George Alan O'Dowd
, better known as Boy George
(born June 14, 1961
in Eltham, London) is a rock singer-songwriter and Club DJ. George grew up in a
large, working-class Irish family, which originated in Thurles, in Co.
O'Dowd was a part of the British new romantic movement
which emerged in the late 1970s and was popularised in the early 1980s. He and
Marilyn, born Peter Robinson were regulars at 'The Blitz' (regulars being
labelled as Blitz Kids), a highly stylised nightclub in London run by Steve
Strange of the musical group Visage, and a place which spawned many early 1980s
pop stars such as Spandau Ballet.
Essentially the new romantics based their
image on the coolness of David Bowie and high fashion, and the music of David
Bowie, Kraftwerk, Marc Bolan and post punk New Wave see Taboo. They
challenged the traditional boundaries of gender, which was later dubbed as
Men wore makeup and exotic outfits and woman took a more
masculine appearance (power dressing, see Annie Lennox). This androgyny
was brought to a mainstream market through the popularity of Boy George and
other British new romantic acts.
O'Dowd gained fame with his group Culture Club during the 1980s. His music is
often classified as blue-eyed soul, since he was heavily influenced by Rhythm
and Blues and reggae. Early recordings with Culture Club showed that O'Dowd's
vocals had an emotional quality which was reminiscent of American soul music of
the 1960s and 1970s. His later solo work has also touched on glam rock
influences and was particularly influenced by David Bowie and Iggy Pop.
Boy George's androgynous style caught the attention of music executive
Malcolm McLaren, of Sex Pistols fame, who arranged for O'Dowd to perform with
the group Bow Wow Wow, featuring Annabella Lwin, at various shows. He was
christened Lieutenant Lush and he nearly stole the spotlight from Lwin.
Boy George's association with Bow Wow Wow ended soon afterwards, and he
started his own group with bassist Mikey Craig. The group was to be called In
Praise Of Lemmings, but the name was later abandoned. Jon Moss (who had
drummed with The Damned, Adam and the Ants and London) then joined the group and
became George's lover.
The final member to join the band was Roy Hay (who at the
time was guitarist in a band called Russian Bouquet), who was selected after the
group's association with another guitarist, 'Suede', proved unsatisfactory. The
group abandoned another name, Sex Gang Children, and settled on the name Culture
Club after assessing that the group consisted of an Irish singer, a
Jamaican-Briton on bass, a Jewish drummer, and an Englishman on guitar.
The band signed with Virgin Records in the UK and with Epic Records in
America, and released its debut album Kissing To Be Clever in 1982. The
album's third single, "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?", enjoyed massive success.
It reached #1 in sixteen countries (#2 U.S.), and the group became a staple on
American radio and the new MTV network.
This single was followed by "Time (Clock
Of The Heart)" (not on the UK LP), which reached #2, and "I'll Tumble 4 Ya",
which reached #9. This gave Culture Club the distinction of being the first
group since the Beatles to amass at least three top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot
100 from a debut album. Their next album, Colour By Numbers was also a
success. The single "Church Of The Poison Mind" (featuring Helen Terry) became a
Top 10 hit.
"Karma Chameleon" became a #1 single in numerous countries
around the world, including the U.S., where it stayed at #1 for four weeks, and
the UK, where it was the best-selling single of the year, spending six weeks at
#1. It stands as the group's biggest hit. "Miss Me Blind" and "It's A Miracle"
were Top 5 and Top 20 hits respectively, and "Victims" was another Top 3 UK hit.
That George had become the main songwriter of the band became evident when
Culture Club contributed to the movie soundtrack Electric Dreams. George
and Roy Hay had already written "Love Lies Lost" for backing singer Helen Terry
and a new tune "Passing Friend" for the upcoming Beach Boys album but the two
Culture Club songs for Electric Dreams, "The Dream" and "Love is Love",
was also written solely by George and Roy Hay. Moreover, the P. P. Arnold song
"Electric Dreams" was credited only to George and Phil Pickett who also co-wrote
By now Boy George had become a household name in many countries around the
world and he was a natural choice for one of the lead vocals on the Band Aid
single "Do They Know It's Christmas". In early 1986, he guest-starred on an
episode of The A-Team entitled "Cowboy George", in which he played himself. The
plot involved (ficticious) country singer Cowboy George being booked to play in
a small rural town, to be used as a cover for an armed robbery, but due to a mix
up Boy George arrives instead.
In late 1985, George had become addicted to drugs. The addiction quickly
evolved into a heroin addiction and Culture Club started to lose its place
musically. Their 1986 album From Luxury to Heartache dragged on for so
long that producer Arif Mardin had to disband the sessions and leave it up to
engineer Lew Hahn to record the final vocals.
Songs like "Gusto Blusto" and
"Reasons" took days for George to finish. Following the release of the album,
rumours of George's addiction began to circulate, and by the summer of 1986, he
announced that he was indeed addicted to drugs. In July, he was arrested by the
British police for possession of cannabis. Several days later, keyboardist
Michael Rudetski, who played on From Luxury to Heartache and had
co-written “Sexuality” and "What Have I Got To Lose" with George, was found dead
of a heroin overdose in George's home.
This followed a second death, friend Mark Vaultier who overdosed on methadone and Valium at a party Boy George was
attending but got arrested en route on suspicion of carrying drugs. An American
Culture Club tour was cancelled and the group had disbanded by late 1986.
Still battling his heroin addiction and subsequent dependence on prescription
narcotics, George started recording his first solo album. In 1987, Sold
was released and George enjoyed several hit singles including "Everything I Own"
(UK#1), "Keep Me In Mind" (UK#29), "To be Reborn" (UK#13) as well as the title
Despite UK success, George never really managed to duplicate that success in
the US, especially because he was not able to go to America because of the
previous year's drug charges, though he did score a moderate hit with the song
"Live My Life" (#40 US) from the Hiding Out soundtrack.
His second US
album High Hat comprised of songs from two of his solo British albums
released after Sold. The R&B song "Don't Take My Mind On A Trip",
produced by Teddy Riley, became the only hit from High Hat, reaching top
5 on the R&B chart.
His following release was a song to protest against the governing UK
Conservative Party's legal restrictions on anyone working for a local authority
promoting homosexuality, 'No Clause 28 (Emilio Pasquez Space Face Full
Remix)' was a big underground acid house hit.
In 1989, after being presented with a demo of the track 'Everything Starts
with an E' by ragamuffin artist MC Kinky of E-zee Posse, George formed his own
label, More Protein. He also recorded under the name Jesus Loves You, (writing
under the pseudonym Angela Dust), releasing two other underground club hits
"After The Love" and "Generations Of Love", and "Bow Down Mister". With "Bow
Down Mister", he returned to the UK top 30 in 1991.
Inspired by his involvement
in the Hare Krishna movement (ISKCON), George had written the song during a trip
to India and with its reminiscence of "Karma Chameleon" it was intended for the
Culture Club reunion, which never came about. "Bow Down Mister" would become a
signature song for Boy George but also for Culture Club during their tours in
the late 1990s.
The original full-length version of "Bow Down Mister" features on Jesus Loves
You only album, "The Martyr Mantras", released in 1990 in the UK (and a little
later in 1991 in other countries, where either the cover had a label attached
upon it, highlighting that Jesus Loves You was A project by Boy George,
or the record was directly credited to Boy George only).
The album also included
the two previously mentioned underground club hits, as well as a third single
taken from it, "One On One" (which, though it did not chart in the UK, became
very popular in its single version, remixed by Massive Attack), the equally
well-known "Love Hurts" (also remixed for the single version, it formed a
double-A-side single with "Bow Down Mister". Though the big success enjoyed by
the latter ended up by overshadowing the former, otherwise a potentially strong
sing-along catchy tune), and finally the high energy remix of "No Clause 28"
(which, originally released as an independent 12" maxi-single, already featured
on "Boyfriend" album too).
On Saturdays 31 March 1990 to 6 April 1991, Boy George presented a weekly
chat and music show on the Power Station satellite channel called Blue Radio,
described as a three hour party with guests and games.
In 1992, George scored a hit with a version of the song "The Crying Game"
(produced by the Pet Shop Boys), which was featured on the movie of the same
name, and reached the top twenty of the Billboard Hot 100. Although he'd had
solo hits in the UK, this would be his first and only big US pop hit since
Culture Club's 1986 single "Move Away".
A lot of recordings were made between 1990 and 1994, but never surfaced. A
pop and worldmusic-oriented album was scheduled for release by Jesus Loves You
in 1992, named "Popularity Breeds Contempt", but never came out. Only three
tracks with their respective remixed versions survived, ending up on the "Sweet
Toxic Love" EP, released in the same year (which only reached #65 in the UK
This contained the title-track (an evident endeavour to duplicate the
winning formula of "Bow Down Mister"), the original dance version of "Am I
Losing Control?" (first, one of the five long tracks on "The Devil In Sister
George" 1994 EP, and then included, in a shorter country version, simply
re-titled "Losing Control", on 2002 "U Can Never B2 Straight"), and the rare
track "Oh Lord" (which was only available on the vinyl maxi-single of the EP,
and has never again resurfaced anywhere so far).
The album (the tentative title
of which, "Popularity Breeds Contemps", also survived as opening line spoken at
the beginning of the 1993 collection called "At Worst: The Best of Boy George
and Culture Club") was shelved, as it were, in favour of the recent growing
interest in rock for George.
He released a rock-driven Cheapness And Beauty in 1995, but the album
was not successful, although "Same Thing in Reverse" did become a minor US hit.
Again, most critics were good (although some never understood the mix of
acoustic ballads and country-folk tunes with aggressive glam rock tracks). It
was clear that there were tensions between Virgin Records and Boy George at this
time, and the album received almost no promotion.
A follow-up to Cheapness And Beauty, tentatively named "Too Spooky"
was recorded in spring 1996 but shelved, especially due to problems with Virgin
Records. Some of the tracks from those sessions appeared later on The
Unrecoupable One Man Bandit Volume One, which was at first sold on internet
only and then distributed by several minor labels.
Another project from the time was a new group that would include Boy George
and two long-time musicians, John Themis and Richie Stevens. Initially named
"Shallow", it was later re-named "Dubversive". The project took place in 1997
and was to include trip-hop, dub and reggae.
The project was shelved, this time
due to a lack of interest by record companies because of the group's lack of
commercial appeal. Some songs from those sessions surfaced later on the 2002
Culture Club Box set and some others appeared on eBay in 2004.
On some other labels, several dance-oriented tracks were released in various
countries. For example, "Love is Leaving" went top 3 in Italy and "When Will You
Learn" reached the top positions in the Switzerland charts.
Around the turn of the century, Boy George collaborated on songs with
dance-oriented acts. For example, "Why Go," a slow-paced track with Faithless,
from their Sunday 8 PM LP, was later released in a remixed form in some European
countries and Australia. A track was done with Groove Armada, named "Innocence
Is Lost", but was only released on a promo 12" in 1999.
From 2001 to 2004, George was involved in the production of his hit musical
"Taboo". It was performed in London in 2002-2003 and then was taken to Broadway
for one hundred performances. Boy George was nominated for a Tony Awards for the
"Best Musical Score", receiving good reviews about all the original songs
included in the show.
In 2002, Boy George released U Can Never B2 Straight, an "unplugged"
collection of rare and lesser known acoustic works. It contained unreleased
tracks from previous years as well as some ballads from Cheapness And Beauty
and the Culture Club album Don't Mind if I Do.
It received the best
reviews of Boy George's solo career, many of them highlighting his strong song
writing abilities. The record was only released in the UK and Japan, and
received almost no promotion from Virgin Records, only rising to 147 on the UK
From 2002 to 2004, under the pseudonym "the Twin", Boy George experimented in
electronica, releasing limited edition 7" singles and promo records. Performed
in small venues such as the Nag Nag Club, the material was considered
innovative, but not commercially marketable. This period, however, was a very
creative and liberating one for George; for "the Twin," could sing whatever he
An album recorded in the Spring of 2003 was also shelved. A collaboration
with electronic combo T-Total, the album was a collection of covers of songs by
Jefferson Airplane, David Bowie, John Lennon, Dusty Springfield, T-Rex, and the
Eurythmics among others.
It is suggested that Boy George's numerous abandoned
projects are due to his broad interest and need to explore other creative
mediums such as photography, writing, and fashion.
On his "More Protein" website, George did announce another unreleased album,
named Straight, for summer 2005. It was to include tracks like "Panic" and
"Talking Love". Fortunately, four tracks were released as a sampler with the
book of the same name in 2005. A reggae-ton oriented EP was also planned for
August 2006 but was never released. Some recent tracks are now shared by George
himself on his YouTube account, his three myspace pages and sometimes on his
In January 2007, Boy George released "Time Machine" on Plan A Records. "Time
Machine" was co-written by double Ivor Novello Award-winning songwriter Amanda
Ghost who also co-wrote "You're Beautiful" with James Blunt.
Australian singer Kylie Minogue asked to work with George and Amanda Ghost
for her upcoming album, which is set to be released in 2007. It will not be the
first time that George has given songs to other artists. In the past, he shared
compositions with the Beach Boys, Caron Wheeler, Charlotte Church, Mica Paris
and many others. He also wrote many of the tracks for the artists on his own
dance oriented music label, More Protein, such as Eve Gallagher, Zee Asha, Lippy
Lou, and E-Zee Possee.
Culture Club reunions
In July 1998, a reunited Culture Club performed three dates in Monte Carlo
and then joined Human League and Howard Jones in a "Big Rewind" tour of the US.
The following month, the band appeared on Late Night with David Letterman
and made an appearance in Britain, their first in 14 years. Later that year, the
band had a Top 5 hit in the UK with "I Just Wanna Be Loved" and later a top 30
hit with "Your Kisses are Charity".
In 2006, the band decided to again reunite and tour; however, George declined
to join them for this tour. As a result, two members of Culture Club replaced
George with vocalist Sam Butcher. George has expressed his displeasure at the
turn of events. Finally, after one
showcase and one live show, that project was shelved.
George struggled against his severe heroin addiction for many years He appeared in public under the
influence of the drug, and attempted to perform concerts under its influence
Addictions to other drugs followed Motivated by a desire to save George's
life, his younger brother David made an appearance on UK national television and
blew the whistle on George's drug habit Michael Rudetsky, a close friend
of George's and the co-writer of the From Luxury to Heartache album, was
found dead of a heroin overdose in George's home in August 1986
In 1986 Boy George was arrested for heroin possession as part of 'Operation
In 1995 Kirk Brandon sued for libel claiming that Boy George mentioned a
non-existent love affair between them in his autobiography, Take It Like a
Man George won the case and Brandon was ordered to pay £200,000 to
Virgin Records, EMI Virgin Music and the book publisher in costs Brandon
declared himself bankrupt, which resulted in Boy George paying over £60,000 in
legal fees (Boy George with Paul Gorman (2005), Straight, London, Arrow Book)
On 7 October 2005, Boy George was arrested in Manhattan on suspicion of
cocaine possession and falsely reporting a burglary George denied that the
drug was his. In court on 1
February 2006, the cocaine possession charge was dropped and George plead guilty
to falsely reporting a burglary
He was sentenced to five days of community
service, fined $1,000 and ordered to attend a drug rehabilitation program. On 17 June 2006, a Manhattan
judge issued a warrant for the arrest of Boy George after he failed to appear in
court for a hearing on why George wanted to change his sentence for the false
burglary report George's attorney informed the court that he had advised
George not to appear at that hearing.
On 14 August 2006, Boy George reported to the New York Department of
Sanitation for his court-ordered community service As a result of the
swarming media coverage, he was allowed to finish his community service inside
the Sanitation Department grounds.
On 5 December 2008, Boy George was convicted in Snaresbrook Crown Court,
London, of assault and false imprisonment of Audun Carlsen. On 16 January
2009, he was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment for this offence. Initially sent to HMP
Pentonville in London, he was later transferred to HMP Edmunds Hill in
Newmarket, Suffolk (a category C prison).
Harper Collins published the first autobiography of Boy George, Take It
Like a Man, in 1995, written with Spencer Bright The book was released
to coincide with the timing of George's solo album, Cheapness and Beauty,
actually released at the same time, dealing with the same themes, and also
including a number of photographs as in the book Take It Like A Man
was a bestseller in the UK
In 2005, Century published Straight, his second autobiographical book,
this time written with author Paul Gorman It stayed in The Sunday Times
bestseller list for six weeks This latter autobiography starts off there
where the former had stopped, though the two works are different in style, due
to their different co-authors, and all of the chapters do have a title in the
2005 book, while the 1995 autobiography only featured numbered sections
Gorman has also ghost-written Cry Salty Tears, the memoirs of George's
mother Dinah O'Dowd, which was published by Arrow Books, in January 2007
The same year also saw the re-issue of an expanded version of Straight,
which was updated so as to include the events that occurred in the two years
since its first publication
When George was with Culture Club, much was made of his androgynous
appearance, and there was speculation about his sexuality. When asked the
question in interviews, George gave various answers. At times he suggested he
was bisexual. He gave a famous, oft-quoted response to an interviewer that "I
prefer a nice cup of tea to sex".
- In Take It Like A Man, George told his side of his secret
relationship with Culture Club drummer Jon Moss (also Kirk Brandon, see
legal problems). He stated many of the songs he wrote for Culture Club
were directed at Moss. He also alleged that Moss had broken off his
engagement to be with George, and that Moss was never comfortable in a
same-sex relationship, although Moss was bisexual. During the Culture Club
reunion, though, Moss did acknowledge that he had loved George deeply,
although now he is married to a woman and has several children.
George's striking looks inspired many Boy George look-alike contests around
the world, and his face became the image of Culture Club. He became an
alternative teen idol, as well as a gay icon.
Boy George remains a figure in the public eye. Although he has not reached
the same level of success as a solo artist, he has a second career as a notable
music DJ. He started DJing in the early 1990s and came to the attention of
legendary rave/house promoters Fantazia who asked him to mix 1 of the discs on
the 2 volume in their new compilation series Fantazia
The House Collection 2.
This compilation was a success in the UK, going gold. The album was also sold to
Sony for European-wide release. London mega club Ministry of Sound hired him to
compile one of their first CDs, and it promptly sold 100,000 copies. He then
completed some compilations for them, five of them being the Annual I to V.
- In 2002/2003 he starred in the London musical Taboo, based on his
life (George didn't play himself, opting instead to take on the persona of
Australian-born performance artist Leigh Bowery). Taboo was a great
success in London's West End, though a Rosie O'Donnell-produced run in New
York was short-lived (100 performances only, versus the two-year run in
England, and several nominations for best musical soundtrack).
- In 1998, Boy George began writing a weekly column in The Daily
Express and hosted a weekly radio show on the Galaxy Radio Network.
During 2003, he presented a weekly show on London radio station LBC 97.3 for
- He wrote the foreword for a feng shui book called "Practical Feng Shui"
by Simon G. Brown (published in 1998).
- He also appeared as a guest on the British comedy-talk show The
Kumars at No. 42.
- In March 2005 he was the guest host for an episode of The Friday Night
Project, for Channel 4 television.
- On 20 October 2006 it was announced that he will write some tracks for
Kylie Minogue (News.com.au story).
- Boy George has also now, since some years, his own fashion line, called
"B-Rude". B-Rude has been present in some fashion shows in cities like
London, New-York and Moscow
- * He is working right now on a forthcoming solo LP, which apparently
will be including some ragga, reggae, pop and acoustic songs.
- On 24 December 2006, George appeared on a one-off BBC TV program "Duet
Impossible" where he performed with himself from the 1980s and joked about
his street cleaning.
- On 25 February 2007, George was special guest DJ at GLBT nightspot, The
Court Hotel in Perth, Western Australia.
- On 4 March 2007, George performed as a DJ at the Hordern Pavilion in
Sydney for the Mardi Gras Festival.
- On 11 May 2007, George performed as a DJ at the launch party for the
Palazzo Versace in Dubai, UAE.
- George recently cancelled his planned 2007 October tour via an
announcement on his official website. Although the exact reason is not
known, it is cited as being due to “last minute commitments” that clashed
with this particular set of performances.
- May - August George toured as a DJ, visiting Blackpool, Coventry, Rome,
Naples, Amsterdam, Münich, Mantova, Barcelona, Lyon, Paris, Cannes, Norway,
São Paolo, Rio De Janeiro, Beirut, Budapest, Mykonos.
- George is accused for liberty robbing of a 28 year old Norwegian, he has
to show up for trial at Thames Magistrates' Court 22nd of November
- George announces special residency at the Shaw Theatre in London,
starting 23 January 2008.
- Sold (1987) UK #29, US #145
- Tense Nervous Headache (1988)
- Boyfriend (1989)
- High Hat (1989) (selected tracks from Tense Nervous Headache and
Boyfriend, for America) US #126
- The Martyr Mantras (1990) UK #60 (released with the Jesus Loves
You name in UK)
- Spin Dazzle (1992) compilation
- At Worst: The Best of Boy George and Culture Club (1993) UK #24,
US #169 (Gold)
- Cheapness and Beauty (1995) UK #44
- Fantazia House Collection 2 (1995) (as DJ)
- Unrecoupable One Man Bandit (1998)
- Everything I Own (1999) compilation
- Galaxy Mix (1999) (as DJ)
- Essential Mix (as DJ) (2001)
- Classic Masters (2002) compilation
- A Night Out With Boy George (as DJ) (2002)
- A Night In With Boy George - a chill out mix (as DJ) (2002)
- U Can Never B2 Straight (2002) UK #147
- In and Out With Boy George: A DJ Mix (as DJ) (2002)
- Taboo Original London Cast (2002)
- BoyGeorgeDJ.Com (as DJ) (2003)
- Taboo (2004) soundtrack of Broadway show
- Yum Yum (as The Twin) (2004)
- Sweet Toxic Love EP(*) (1992) UK #65
- The Devil in Sister George EP (1994) UK #26
- The Twin EP (2003-2004)
- Straight EP (2005) (included in the book of the same name)
- Everything I Own (1987) UK #1 (2 weeks), US Dance #45, Canada #1
- Keep Me In Mind (1987) UK #29
- Sold (1987) UK #24
- To Be Reborn (1987) UK #13
- Live My Life (1987) UK #62, US #40
- No Clause 28 (1988) UK #57
- Don't Cry (1988) UK #60
- Don't Take My Mind on a Trip (1989) UK #68, US R&B #5
- Whether They Like It Or Not (1989) ¤
- You Found Another Guy (1989) US R&B #34
- Whisper (1989) ¤
- You Are My Heroin (1989)
- After The Love(*) (1989) UK #68
- Generations Of Love(*) (1990) UK #80
- One On One(*) (1990) UK #83
- Bow Down Mister(*) (1991) UK #27
- Generations Of Love 91(*) (1991) UK #35
- After The Love 91(*) (1991)
- The Crying Game (1992) UK #22, US #15, Canada #9
- Everything I Own 1993 (1993) (promo in UK)
- More Than Likely (with PM Dawn) (1993) UK #40
- Funtime (1995) UK #45
- Il Adore (1995) UK #50
- Same Thing in Reverse (1995) UK #56, US Dance #18
- Love is Leaving (1996) ¤ Italy #4
- When Will You learn (1997) ¤
- Police And Thieves(**) (1997) ¤
- Generations Of Love 98(*) (1998) ¤
- Why Go? (with Faithless) (1999) ¤
- Innocence Is Lost (with Groove Armada) (1999) (12" promo only)
- Out of Fashion (with Hi-Gate) (2002) (promo only)
- Run (with Sash!) (2002) ¤ Germany #48
- Autoerotic (with Dark Globe) (2002) UK #165
- Psychology Of The Dreamer (with Eddie Locke) (2003) UK Dance #5
- Here Come The Girls (The Twin) (2003) (limited edition)
- Electro Hetero (The Twin) (2003) (limited edition)
- Sanitised (The Twin) (2003) (limited edition)
- Human Racing (The Twin) (2004) (limited edition)
- Love Your Brother(*) (2005) (12" promo only)
- You Are My Sister (with Antony and the Johnsons) (2006)UK #39
- You're Not The One (with Loverush UK)(2006) (promo)
- Time Machine (with Amanda Ghost) (2007) (limited edition)
- You're Not The One (with Loverush UK) (2007) (digital single
- Atoms (with Dark Globe) (digital release on November 19th 2007)
Awaiting your comments