80s popstar and icon Boy George celebrated his 50th birthday this week (15th June, 2011). We can’t believe it is nearly 30 years since the singer and his then band Culture Club released their debut album Kissing to Be Clever (2008), which featured the international hit Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? This makes us here at I Miss the Old School feel mighty old – or is that just the Ed???
Despite George now more likely to be making the headlines for his run-ins with the law as opposed to his music, the fact that popstar of the moment Lady Gaga cites him as one of her influences means the undeniable mark he made on popular culture lives on. And with it being Culture Club’s 30th anniversary next year, there is currently talk of a reunion tour and whispers of Mark Ronson producing a comeback album, while this year George will appear on the UK Here and Now tour, which kicks off later this month.
Anyhow, by way of our own lil tribute IMTOS’ Shez Lancaster takes a look at how George made his mark on the 80s with his inimitable brand of style and music.
Born George O’Dowd in 1961, Boy George, as part of the musical group Culture Club, was an iconic figure in the 80s for many reasons. One of the main ones being his cross-dressing, which led him to be an original face of the New Romantic scene, a fashion cocktail of androgenous clothing and make-up. He brought about ambiguity in every sense, testing the limits of drag’s mass acceptance at that time. Although he didn’t wear girl’s dresses, his hair was long, braided and tied with ribbons and bows, and with layer upon layer of makeup masking his face, from eye shadows to lipstick, he wasn’t that far off from sporting one! Yes the 80’s was an era of rebellion and gimmicks, and Boy George was no exception to that rule.
Others who wore the New Romantics style that was most prevalent during the early 80s, included Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Visage and Adam and the Ants.
But it wasn’t just about the look, Culture Club, although short lived, made two really good albums, their aforementioned debut and their sophomore set Colour By Numbers. As well as Do You Really Want To Hurt me, which was the single that put them on the map internationally, who doesn’t remember It’s a Miracle, Time and the gigantically-huge smash Karma Chameleon. Culture’s Club’s sound could be described as a pop reggae-lite to some extent and this seemed to translate well to the global masses. The band released two more albums in the 80s, Waking Up With The House On Fire (1984) and From Luxury to Heartache (1986), which both managed to pass the million-seller mark but still failed to live up to the multi-platinum success of their past.
But when they were hot they were hot, and Boy George as the front man was always captivating. He was not afraid of difference, and young boys and girls worldwide began to imitate his fashion style. Many were unaware of the issues people had with his dress sense, nor were they as concerned about George’s sexuality as the press were. But even though looking back now it was pretty obvious what the deal was, George refused to be drawn into any such discussions, telling interviewers he much preferred a good cup of tea to sex.
His solo career, which kicked off in the late 80s, saw him release tunes including the UK number one Everything I Own and To Be Reborn, however, his success was somewhat hindered by his heroin addiction which he struggled to overcome. His career stretched across the decades, dabbling in TV presenting, releasing a book or two and Djing, which is what he still does these days. But the fact remains his influence remains inescapable, despite his personal struggles, which have been played out quite extensively in the world’s media. Happy Birthday Boy George!