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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 08:53 GMT


Still mad about the Boy

Older and wiser: Culture Club, 1999-style

By BBC News Online's Darryl Chamberlain

A quick look at the singles charts during 1999 confirms why the pop world needs Boy George more than ever.

Bland boy bands, anonymous club hits, dull imported acts, rap tunes messing around with another generation's classic records, with not a thing to say between them.

Last year it took the return of a group whose last hit was in 1986 to add a bit of colour to the charts - and now Culture Club have released their first album of new material for over 15 years, Don't Mind If I Do.

Now 38, George O'Dowd is better known to a younger generation as one of the UK's top club DJs, but he is at pains to point out he never did leave mainstream pop music, having made four albums as a solo artist.

And now his band is back, the man newspaper editors love for his witty, pithy and bitchy comments is a happy man.

"The last UK tour was so warm and energetic, it was such good fun. We were playing videos during the bands and people were Mexican waving during Kajagoogoo - people were really out of control! It was fantastic," he enthuses.

[ image: Calmer chameleon: Boy George]
Calmer chameleon: Boy George
Culture Club reformed after they were featured on a television special in the US. George, Jon Moss, Roy Hay and Mikey Craig split in acrimonious circumstances - but it was easy for them to get back together.

He insisted the band should do more than just turn up at a few reunion gigs - otherwise, it would have been "like Gerry and the Pacemakers" - and the result is Don't Mind If I Do.

The rows which led to the destruction of Culture Club were laid bare in George's autobiography, Take It Like A Man - especially regarding his relationship with Jon Moss.

But the new older, wiser Club found it easy to work together again.

"The human spirit is extremely resillient and it's amazing how quickly you can forget about something.

"I'm not a grudge person and I'm definitely not a secret-keeper. I don't think everybody in the band appreciated my autobiography, but the way I deal with things and the way they deal with things is very different.

[ image: The old days: Culture Club in the 1980s]
The old days: Culture Club in the 1980s
"We all fitted back into our old personalities quickly - Jon's the joker, Mike's the laid back one, Roy's mad - like a child who's had too much orange juice. It was like going back to the family for Christmas."

These days Culture Club is just one more string to George's bow. He regularly fills clubs across the UK and beyond as a DJ, and his syndicated radio show is taken by a clutch of commercial stations around the country.

"It's given me a whole new career, even if I never make another record again it's given me something I can do and that I enjoy and I'm really happy doing that.

"My dream is to get a radio show in London. I'd like to have one of Judge Jules's spots - there's far too much of him on the radio," he grins.

He could make thousands out of working on New Year's Eve this year, but will he? Definitely not.

"I'm going on holiday - I've been offered so much stuff, but I make enough money. I want to go away and have a nice holiday, and enjoy the night - I'm always panicking that I'm not going to be somewhere for 12 o'clock.

[ image: Dedicated follower of fashion]
Dedicated follower of fashion
"Last year I was stuck in traffic between Maidstone and the West End - I was working at Maidstone and had a gig in the West End and I was about an hour late."

But what next for the pop icon who shuns limos to go to gigs in a Nissan Primera? The Culture Club revival will go on "as long as we're enjoying it", while he is also giving new bands a hand too, with his label Things To Come.

Some of the people he works with were just starting school when when Culture Club started out - but the man who grew up worshipping David Bowie finds it amusing, not worrying.

"I'm working with this young guy who's about 21, called AKA, he's fanatastic - he's got this record coming out called Stars which sounds a bit like Cockney Rebel - and all my friends said that - I said that to him and he was, like, 'Never heard of them!'

"I'm also working with this band called Tam, the guy's voice is very Bowie - I want to send it to him and see what he thinks - it'll freak him out."

Now George is proud of his wide involvement in music - be it rock club, night club - or Culture Club - and heaven help anyone who doubts him.

"When I was a kid I would be obsessive about artists but now it's a song that turns me on. If a Cliff Richard record touches me, that's it.

"I'm not territorial about music, and I hate that British thing that 'You can't DJ, you're a pop star,' or you can't do glam rock, I'll do whatever I want - and suffer the consequences."

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