“Playback ’83″: Culture Club’s Boy George told Night Flight that “the image is irrelevant”

By on January 1, 2018

Night Flight’s “Playback ’83” — which originally aired on November 14, 1983 — provided viewers at home who may not have been paying attention to pop culture all year (or perhaps had just awoken from a twelve-month coma) with a perfect year-end survey of 1983’s most popular music videos, including Culture Club‘s “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya.” Watch it now on Night Flight Plus!

“1983 was the year music video and music television revolutionized the way America listened to and looked at pop music,” says our voice-over announcer Al Bandiero.

Bandiero also told us that “Culture Club — with their funny clothes, garish makeup and bizarre charm — tumbled their way on to the American charts.”


In fact, Culture Club — Boy George, vocals; Roy Hay, guitar, keyboards; Mikey Craig, bass; Jon Moss, drums — were the first act since the Beatles to have three Top Ten singles pulled from a debut album in the U.S. (in this case it was their 1982 Kissing to Be Clever album).

The vibrant, vivacious “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” charted at #9 on the UK Singles chart, propelled up the charts with help from a music video directed by Zelda Barron.


Here’s what video producer Siobhan Barron — who co-founded Limelight Productions with her brother, director Steve Barron — said in I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution:

“Boy George rang up and wanted my brother Steve or Julien Temple to do the video for ‘I’ll Tumble 4 Ya.’ I told him that neither was available. And George called me a cunt. I’m still friends with him. He and [Culture Club drummer] Jon Moss, though, they’d fight all the time. They never came out of their dressing room until evening time. One one video shoot George stuck a hat pin through Jon’s hand.”

Barron’s mother Zelda (in her fifties at the time) ended up directing the music video, which turned out to be the first of several videos she would direct for Culture Club (“Miss Me Blind,” “The Medal Song,” and the video short Culture Club: It’s a Miracle were some of the others).


Zelda Barron with her son Steve and daughter Siobhan

Zelda Barron had first started out as a production assistant in the British film industry, usually focused on film continuity, on smaller UK movies like Karel Reisz’s 1966 film Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (her first credit), and Monty Python’s And Now For Something Completely Different (1971), before transitioning to much bigger Hollywood-based film projects, like Warren Beatty’s Reds (1981) and Barbra Streisand’s Yentl (1983).


Her first credit as a feature film director was the 1984 film Secret Places — she also wrote the screenplay, about a German refugee in an English girls school during WWII — but before that she’d already been given the opportunity to direct a few music videos.

Culture Club’s “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” video is also notable for featuring supermodel Naomi Campbell as one of the tap-dancing extras when she was just twelve years old (or nine, according to some online sources).

Campbell can be seen among the ensemble of dancers surrounding Boy George (she’s second from left).


Read more about Culture Club’s Boy George and “Playback ’83” below.


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Viewers of our Playback ’83 episode were also treated to excerpts from Night Flight’s exclusive September ’83 interview with Boy George, who told us how he felt “image” in pop music was “irrelevant”:

“…I like transformation, I think you can get anybody… I do think the camera lies. It does lie, definitely. I think there’s always kind of preconceptions about things, and misconceptions. But, you know, people are what they are.”

“You know, I believe in transformation, I like all that, you know. I used to do makeup, and I’m very interested in changing people. I think it’s very exciting. I think that clothes are irrelevant.”

“You know, if… take Liberace. Liberace’s a great pianist, so after a certain time, the way he looks is irrelevant, if you’re good at what you do — I mean, if you’re not good at what you do and you dress up, then obviously then that’s what the people will focus in on.”


“But the main thing in America is people will come up to me and say ‘You know, you don’t need to do that. Why do you dress like that, because, you know, you sing these songs, and they don’t fit your image, so why do you do it?””

“And what I’m saying is that the image is irrelevant. I’m not Alice Cooper, and I’m not Davie Bowie. I’m doing it in a very honest way, because I’m saying, look, you know, I look like this because I want to, because when I’m not like this I think I look like an ugly pig.”


Boy George, with Night Flight’s creator/founder Stuart S. Shapiro, after giving an exclusive interview to Night Flight in September, 1983 (photo by Bob Gruen)

This vintage episode — which provides those of you who might want your memory refreshed about what 1983 had to offer the world, video-wise — also featured videos by Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, Billy Joel, Billy Idol, Lionel Richie, Elton John, David Bowie, the Police, Def Leppard, Dean Martin (“Since I Met You Baby”), Neil Young, Eurythmics, Bonnie Tyler, Prince Donna Summer, Stevie Nicks, Men At Work, ZZ Top, Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and the Beatles.


Playback ’83” also highlighted the hottest selling tours, the top 5 albums, the latest fashions (including Norma Kamali’s “Street Beat” — read more about it here), the hot new dance moves, and oh so much more! Watch it now on Night Flight Plus!


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.