Happy Birthday to Boy George! Culture Club’s “Move Away” was one of 1986’s most requested videos

By on June 14, 2017

Today is Boy George’s birthday — he was born George Alan O’Dowd on June 14, 1961, in London’s southeast Eltham district — and so we thought we’d celebrate it by reminding you of this exceptional episode of Night Flight’s “Most Requested Videos” which originally aired on June 14, 1986. It’s now streaming over at Night Flight Plus.

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To request videos of some of their favorite artists and bands to be shown on “Night Flight,” our faithful TV viewers had mailed postcards and letters to our New York HQ, and in 1986 they overwhelmingly wanted to see the Culture Club’s “Move Away” video.

In her introduction to the clip, Pat Prescott reminds us that “Since 1982, the public has watched British soul singer Boy George’s fashion whims with rapt attention.”

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It should come as no surprise to regular viewers of “Night Flight” that the Culture Club’s videos made frequent appearances on our USA Network TV show in the 1980s.

The band arrived on American shores in 1981, the same year that “Night Flight” began airing on the USA Network (in June of ’81), and right away they struck a note with fans (and perhaps a sour note with some critics too).

Culture Club’s main focus was always centered on the charismatic, androgynous and occasionally flamboyant lead singer Boy George, although they weren’t a solo act… not at first anyway.

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The rest of the band — Mikey Craig on bass, Jon Moss on drums and Roy Hay on guitar and keyboards — provided music that melded together R&B/soul, reggae, glam rock and soft contempo lounge-rock sounds which seemed to fit right in with the New Romantic era of the time, a fashionable new sub-genre that was promoted by even more fashionable 80s acts like Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet.

Culture Club — the name comes from the multicultural backgrounds of the members, as well as the diverse influences on their musical style — were fashionable too, but again, most of that was due to Boy George’s drag queen-ish appearance.

At first, George liked to wear his hair long, in dreadlocks wrapped in colorful bits of cloth or scarves, and he also appeared in glammed-out full-face makeup (his popularity even extended to invitations for him to provide beauty tips to adolescent girls… and boys).

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MTV — and television shows in general — likely made the band more popular than they might have been if they had to simply rely on their songs being played on the radio.

Before they split up in the middle of the 1980s they had a series of successful hit singles on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?,” “Time (Clock of the Heart),” and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” were all huge hits from their debut album, 1981’s Kissing To Be Clever.

They likely hit their peak with their second full-length album, Colour By Numbers, however, which sold four million copies in America on the strength of a huge #1 international hit single, “Karma Chameleon.”

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“Church of the Poison Mind,” and “Miss Me Blind,” were two more singles which were among the six Top Ten singles Culture Club released in 1983 alone.

They also won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist that first year, beating out Big Country, Eurythmics, Men Without Hats and Musical Youth.

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In early April of 1986, a new single, “Move Away,” was released as the first single from the band’s new Luxury to Heartache album, their fourth.

The track — produced by Arif Mardin (who produced ’80s-era hits for Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin) and Lew Hahn — was memorable for a couple of reasons.

One of those was how the lyrics called back to the band’s earlier hit, “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?,” referencing that song with lyrics that now offer up a past-tense perspective (“I hurt you, darling; I made you cry. I hurt you, darling; don’t ask me why”).

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“Move Away” became the band’s eighth Top Ten hit, reaching #12 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart in the spring of 1986.

It would prove to be their last U.S. hit while the band were still a present-day act, and the only single from the album to chart in the Top Ten in the UK.

It also reached the top ten in various other countries, including Canada (#4), Italy (#10) and Australia (#10).

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The music video became one that Night Flight’s fans requested that we play for them in our “Most Requested Videos” episode which aired in the midst of what turned out to be a difficult time for Boy George and the band.

The video — directed by Willy Smax — is memorable too. Filmed at the Brixton Academy, one of London’s leading music venues, nightclubs and theaters, which sharp-eyed Night Flight viewers may recognize as the locale where Frankie Goes to Hollywood filmed their “Relax” video (it’s included in our Brian DePalma video profile).

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In the video, you can see that Boy George has adopted a new look, which is less flamboyant, and he makes several costume changes too.

There’s also the appearance of a boyish-looking woman — George’s friend Alice Temple — which teases whether or not we’re going to see something happening onscreen. The tomboy also appears in movie posters, and George sings to her.

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There are also hints here and there that there’s some kind of relationship going on between George and drummer Jon Moss, who had had a clandestine gay love affair (Moss claims it was the only one in his otherwise heterosexual lovelife).

They hid their romantic relationship from their fellow band members, but found it difficult to be around each other and soon the animosity and hostile vibe led to them being violent towards each other.

Moss also appears in a movie poster, and George sings lyrics from the song which allude to something many mused on later: “I never wanted to be your man.”

The poster comes alive, and now we see that they are both driving race cars and trying to run each other off the road, like they’re trying to kill each other.

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Who knows how accurate this might have actually been at the time, as the song itself offers few real clues — and the video offers very little evidence either, speculative or otherwise — that George and Jon weren’t getting along long after their relationship had ended.

Then, in July 1986 — just a month after our “Most Requested Videos” episode aired — Boy George was arrested for possession of heroin, and that pretty much destroyed the band’s momentum.

They struggled to stay together for nearly another year before calling it a day in 1987.

Boy George, as predicted, went on to become a solo artist, and even had a hit song with “The Crying Game,” which was the title for a movie of the same name, which splashed across movie screens in 1992.

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Today, Boy George — now sporting a nicely trimmed beard and he’s usually also wearing a hat — is still singing, and on his 56th birthday today, June 14, 1986, he’ll be headlining a special concert to celebrate IHeart 80’s birthday (IHeart 80’s are a radio station, devoted to 80’s music, broadcasting in the San Francisco Bay area or online here).

Other bands on the bill include A Flock Of Seagulls, the Romantics, Farrington & Mann (original members of When in Rome UK), Animotion, Tiffany, Tommy Tutone and Nu Shooz.

Photo below: George with Night Flight founder, Stuart S. Shapiro, after giving an exclusive interview to Night Flight in September, 1983 (photo by Bob Gruen)

Happy Birthday today to Boy George! Watch our exceptional 1986 episode of Night Flight’s “Most Requested Videos” which also features U2, Kate Bush, Prince, the Thompson Twins, and Duran Duran, among others. It’s playing over on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.