The town I grew up in – let’s call it Spud – was a homophobic place. Nothing unusual in that for rural Australia in the 1970s. The strange thing was that we were so averse to gay men that we had no idea what they might be like. And so as kids we played air-guitar to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, having no idea that Freddy Mercury was …well, you know. Even the subtle hint of a band comprised solely of men calling itself Queen missed us completely.
A little later, Boy George pulled off the same trick. A kind of androgynous rag doll who could sing. No one mistook him for Bruce Springsteen, but no one felt the need to burn Culture Club records in the Spud town square, either.
I have been reflecting on matters of gender and sexuality lately. The church I belong to is, I am proud to say, determinedly inclusive. We just had a festival, and key speakers included gay and transgender people sharing their stories. The great thing about overcoming prejudice is that it breaks both ways. So many speakers mentioned that they had never imagined being asked to talk to a church.
As a straight white guy, married and with 2.3 children, who was baptised as an adult seven years ago, I can say that change is happening. It really is. And we are a better community for it.
We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of pop music in this long journey. Boy George paid for it personally. Briefly their darling, the British tabloid press turned on him for his sexuality and drug use. But he survived and grew. And his success in Australia played a part in overcoming the deep-seated prejudices of people like me, and places like Spud.
This track is the B side to “Karma Chameleon”. Fans of Boy George and Culture Club will know it, but not most people. (Not me, until now.) It is a soul-tinged ballad, an exploration of love and destruction. On the single, for no apparent reason, it is faded out abruptly. It sounds like I have done a botched edit – so much so that I had to check – but that is just how it plays. On the album “Colour By Numbers” it runs a full minute longer.
Despite the annoying fade out, it is a beautiful, profound song.
That’s the way we destroy, baby
Shut it out, shut it out.
He could be singing about Spud, 30 years ago.
- Artist: Culture Club
- Single Title: Karma Chameleon
- Track: Side B “That’s The Way”
- Format: 7”, 45 rpm
- Label: Virgin VS 612
- Manufactured in: Australia
- Year: 1983
Many of the records discussed on this blog are for sale via Discogs