Culture Club (songbook)
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Culture Club is a songbook by the British new wave-oriented band Culture Club. It contains ten of their best songs for melody line with lyrics and guitar boxes, so that fans, either amateur or professional musicians, may try to play them if they wish.
The songs featured in this greatest hits songbook include the ballad "Time (Clock of the Heart)", of which an orchestral instrumental exists, appropriately called "Romance Beyond the Alphabet". The vocal version of the popular song (which was a Top 3 in the UK, and a huge success worldwide) was not originally included on Culture Club's English edition of the group's first album Kissing to Be Clever, but it featured on the American version of the work, that's why the Kissing to Be Clever songbook contains the song as its last track (the Table of Contents highlighting that the track is 'not available on any album').
The former is again taken from Kissing to Be Clever, of which two more songs are also featured in the songbook: the single released before the first smash hit, the Caribbean-sounding "I'm Afraid of Me" (a flop, actually, that anyway displays urgent rhythms and paranoid though highly musical lyrics, enhancing the crescendo of the track, combined with a merry melody, which shifts from G to A whilst repeating the first verse), and the last single from the album, the essential but breathtaking "I'll Tumble 4 Ya" (short in its timing, no more than 2 minutes and a half, the track is though so full of words, which are so tightly concentrated in a very small space, that the singer really gets breathless at the end of the song, as he once declared in a 1998 interview.).
The other Number One, the multi-million seller "Karma Chameleon", will give you the chance, by playing its seemingly happy tune, to analyze the perfectly linear structure of the song, carefully built by guitar/keyboard player Roy Hay, after not exactly a picnic, as he once said, though the track seems so easy to re-play. Which it is, in fact, but the country-sounding guitar in the verse and the melody in general both gave Roy a bad headache, indeed, and he wasn't even impressed by the tune, well... not at all actually, since he promised he would some time stick his head into the toilet - live on stage, added the others - if the song should ever become a minor hit. Needless to say, Roy lost his bet, since "Karma Chameleon", with its singalong melody and catchy title (in 1983, the word «Karma» wasn't so abused yet, many people never understood what George actually sang, if not reading it - the first impression was that he said something like the common «come-a») sold 1,300,000 copies in Great Britain alone, topping the charts in almost all countries all over the world.
The song came from the band's second album, Colour by Numbers, of which the Culture Club songbook also includes "Church of the Poison Mind" (another strangely titled song, with manufacturers who keep on writing «poisoned» once in a while, convinced as they are that the lack of that final -ed be not deliberately poetic a choice, but an amendable mistake), and "It's a Miracle", so festive and joyous a song that you can almost see the people singing it bursting into tears of happiness.
Last three songs to mention, which are included on the Culture Club songbook, complete the representative selection from the early 1980s albums, namely the third and the fourth. From Waking Up with the House on Fire, the band's 1984 album, only one song has been included, that is the UK smash hit "The War Song", which went to Number Two soon after its release in the Fall of that year. As one Culture Club's remix collection put it, the track is 'heavily percussive' and has a strong 'chant feel'. Nonetheless, it was the group's last hit for almost two years, since the next two singles taken from the album were disastrous flops (for the four members' stardom criteria, obviously, as well as concerns the budget spent to realize the record, especially for shooting the three very expensive videoclips to promote the respective singles). The quartet resurfaced in late 1986, with the new fourth album, appropriately titled From Luxury to Heartache.
In fact, George, always pontificating loudly against the use and possession of any kind of drug, became a victim of a serious addiction himself, first using cocaine, and soon after, almost by joke and without realizing, got a slave of much worse heroine. So dependent upon success as he was, in order to get the attention he always declared he had lacked when he was a little child, the third of five children, and so eager to find a lover who understood him, someone he thought he had found in bisexual drummer Moss, when he realized that he was losing both, man and hits, during the sad in-between year that was 1985, he fell and found no-one to catch him. But maybe he did not want to himself. The songs from this period reflect this negative state of mind, his train of thoughts always conveying desperate lyrics of hate and rejection (let us not forget that Boy George actually wrote all lyrics for the band's songs, which, he finally revealed, or rather confirmed, in 1995, were most of them for Jon and about their relationship).
Of the two songs included in the Culture Club songbook from the sadly titled new album From Luxury to Heartache, the most representative of this mood is the aptly called "Move Away", which was also the only single hit scored by the band with the whole work, and the only one success they got before disappearing into shadows for almost thirteen years. The track is thick with arrangements, only partly due to the new producer, Arif Mardin, who substituted Steve Levine in the production seat, even Roy's synth middle - mainly a guitarist, the guy having finally become an excellent keyboard-player - sounds like an overflowing try to fill a void that haunts the general atmosphere. It is not casual, then, if the other song (the last still to mention in the songbook) from what is always referred to as «Luxury» (but wouldn't it be better than to call it, more appropriately, simply «Heartache» for a reference?), that is "God Thank you Woman", with a title at last sounding, once again, like a joyful return to full happiness, is not a song for a woman, as Hay had first declared, tired of the homo-thing that was turning all four of them into gaymen, and not a song for mother, as George had instead first announced. The truth was revealed some time later, well... much time later, as a matter of fact, since ten years must be spent to get to George's autobiography in 1995, where he will have to tell the truth by then that the song only had 'a nonsense lyric', as if to say that the only positive message of Culture Club's fourth album, those three good elements, represented by God, thanking and female beings, joining together in so heartfelt a sentence, that might have become a phrase, could be nothing more than... nothing more that! That was, and that still is: nothing.
And no surprise, then, that the album title-track, which only remains on a lost, forgotten B side, did not make it onto the album (a well-established tradition for the British band, but as for the first two albums, those title-tracks are now largely available, but not our last sad lyric-title), nor in the songbook, needless to say, as "Time" has. Just because the "From Luxury to Heartache" lyric contained the possibility of a return trip, a journey in reverse - to hell and back, as many people love to say, and sing - a travel back to some yet unidentified person who could catch the poor sinner's fall (so the lyrics suggested, asking: 'If I cry will you catch my fall? Am I playing the loser's game?'). Whereas things were pretty clear with "Time" lyrics: 'Time won't give me time, and time makes lovers feel like they've got something real, but you and me we know they've got nothing but time'. The fairytale is finished. That's why Culture Club will stay silent for 13 years. Because when the Club is back, its members won't be able to say anything but: Don't Mind If I Do (the title of the fifth album, the comeback work). Just because they had fallen in too deep into their own personal heartaches, and they just couldn't but move towards luxury again, in order to restart kissing... to be clever! Obviously.
Table of contents
- "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" - G (pp. 2–3, Culture Club)
- "Karma Chameleon" - B flat (pp. 4–5, Culture Club/P. Pickett)
- "Church of the Poison Mind" - C (pp. 6–7, Culture Club)
- "I'm Afraid of Me" - G (pp. 8–9, Culture Club)
- "I'll Tumble 4 Ya" - C (p. 10-11, Culture Club)
- "God Thank You Woman"- B/D sharp (pp. 12–14, Culture Club/P. Pickett)
- "Move Away" - B flat (pp. 15–17, Culture Club/P. Pickett)
- "The War Song" - G (pp. 18–19, Culture Club)
- "Time (Clock of the Heart)" - C min 7 (pp. 20–21, Culture Club)
- "It's a Miracle" - B (pp. 22–23, Culture Club, P. Pickett)
- Greatest Moments 'Then & Now' interview 1998, taken from "Culture Club Greatest Hits" (DVD, 2004)
- Hear the long spoken intro to "Karma Chameleon" by George and Roy, cued by Mikey, in the bonus live CD making up half of Greatest Moments/Live VH1 Storytellers limited deluxe package (1998).
- Curiously enough, the song was originally called "It's America", as some extant live recordings witness, and the feeling of happiness did not belong therein at all, since the lyrics dealt with the darker side of merry America, as they still do, actually, except for the repeated line making up the chorus, which is the only thing that in fact changed, all the rest remaining unaltered - so try to substitute the original «It's America» line with the current «It's a Miracle», and you'll get the real picture, that is the real side of the story, since the song was written after Culture Club's first trip to the United States, which must not at all have made a lasting good impression...
- Inner notes from the booklet of Culture Club Collect - 12" Mixes Plus.
- Boy George with Spencer Bright (1995), Take It Like A Man, London, Sidgwick & Jackson.