…due to a late cancellation from Shakin’ Stevens (oh! the glamour) for a scheduled appearance on British TV programme Top Of The Pops this happened…..
…..a nation looked on in disbelief, Dad’s were said to mutter, “is that a girl or a boy”, Mum’s peered over their knitting and “tutted”, the kids however loved it and up and down the nations playgrounds the following day argued whether “it really was a boy”……
…the song went on to be a major worldwide hit and one of the most memorable songs of the ’80s. Rewind a little however and you’ll find that Culture Club had been knocking on the door of success for some time. Boy George could often be seen in style/fashion magazine The Face, he was a ‘face’ on the new romantic scene and was a regular at Steve Strange’s ‘Blitz’ club (I believe he worked the cloakroom).
In fact the TOTP performance was a much needed bit of a good luck, they’d already released a couple of singles that sunk without trace and it was make or break time for the band.
Here’s what they said about the song in a recent article from the Guardian
Jon Moss, drummer
We made this in the very early days of drum machines. You’d find yourself working with a box about the size of a cigarette packet – and a manual nine times bigger. One day we started to fiddle around with it, and this little rhythm came back. We all loved reggae, and it turned into a reggae song. When we started mixing it, I was horrified – it was all rooted in the bass drum, making it sound very German, so I reversed it and made the top end of the percussion louder. If I hadn’t, it might not have been a hit.
When we played it to Virgin, everyone at the meeting stood up and started clapping. It seemed obvious we had a massive hit on our hands. What was weird about the band back in the early 1980s was that we didn’t have a manager. But I knew it would be all right: the stars seemed to be coming into alignment. For example, we got a slot on Top of the Pops because someone else was ill – it might’ve been Shakin’ Stevens – and with that the Red Sea parted, and whatever problems came along were solved.
I imagine the song is about me. I think most of the songs are. I was a muse for Boy George, for better or worse. There was a lot of subjectivity in his writing – “Oh, everything’s happening to me, oh, you didn’t call me” – a lot of assuming other people don’t have their own problems. But we’re all much older now. It’s served me quite well over the years, being the inspiration for someone.
Boy George, singer
Jon wasn’t my muse. I wrote it about another former partner, Kirk Brandon. But when you write songs about other people, they’re really about yourself anyway. A lot of those early songs, like Time and Victims, were all “woe is me”. I did play the victim. That was the role I took on: “Oh, why are you doing this to me?” Back in the day, I spent so much time trying to change the people I was in love with – and not trying to change myself.
I remember writing it in a flat in central London. Jon’s friends were smoking weed, and that’s where the idea was formed. I jotted some lyrics down on a piece of paper and put it in my pocket. The opening section, which is a very high falsetto, I only ever sang once – during the recording. Once I’d done it, I knew I’d never do it again. When the tape broke, there was talk about me having to redo it. I said no, fix the tape.
I thought the song was too personal to be a hit and I didn’t want it to be a single. I went to Virgin and stomped my feet and sat on the stairs saying: “You’re going to ruin our career before we’ve even started!” Our audience needed something to dance to, and Do You Really Want to Hurt Me was too slow, too personal, too long. Everything about it was wrong. So its success was a big education for me: I learned that being personal was the key to touching people.
There are two stories about our Top of the Pops appearance. One was that Shakey was too unwell to appear, and the other is that Elton John had refused. So we’ve got either Shakey or Elton to thank for being here 33 years later. I was barefoot at that performance, as a homage to Sandie Shaw. I told her that recently, and she was quite surprised. When you’re 19, you have much nicer feet.
If you’re looking for Culture Club vinyl, CDs, memorabilia and more be sure to visit eil.com to see what goodies we currently have in stock