1981 in London, England
- Boy George (born George Alan O'Dowd on June 14, 1961 in Eltham, London, England) - Lead vocals, songwriter
- Mikey Craig (born Michael Emile Craig on February 15, 1960 in Hammersmith, London, England) - Bass guitar
- Roy Hay (born Roy Ernest Hay on August 12, 1961 in Southend, Essex, England) - Guitar, keyboards, songwriter
- Jon Moss (born Jonathan Aubrey Moss on September 11, 1957 in Wandsworth, London, England) - Drums, percussion
Origins of Culture Club:
Without Boy George as a genre-bending fashion icon, Culture Club would most certainly not have reached the heights it did during a brief five-year pop music career from 1981-1986. So it makes sense to start with the band's flamboyant lead singer when examining the group's history and meteoric rise to superstar status on both sides of the Atlantic. George won a brief gig singing with Bow Wow Wow based on his eventually trademark androgynous look, but it didn't take long for his image to outgrow that situation. During the same year Culture Club formed quickly and released its debut, 1982's Kissing to Be Clever.
Capitalizing on the sudden popularity of the New Romantic, new wave and synth pop genres of pop music during the early '80s, Culture Club became an instant sensation in both the U.S. and U.K. as well as internationally. Debut single "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" was a chart-topper almost everywhere, a tune that showcased George's soulful vocals as well as his intriguing, even shocking challenge to gender conventions. Two more Top 10 hits followed in the U.S. in "Time (Clock of the Heart)" and "I'll Tumble 4 Ya," establishing Culture Club as a masterful blend of old-school R&B, blue-eyed soul and modern pop.
Sidestepping the Sophomore Slump:
1983's Colour By Numbers was an even bigger hit for Culture Club, spawning four major hit singles in the U.K. and U.S. More importantly, the band's songwriting quality remained high, at least for "Miss Me Blind," "It's a Miracle," and "Church of the Poison Mind" if not so clearly for "Karma Chameleon," a silly yet intensely popular worldwide No. 1 hit. But beyond the music, Boy George had become a worldwide symbol of a new pop music age, one in which a cross-dressing frontman with an equally flamboyant personality could become a mainstream pop culture figure.
Chaos Within Signals Culture Club's Decline:
Outside observers saw very few cracks in the group's foundation even though 1984's Waking Up With the House on Fire was a relative (a very relative) disappointment. It was difficult to increase the group's popularity from its already lofty position, and the pressure of three albums in two years may have begun to wear on the band and George particularly. Fame and fortune soon brought excessive drug use for the group's frontman, who also had been involved romantically with bandmember Moss in a volatile relationship that would inevitably increase tension within a band already struggling to maintain balance.
Drug Addiction Leads to Tabloid Breakup:
Culture Club churned out a requisite final album in 1986, not that many music fans noticed, before George and his various drug habits took off for a moderately successful solo career. During the late '80s George began what has turned out to be a fairly lengthy career as tabloid fodder, and aside from a couple of aborted reunions Culture Club ceased operations for much of the next decade. Never known primarily for his music anyway, George dabbled in other layers of entertainment, even making a mark with his performance of the title track for the 1994 film The Crying Game.
Successful Reunion Short-Lived:
A full-tilt reunion of the original band lineup grew out of a VH-1 Storytellers performance and subsequent tour, as George and Moss put aside their complicated past and seemed to rekindle the group's pop music career. A new album of original material followed in 1999, to moderate if not stratospheric success, and the reformed lineup continued to work together into the next millennium. Another hiatus took place over the next several years, and then Culture Club entered a rather unfortunate period during which Boy George's legal troubles overshadowed everything else.
Aborted Reunion, Prison Sentence for George:
The last couple of years have been particularly unkind to the band's legacy, first with an announced reunion and upcoming TV series to feature new lead singer Sam Butcher failing to materialize. In addition to this incident's creation of discord anew between the band and George, the latter began to suffer serious legal troubles, stemming initially from multiple drug arrests. Most recently, George was convicted in January 2009 of assault and false imprisonment of a male prostitute. Sentenced to 15 months in prison, George and his former band are now enduring a dark, embarrassing period far from their '80s glory days.