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Their infectious melodies, flamboyant front man, and multiracial mix made Culture Club a sunny beacon of 1980s pop. Now, though, it's war.
Two of the band's founding members told the Associated Press on Thursday that they're furious with Boy George, who recently accepted a songwriting award without telling them, labeled their new vocalist "dreadful," and, they claim, has made their lives a misery.
"We've never said anything about George, because George has always been George,'' said Jon Moss, the band's drummer and Boy George's former boyfriend. ''But this has gone too far.''
Later this year, Moss, bassist Mikey Craig, and keyboard player Phil Pickett will be back on the road as Culture Club Reborn. Boy George will not be joining them.
Culture Club topped charts around the world in the '80s with songs like ''Karma Chameleon,'' ''Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,'' and ''Church of the Poison Mind.'' The androgynous George, with his broad-brimmed hats, makeup, and beribboned hair, became an early MTV star and a global style icon.
By the late '80s, the band split, plagued by flagging sales and Boy George's well-publicized heroin addiction.
While the other members have since combined music careers with reasonably quiet lives, George has stayed in the headlines--most recently during an August stint sweeping streets in New York City as punishment for falsely reporting a burglary at his apartment.
Culture Club reunited successfully in 1998, but George--real name George O'Dowd--declined to participate in another tour this year. The band recruited 29-year-old unknown Sam Butcher for a British tour that starts December 7.
Boy George was not impressed, telling an audience at a music awards ceremony that he thought the new singer is ''dreadful.''
''I wanted to like it,'' he said of the group's new sound, ''but I couldn't.''
Earlier this week he picked up a classic songwriting award at the Q Music Awards for "Karma Chameleon"--a song credited to all the original band members. None of the other band members were invited to the ceremony.
''We should have been there,'' said Craig, 46. ''George wasn't the sole writer of the song. We wrote collectively. At the end of the day, Culture Club was very much ours as well as George's. He was the visual impact that everyone got, but there was a hell of a lot behind it.''
Even the singer's iconic name, Moss said, was his bandmates' doing.
''He wanted to call himself Papa George,'' said Moss, 49. ''It doesn't have the same ring to it. And he wanted to call us Caravan Club.''
Moss, now married with three children, has a particularly volatile relationship with the singer. He and George were lovers at the height of the band's success, though the relationship was not made public at the time.
In his autobiography, Take It Like a Man, Boy George said many Culture Club lyrics were about his feelings for Moss and claimed the band's breakup was driven by the collapse of their relationship. Moss says the book is misleading.
''He says I was ashamed [of the relationship]," Moss said. ''I'm not ashamed of anything. My parents know, all my friends knew. There's no problem there.''
He said George's claim the band split ''because he was distraught and brokenhearted over our love affair'' was ''complete and utter cobbler's [rubbish].''
''The only person George loves is George.... He's like a nightmare ex-wife,'' Moss said. ''This guy's being rude about me all the time. I've lived with it for years, and I've just had enough.''
Moss and Craig, now 40-something fathers, sound like middle-aged dads when they discuss their former bandmate. Moss recalls with embarrassment how George swore at the audience during the band's reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 2002. ''Here's a man who's got the audience that put him where he is, bought his house for him, and made him Boy George,'' said Moss. ''It's not acceptable.''
They say George's griping is spoiling the legacy of a band whose pansexual, multiracial makeup helped transform social attitudes in the 1980s.
''The whole idea of Culture Club was multiculturalism, the spirit of tolerance, the spirit of all as one,'' Moss said. ''Think of the diversity in our band--a Jew, a black person, an English person from Essex, and a Catholic homosexual. That was Culture Club.'' (AP)