Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Boy George

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: Boy George

1
Douglas Booth starred as you in the 2010 Boy George biopic Worried About the Boy. But who played your friend – and ‘80s pop star – Marilyn?

“One of the Fox boys. What’s his name? He was from the Fox dynasty.”

CORRECT. Close enough – it was Freddie Fox.

“Freddie was fabulous as Marilyn, but Marilyn hated him! (Laughs) Marilyn said: ‘If I was like that, I’d kill myself!’.”

Worried About the Boy was about your rise. What’s your upcoming biopic going to focus on? Your two autobiographies are pretty warts and all…

“There’s too many warts in the second one – it’s got the pox! I’ve no idea what they’ll wallow in! (Laughs) I don’t have a say in what they do – I’m not Madonna, who’s making a film about herself, which is genius.”

Who would you like to play you? There have been rumours of Harry Styles being approached about the role..

“I’ve not spoken to him about it, but it was brought up to me and the proof’s in the pudding with these things. It’s hard to play me – I’m not genteel, there’s nothing wispy about me; I’m a big burly bouncer (Laughs). We used to joke that we were geezer-gays because we came from working class backgrounds and weren’t particularly fey, but we could switch it on with enough eyeliner and rouge. Marilyn used to get in the back of a cab and say: ‘Eugh! I can’t wait to get these ridiculous clothes off!’, which made me laugh because it showed we loved what we did, but weren’t believing we were what we wore.”

Has it surprised you that actresses such as Sophie Turner have been suggested

“I don’t think there are any rules – as long as someone gets the essence of you.”

 

2
Who is the track ‘Same Thing in Reverse’ dedicated to in the booklet credits of your 2002 solo album ‘U Can Never B2 Straight’?

“Not Kirk Brandon? Quentin Crisp?

WRONG. It’s dedicated to ‘Eminem and all scared, pretty homosexuals’.

“How weird! I don’t think that any more, so it’s quite mad. I’m sometimes guilty of being reactive, but now I can go: ‘This person’s just being provocative. I don’t think they actually want to go out of their way to make the lives of gay people unhappy’. Eminem used to say I’m just saying what people are thinking – so I felt I should react back. But I have no gripe with him whatsoever.”

3
Who did you present the Best International Brit Award to in 2006?

“Was it the Four Tops? John Grant?”

WRONG. It was Kanye West.

“(Disbelieving) I gave an award to Kanye West?! You’re lying! (Laughs) I must have been off my nut – actually, in 2006, I was in crisis at that point so that explains that! You’d think he’d follow me on Twitter after that – people forget so soon! (Laughs)

“I met Kanye at a gig in Monaco. I said hello and he was nice, if shy. He wasn’t particularly talkative but he was very warm with a lovely smile. I like him – it’s hard not to. He’s got a Muhammad Ali quality, but he doesn’t quite have the charm and humour Ali had. It’s the same bravado and bigging yourself up – which is quite Buddhist – although with Ali, his statements came with a nod and a wink whereas with Kanye it’s a bit bombastic and lacks humility.”

Advertisement

4
In 2003, which boyband had a member dress up as you in the video to one of their singles?

“I’ve no idea. Five?”

WRONG. It was Busted’s ‘Crashed The Wedding’. Charlie Simpson cosplays you, while bandmates Matt Willis and James Bourne appear as Adam Ant and Michael Jackson respectively.

“I saw that – but I wouldn’t have remembered it! Once you’ve seen Serge Gainsbourg dressed as you on French TV, everyone else can go to hell! (Laughs) That was the most horrific thing I’ve ever witnessed. Ronnie Corbett’s dressed as me – I’ve seen ‘em all! It’s a tribute to the simplicity of that hybrid look. There are kids who delve into my pre-fame Blitz looks and I’ll post a picture and commend them on getting it right, and then there are people who look like they’ve gone to Poundland for the Boy George look. It’s easy to create – but not easy to create well.”

5
Who did you perform with on the 2006 BBC show Duet Impossible?

“(Laughs) Was it Elvis? Abba? Oh, was it myself?”

CORRECT. While the other musicians sang with dead icons such as Dusty Springfield, you duetted with a hologram-style version of your 1983 self on ‘Karma Chameleon’.

“I was a bit heavier and a bit fat then and I was singing with myself when I was 19. My manager said: ‘Who the fuck told you to do that?’. I got paid a fortune to do it, but he said: ‘I would have paid you more not to do it!’. Years ago, when I was banned from America, I thought: why don’t I just tour as a hologram? (Laughs) I might try and incorporate that idea into a theatrical show because there’s going to be a yearning for some excess after the humbleness of these COVID-19 times.”

6
In 2014, what song did you cover at Toronto’s Luminato Festival with Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, David Byrne and Rufus Wainwright?

“I remember singing Gerswin’s  ‘My Man’s Gone Now’ from the opera Porgy and Bess, but I don’t remember the rest.  Was it ‘Let’s Fall in Love’?”

WRONG. It was ‘Summer Nights’ from Grease.

“That was a weird one – not something I would choose to sing. ‘My Man’s Gone Now’ is in my ballpark, but the other stuff was a little bit (Imitates Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music) ‘High on the hill was a lonely goatherd’ – a bit polite for me!”

You’ve covered everyone from David Bowie to Lana Del Rey. Any of the original artists ever given you any feedback?

“I won Stars in Their Eyes twice as Bowie, which is another thing my manager was like: ‘Who the fuck told you to do that?!’. Again, I was paid a fortune (Laughs). When I had dinner with Bowie in 2005 in New York, he said to me: ‘Oh, I hear you won Stars in Their Eyes?’. And I looked at him and went: ‘No, I didn’t win once – I won twice’, to which he replied: ‘Good boy – I would expect nothing less!’. The second time I won, I took it seriously and worked with a vocal coach.”

7
You’re well-known for your acerbic one-liners about various people. For a full point, can you identify who you’re talking about in these quotes:

‘He looks like a dwarf that’s been dipped in a bucket of pubic hair.’

Prince.”

‘Sleeping with him would be like having sex with a groundhog.’

George Michael – God bless him!”

‘All that money and he’s still got hair like a dinner lady.’

Elton John.”

CORRECT. On all three! Did they all take it in good humour?

“Not necessarily! Obviously I love Elton and I’m really close with him now, but I said a few remarks about him over the years. To Elton’s credit, he never bit back with me. He knew I’d get over it eventually. Although he said things about other people, he never did with me. I’m glad it was a one-sided drama. Does he mention me in his book [Me]?”

No…

“(Laughs) It’s an outrage! Mind you, Elton did swerve me in the ‘80s. Snubbed!”

Anyone who slagged you off that you had a laugh about it with later?

“I had tea with Morrissey in Paris in the early ‘80s and he called me ‘overbearing’. At the time, I didn’t find it funny – now I do. I still love Morrissey and The Smiths even though I don’t love what he’s saying at the moment, but I put that into grumpy old man category. I saw him again years later and he was very sweet to me because I’d written something about how ‘Maladjusted’, one of his most critically-derided albums, is actually one of his best. He looked at me, raised an eyebrow and went: ‘’Maladjusted‘?’ (Laughs) I’m there quoting him lyrics trying to convince him it’s a fucking great album!”

For a bonus-half point, who once said: ‘Sam Smith just stands there like Boy George in a coma’?

“Is that Noel Gallagher?”

CORRECT.

“(Laughs) That’s very unfair! Sam’s voice is beautiful – you can’t say that’s not a beautiful voice!”

Advertisement

8
What’s The A-Team episode you guest starred in called?

“’Cowboy George’.”

CORRECT.

“How sad that I remember that! (Laughs) I smoked so much weed through that, I was cross-eyed. I was supposed to be playing myself – an English rock star who wanders into a country bar, but I had to say lines like, ‘Totally awesome, Hannibal!’, and being stoned is the only thing that got me through.”

9
What number did Culture Club drummer Jon Moss have on his American football shirt when you performed Karma Chameleon on Top of the Pops in November 1983?

“Was it a 9?”

WRONG. It was 88.

“What’s that in bingo – two fat ladies? (Laughs) Although I don’t think it was anything to do with that!”

When you first appeared on Top of the Pops, it caused headlines. Do you think a band could generate a similar reaction now?

“The only thing that would be amazing would be an incredible, drop-dead gorgeous transgender rock star that played with our ideas of femininity and masculinity. That might shock people and stand out – but they would have to be amazing and not throwaway. We’re starting to see more great transgender singers and performers, so hopefully the status quo might shift.”

You ran into trouble with some people in the LGBTQ community earlier this year after you seemed to dismiss gender pronouns..

“Other people ran into trouble understanding what I’m saying. I’ve got a friend from school who’s a bit transphobic and she read about it online and was congratulating me for attacking what she calls the ‘Trans Taliban’. And I had to go: ‘No, you’ve got it so wrong, do not congratulate me for being transphobic – because I’m not.’ I’m pro people being whoever they want to be and they’re allowed to change who they want to be any time they like. People deserve to wring as much joy and passion from life as they can. And I can’t tell people what their life experience is – I can’t tell you what it’s like to be trans, but I understand what it’s like to be an outsider which gives me a head-start in terms of acceptance.”

10
What time does the clock on the single cover of Culture Club’s ‘Time (Clock of the Heart)’ say?

“Seven o clock?”

WRONG. It’s 3.40. 

“Well, rock‘n’roll people don’t do time, darling!”

 

Bonus question! For a half-point: In 1985, Smash Hits readers voted you Prat of the Year. Name anyone else in the Top 10.

“Was Holly Johnson in it?”

CORRECT. Frankie Goes To Hollywood are at Number Eight – frontman Holly Johnson is also Number 12.

(Laughs) She’s going to kill me! Was George Michael in it as well?”

Yes – he’s second! The others are: Black Lace (3), Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran (4) Neil from The Young Ones (5), National Union of Mineworkers president Arthur Scargill (6), DJ Mike Read (7), Divine (9) and Morrissey (10).

“I’m in fabulous company! Divine and Morrissey alone fills me with joy. I’ve got a Divine tattoo on my arm. Before I was famous, I was on the King’s Road with Marilyn and we spotted Divine – in her civvies – and ran after her, gushing: ‘We love you!’. She was so sweet – and completely stoned! She did a concert at Heaven where she said onstage: ‘I need to get myself a new Rolls-Royce – so I can drive it over Boy George!’ (Laughs) I loved someone I admired mentioning me. It was a shame that when I became famous, she never knew what a massive influence she was in my life as a teenager.”

You’ve been working on new music during the pandemic. What can you tell us about it?

“I’m putting out a bunch of music for Christmas. I’ve done a musical swap with Kim Wilde – I’m singing on a song of hers, she’s singing on something of mine. We’ve done a mad tune together that sounds like Nu Shooz. I’ve done a duet with Delta Goodrem, and a duet with Pete Murphy, which sounds like The Horrors. I’ve done an interesting track with an Israeli singer where he sings in Hebrew, and a track with the French rapper Biga*Ranx. I’ve also been doing work with [Bowie producer]  Tony Visconti. In Britain, we eat our old – but this is the best work I’ve done in years.”

The verdict: 5/10 

“Well, I’ve got some braincells left! I do my online games to keep the old mind ticking!”

– Boy George and Culture Club will play live from the SSE Arena, Wembley on December 19th. Limited audience tickets go on sale Friday 20 November

Advertisement
Advertisement