By Marie-Louise Gumuchian
LONDON (Reuters) – More than 40 years after bursting onto the music scene and making headlines, Culture Club frontman Boy George says he still wants to startle people “a little bit”.
The singer and songwriter shot to meteoric fame in the early 1980s with his distinctive voice and androgynous look as the band topped charts with songs like “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” and “Karma Chameleon”.
“When I first stepped on the stage, there was absolute horror about what I looked like and the fact that I really looked feminine,” the 61-year-old George, whose real name is George O’Dowd, told Reuters in an interview.
“The amount of times I bump into people that say ‘When I first saw you on TV I thought you were a girl’… they were having arguments at school (over his appearance) but in a way that’s what I wanted,” George said.
“I wanted people to get upset, I wanted them to be a little bit startled. And I still want that in a way and I still get that.”
Culture Club formed in 1981 before splitting up five years later. Mixing pop, soul, British new wave and reggae, the group is considered one of the most influential of the ’80s.
In the years since, George, who has struggled with drug problems and had brushes with the law, has enjoyed a successful solo career amid reunion tours.
Now, he is about to hit the road again with two of his band mates – opening for veteran Rod Stewart in Britain later this month before kicking off “The Letting It Go Show” tour in July in the United States, where Culture Club has a loyal fan base.
“We were lucky to sort of hit it off there instantly … I love America, I love being there. I love playing there … There’s a positivity,” George said.
“I’m a cynical Brit, so I go to America and I’m allowed to be fabulous, which I like, I don’t have to keep apologising for who I am in America. In America, it’s like ‘enjoy it’ and I think that’s good advice.”
Asked how it feels to perform the band’s songs now, George said: “I used to perform everything with a grump, now I’m like, fabulous.”
“In those days, I thought it was my right to be annoyed and I felt going on stage in a bad mood was artistic integrity… And now, well, I don’t get in those sorts of moods anymore.”
“And if I do, I deal with them in the minute,” said George. “The difference between then and now is I really enjoy it now.”
(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Bernadette Baum)