I have a confession to make.
I have always loved Culture Club. From the moment I first heard “Do You Really Want to Hurt me”, convinced that the lead singer must be a female with a gorgeously husky voice, and completely SHOCKED to discover a brilliant male with an incredibly gorgeous (and yes, husky) voice – I was sold. Don’t get me wrong, seeing that Boy George could apply makeup FAR better than I could as an 13 year old didn’t hurt. I wanted to grow my hair long, bask in the glory of hair dye, and braid away. Of course I didn’t – primarily because my father would have tanned my hide, but I wanted to.
Wasn’t that the way for most of us in the 80’s? The music was fantastic, but it was the images – both of the people and of the escapist world found in their videos, that kept us dreaming. I can remember running home from school, escaping the “mean girls” that would laugh at my clothes and hair and everything else that was “wrong” with me at the time, taking a deep breath as I walked up my lawn, fumbling to juggle my house keys, books and clarinet (oh yes, on top of the wrong clothes and hair, my trusty clarinet was never far behind) so that I could open my front door. I would head straight back to my bedroom, shut the door, drop everything on my floor, turn on my stereo and collapse on my bed. It was here, within the peace of those four green (Why green??) walls, that I was no longer a nerdy band kid. I was as cool as anybody else at school. I lived with Duran Duran. Well, on my walls, anyway. I listened to Culture Club, Spandau Ballet, New Order, Psychedelic Furs, Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears…the list goes on and on and on. You name an 80’s New Wave band, and I listened. I would see myself in the mirror not as a a girl with frizzy hair and little fashion sense, but as a self-assured girl in the “popular” group. I didn’t just babysit my kid sister after school, I sat with Roger Taylor as I did math. I dreamt my days away, and I thank Duran Duran, Culture Club, Spandau and everyone else for taking me on the ride. That music got me through.
If I wasn’t in my room, I was watching MTV or Video One or MV3…I think I even watched a Spanish music video program at one point just prior to my family getting cable. I was desperate, and I credit THAT show to teaching me enough Spanish to get me through high school Spanish a few years later. Sorry, Señor Recio. The more bizarre the video, the better I liked it. Watching Boy George in his beautiful braids sing away made me realize that the entire world wasn’t so awful. I didn’t dream of living my home behind, or ever making it off of this continent – but I did do a fair bit of dreaming about what it might be like to be accepted. Imagine my shock and awe years later while reading of the insecurities of some of my biggest idols. Who knew? I thought THEY were the accepted ones.
I was reading that on today’s date in 1984, Culture Club started a three-week run at number one on the US singles charts with “Karma Chameleon”. That song doesn’t feel quite so long ago. Sure, it’s pure pop. Yes, it might have been extravagant and over the top, but it was the 80’s, and I loved it for everything it was…and everything it was not. Songs like this took me away from adolescent worries, even if only for the three-and-a-half minutes they were on the radio or on TV or even on my stereo.
Seems to me the world needs a little more of that.
Enjoy some Karma Chameleon. Thank you Boy George and Culture Club.