hay said. "It's really good to be back
with the band without all the pressure and insanity of being a 'big
band' and caring about everything."
Best known for their smash 1983 U.S. pop-soul hit,
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Culture_Club/Do_You_Really_Want_To_Hurt_Me.r am">"Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?"
am">"Do You Really Want
to Hurt Me?"(RealAudio excerpt), Culture Club were once international stars
constantly aired on MTV. Twelve years after they broke up, they are
back together. As the press release for their "The Big Rewind Tour" --
which kicked off Thursday night at Chastain Park in Atlanta
and which will take them around the U.S. for 19 dates -- describes them,
"One black, one Jew, one Irish transvestite and one Anglo-Saxon: a clash
of cultures and a fondness for clubbing. It had to be called Culture
The quartet, which wore colorful, sometimes dayglow outfits, played a
catchy brand of blue-eyed soul that was occasionally set to a light
reggae rhythm. They were led by the sultry voice of a makeup-donning male
diva who went by the name George (born George O'Dowd), the man who put
the "Boy" in flamboyant. In their heyday, they helped bend gender in
rock music and break conventions about the traditional male lead-singer.
"Our legacy is what we are. We're not suddenly going to do some crazy
alternative music, because nobody is interested in that," Hay said. "If
we wanted to do that, we would have done it in the last 10 years on our
The group's debut album, Kissing to Be Clever, was released in
1982. "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" (which George later revealed was
about his relationship with drummer Jon Moss) broke big here in early
1983, and "I'll Tumble 4 Ya" also went top 10, helping the album sell
more than a million copies in the U.S. A second album, Colour by
Numbers, released in late 1983 and containing such hits as "Church
of the Poison Mind," "Miss Me Blind" and the #1 hit
seemed to cement the group's position as a major act.
"We used to think we could go anywhere musically, and we had the uniting
factor of George's voice to bring us back," Hay said.
But by the release of a third album, 1984's Waking Up with the House
On Fire, the group had peaked. The bandmembers just didn't know it
yet. "George was rich and he was famous," drummer Moss said. "What a
great lifestyle -- dishing out free drugs and flying around the world on
a Concorde, very nice, thank you."
Boy George, who at one point chastised bandmembers for smoking pot, had
acquired a heroin addiction. His drug use made it difficult to record a fourth
album, the more dance-oriented From Luxury to Heartache [produced
by R&B hit-maker Arif Mardin (Aretha Franklin)]. That album
bombed, George's drug addiction became public --
dominating the front pages of the British tabloids for a period -- and the group broke up.
George entered rehab, cleaned up and launched a solo career -- but his
(and Culture Club's) time had passed.
For years, a reconciliation seemed unlikely; Moss now says there was
occasional talk of meeting over coffee sometime. "Like once every 100
years," Moss said.
But 12 years after the breakup, the band found itself featured on a
VH1 "Behind the Music" special that focused on the tragic demise of Boy
George and Culture Club instead of their musical contributions to the
sound of the early to mid-'80s.
"They hadn't released any of them [the series of shows, which includes
features on Meat Loaf, Joe Cocker, Billy Joel, etc.] when we did the
interviews," Hay said of the VH1 show. "The questions didn't seem too
bad. But then I watched the show and it was like reading the National Enquirer.
So I phoned them up and called them a complete bunch of bastards and how that was
the kind of checkbook journalism that killed Lady Di ... and [I] upset them very much."
That call led to a new VH1 special on Culture Club that allowed the bandmembers to tell
their own story via "Storytellers," which features the
music of the band and the story behind it.
For the first time in more than a decade, the original Culture Club
performed together last spring in New York City; the performance
aired from New York on June 14 and included one new song.
That song, "I Just Wanna Be Loved," will be included on a two-disc
anthology, due in August.
This summer, the reunited group has decided to hit the road with its new-wave peers
Howard Jones and the Human League. Whether or not the reunion tour will contribute to
a career rebirth remains to be seen. Moss has faith that
the sound of Culture Club's old hits, such as "Karma Chameleon," "Church of the Poison
Mind" and "Do You Really Want to Hurt
Me?," which have appeared on numerous '80s-pop compilations, are
And their new tune is no departure from the sound that once took them to
the top. "[The new song is] a bit like a Culture Club song you think you
know, but you actually never did," Hay said.
On the eve of the tour, the bandmembers said that the old spark is
back and that they're hopeful the public will welcome their return to
action. "There's a magic there, and that hasn't gone away," Moss said.
"It doesn't feel like nostalgia to me. It was like somebody switched off
the plug for 12 years and just put it back in."