The UK officially fell under the spell of Culture Club on October 23, 1982. The quirky pop band with the androgynous lead singer had made their tentative debut on the singles survey in mid-September, at No.66, with “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me.” Five weeks later, as the older generation tut-tutted about the image of a new kind of idol called Boy George, the song was at No.1.
The band’s own composition, which had a light, pop-reggae flavour to it, took over the top spot on the British chart from another reggae smash, Musical Youth’s “Pass The Dutchie.” As the Culture Club single raced to the summit, it provided the perfect set-up for their debut album Kissing To Be Clever, which came out as “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” was climbing the charts and peaked at No.5 a week after its lead song went to No.1. The LP went on to spend 59 weeks in the top 100 of the British chart, making its last Top 40 appearance exactly a year after “Hurt Me” reached the top.
The song became Culture Club’s key to many other charts around the world, going to No.1 in Australia and in almost every major European territory. In the slower-moving American market, the song gradually worked its way into the affections of record-buyers, peaking at No.2 for three weeks in the spring of 1983, held off the top only by Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”
Reaching hipsters and housewives
When Boy George spoke to cutting-edge style magazine The Face, as “Hurt Me” was becoming a major hit, he made it clear that he was well-adjusted to his supposedly daring image, and very aware that Culture Club’s audience was full of not just club hipsters, but rank-and-file record buyers too.
“I think what some don’t realise is that a lot of normal people are buying our single, like housewives,” he said. “So when people say to me ‘Oh, you’re only getting somewhere on your look,’ it’s sh**. Up to about two weeks ago, most people thought I was a girl.
“Did you see that thing in the Sunday People slagging me off…calling me Wally of the Week? I laughed; besides, who wants to be ignored? I don’t take it that seriously.”
“Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” is on Kissing To Be Clever, which can be bought here.
Follow the 80s Classic Hits playlist.