Karma Chameleon

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"Karma Chameleon"
Single by Culture Club
from the album Colour by Numbers
B-side "That's the Way (I'm Only Trying to Help You)"
Released September 1983 (UK)
November 1983 (USA)
Format 7", 12"
Recorded 1982
Genre New wave
Length 4:12 (album version)
3:51 (single edit)
Label Virgin
Writer(s) George O'Dowd, Jon Moss, Mikey Craig, Roy Hay, Phil Pickett, Alfie Malone
Producer(s) Steve Levine
Culture Club singles chronology
"Church of the Poison Mind"
(1983)
"Karma Chameleon"
(1983)
"Victims"
(1983)
Music sample

"Karma Chameleon" is a song by English band Culture Club, featured on the group's 1983 album Colour by Numbers. The single spent three weeks at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 in early 1984, becoming the group's biggest hit and only US number-one single among their many Top 10 hits. "Karma Chameleon" was also a huge global hit, hitting number one in 16 countries worldwide, and the Top 10 in several more. The sleeve features work from the photographer David Levine.

In the group's home country of the United Kingdom, it became the second Culture Club single to reach the top of the UK Singles Chart (after "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me"), where it stayed for six weeks in September and October 1983, and became the UK's biggest-selling single of the year 1983.[1] To date, it is the 31st best-selling single of all time in the UK, selling 1.49 million copies there.[2] It has sold over 5 million global copies, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time worldwide.[3]

In an interview, Culture Club frontman Boy George explained: "The song is about the terrible fear of alienation that people have, the fear of standing up for one thing. It's about trying to suck up to everybody. Basically, if you aren't true, if you don't act like you feel, then you get Karma-justice, that's nature's way of paying you back."[4]

The song won Best British Single at the 1984 Brit Awards. The group performed the song as a finale when they appeared in the 1986 episode "Cowboy George" of The A-Team. The harmonica part was played by Judd Lander, who had been a member of Merseybeat group The Hideaways in the 1960s. The song was originally to be called "Cameo Chameleon". The band was recorded in interviews in mid-1983 stating this was to be the title of their next single.[5]

Likely because of the lyric "I'm a man without conviction," and the chorus, which includes the word chameleon, "Karma Chameleon" has been used by several politicians in political ads. In 2006, Britain's Labour Party used "Karma Chameleon" as the theme song for a series of political advertisements against Conservative party leader David Cameron in the 2006 UK local Elections.[6]

This song was also featured in the 2007 video game Alvin and the Chipmunks and the 2008 video game Saints Row 2.

Music video[edit]

The music video, directed by Peter Sinclair,[7] was filmed at Desborough Island in Weybridge during the summer of 1983.

The video is set in Mississippi in 1870. It depicts a large group of black and white people in late 1800s dress, including some dressed in red, gold, and green (as Boy George sings in the song). Boy George is dressed in what would be known as his signature look: colorful costume, fingerless gloves, long braids, and a black derby.

A pickpocket and jewellery thief is seen wandering through the crowd, stealing from unsuspecting folks. The band and other people board a riverboat, "The Chameleon", as Boy George continues to sing. The thief is discovered cheating at cards, and is forced to return his ill-gotten gains and walk the plank at the points of ladies' parasols. As the video ends, day has turned to evening and the party continues on the boat as it cruises down the river.

Charts and certifications[edit]

Order of precedence
Preceded by
"Australiana" by Austen Tayshus
Australian Kent Music Report number-one single
24 October 1983 – 21 November 1983 (5 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Reckless" by Australian Crawl
Preceded by
"Undercover of the Night" by The Rolling Stones
Canadian CHUM number-one single
28 January 1984 – 4 February 1984 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Talking in Your Sleep" by The Romantics
Preceded by
"Major Tom (Coming Home)" by Peter Schilling
Canadian RPM number-one single
21 January 1984 – 4 February 1984 (3 weeks)
Preceded by
"Flashdance... What a Feeling" by Irene Cara
Spanish number-one single
19 December 1983 – 30 January 1984 (7 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Say Say Say" by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson
Preceded by
"Moonlight Shadow" by Mike Oldfield
Swedish number-one single
15 November 1983 – 13 December 1983 (3 weeks)
Preceded by
"Dolce Vita" by Ryan Paris
Eurochart Hot 100 number-one single (first run)
29 October 1983 – 3 December 1983 (6 weeks)
Preceded by
"Say Say Say" by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson
Eurochart Hot 100 number-one single (second run)
14 January 1984 – 28 January 1984 (3 weeks)
Norwegian number-one single
49/1983 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"They Don't Know" by Tracey Ullman
Preceded by
"Red Red Wine" by UB40
Irish Singles Chart number-one single
25 September 1983 – 16 October 1983 (4 weeks)
Belgian Ultratop 50 Flanders number-one single
29 October 1983 – 19 November 1983 (4 weeks)
Succeeded by
"All Night Long (All Night)" by Lionel Richie
Dutch Top 40 number-one single
22 October 1983 (1 week)
Single Top 100 number-one single
29 October 1983 (1 week)
New Zealand number-one single
30 October 1983 – 4 December 1983 (6 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Uptown Girl" by Billy Joel
UK Singles Chart number-one single
24 September 1983 – 29 October 1983 (6 weeks)
Preceded by
"All Night Long (All Night)" by Lionel Richie
South African number-one single
10 February 1984 – 17 February 1984 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Red Red Wine" by UB40
Preceded by
"I'm Still Standing" by Elton John
Swiss number-one single
30 October 1983 – 27 November 1983 (5 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Come Back and Stay" by Paul Young
Preceded by
"Owner of a Lonely Heart" by Yes
US Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
4 February 1984 – 18 February 1984 (3 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Jump" by Van Halen
US Cash Box number-one single
4 February 1984 – 18 February 1984 (3 weeks)
Preceded by
"Come On Eileen" by Dexys Midnight Runners
1982
UK Singles Chart best-selling single of the year
1983
Succeeded by
"Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Band Aid
1984

Parodies[edit]

In 1984, country music artists Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley recorded "Where's the Dress", a satirical song about Boy George which sampled "Karma Chameleon". The song reached number 8 on the Hot Country Songs chart.[49]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lane, Dan (18 November 2012). "The biggest selling singles of every year revealed! (1952-2011)". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Lane, Daniel (27 June 2013). "Daft Punk’s Get Lucky becomes one of the UK’s biggest selling singles of all-time!". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Bodrero, Eric (2005). "The Culture Club - Greatest Hits Review". antiMusic. Iconoclast Entertainment Group. Retrieved 8 November 2012. 
  4. ^ "Karma Chameleon by Culture Club". Songfacts. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  5. ^ The Rock Yearbook 1984. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-68786-9
  6. ^ Treneman, Ann (19 April 2006) Dave and Labour's bad karma chameleon at the Wayback Machine (archived 21 November 2008). The Sunday Times Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  7. ^ "Culture Club – "Karma Chameleon"". Mvdbase.com. 
  8. ^ "Australia No. 1 hits -- 1980's". World Charts. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
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  12. ^ CHART NUMBER 1411 – Saturday, January 28, 1984 at the Wayback Machine (archived 7 November 2006). CHUM. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  13. ^ "RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  14. ^ "RPM Top Singles." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  15. ^ "Song title 589 – Karma Chameleon". TsorT. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  16. ^ (Finnish) Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3. 
  17. ^ (French) "InfoDisc : Tous les Titres par Artiste". InfoDisc. Select "Culture Club" from the artist drop-down menu. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
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  19. ^ "The Irish Charts – All there is to know". Irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  20. ^ a b (Italian) "I singoli più venduti del 1983". Hit Parade Italia. Creative Commons. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
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  25. ^ (Polish) "KARMA CHAMELEON – Culture Club". LP3. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  26. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website SA Charts 1969 – 1989 Acts (C)". Rock.co.za. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  27. ^ (Spanish) Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
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  29. ^ "Culture Club – Karma Chameleon – swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
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  33. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  34. ^ (Dutch) "Jaaroverzichten 1983". Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  35. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 41, No. 17, January 05 1985". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  36. ^ (French) "TOP – 1983". Top-france.fr. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  37. ^ (Dutch) "Single Top 100 1983" (PDF). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
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  39. ^ (German) "Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1983". Hitparade.ch. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  40. ^ Lane, Dan (18 November 2012). "The biggest selling singles of every year revealed! (1952-2011)". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  41. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1984". Rock.co.za. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  42. ^ "Top 100 Hits for 1984". The Longbored Surfer. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  43. ^ The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1984 at the Wayback Machine (archived 30 September 2012). Cash Box magazine. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  44. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Culture Club – Karma Chameleon". Music Canada. 
  45. ^ "French single certifications – Culture Club – Karma Chameleon" (in French). InfoDisc.  Select CULTURE CLUB and click OK
  46. ^ (French) "Les Singles en Or". InfoDisc. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  47. ^ "British single certifications – Boy George & Culture Club – Karma Chameleon". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Karma Chameleon in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Click Go
  48. ^ "American single certifications – Culture Club – Karma Chameleon". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  49. ^ Larkin, Colin (1995). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music 1. Guinness Publishing. p. 273. ISBN 978-1-5615-9176-3. 

External links[edit]