Boy George dishes on trailblazing career as Culture Club prepares to dazzle Wolf Trap

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Boy George at Wolf Trap (Part 1)

They were one of the biggest new-wave acts of the Second British Invasion in the 1980s. Boy George & Culture Club will dazzle Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia, on Thursday.

“It is a lot of hits because that’s what keeps the crowd in your pocket, so you always start with the biggest songs, then we find some obscure songs to stick in,'” George told WTOP. “We feel lucky we have so many hits. We do some great, unexpected covers. There’s a lot of love out there for us and we give it back. The energy of the show has been electric.”

Born in Kent, England in 1961, George formed Culture Club in 1981 during the New Romantic period. Their first album, “Kissing to Be Clever” (1981), featured a string of hits with “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” “Time (Clock of the Heart)” and “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?”

“As I look at what I write now, I never write from a victim point of view anymore, but those early songs are very like, ‘Everyone hates me, the world is horrible, no one loves me,’ so I was just expressing my younger, inexperienced self,” George said. “I wrote that song before I’d even traveled! It’s so crazy that I did this song that touched so many people.”

Culture Club followed up with arguably its most acclaimed album, “Colour By Numbers” (1983), including the smash hit “Karma Chameleon” about someone who’s so worried about fitting in that they aren’t true to themselves, ultimately paying a price for that.

“When you write about other people, at first you write about someone in an accusatory way, ‘You did this to me,’ [but] remember you’re only talking about your own experience at that moment … but once you’ve made a song, it almost becomes the property of the listener and they’re allowed to see how it suits their own relationship,” George said.

After winning the Grammy for Best New Artist, their third album “Waking Up with the House on Fire” (1984) featured “The War Song,” singing, “War is stupid, people are stupid.” George also sang with Band Aid on “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” to raise money for famine in Ethiopia. George is the second voice between Paul Young and George Michael.

“You meet others artists and you think I understood what they’re about, but very rarely,” George said. “That moment, Band Aid, Live Aid, it’s gotten more iconic because of the distance. … I don’t think anybody realized how massive it was until we lost Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, suddenly that moment becomes massive. History can change.”

Other albums followed as “From Luxury to Heartache” (1986) featured “Move Away” and “Don’t Mind If I Do” (1998) featured “I Just Wanna Be Loved,” but the group’s lasting legacy might just be the overall package of music, visuals and a club of different cultures.

“What you wear says a lot about who you think you are, how you carry yourself. If you look extreme when you walk into a room, you have to have a certain personality to be able to carry that. … I’ve had so many public experiences that I kind of feel uncomfortable with who Boy George is. … The way people treat me when I’m in my finery is very different.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Boy George at Wolf Trap (Part 2)

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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