Top Culture Club Songs of the '80s

As one of the most recognizable if short-lived superstar acts of the early '80s, Culture Club released some remarkably consistent soul-inflected pop that has stood the test of time. Led outlandishly by the stylishly androgynous Boy George, the band released two classic albums and racked up a number of deserving hit singles worldwide. Here's a chronological look at the best Culture Club songs from that impressive '80s catalogue. In the case of this group, chart performance provided an accurate reflection of song quality, as the group's uneven later work lacks the spark of its best-known early tracks.

01
of 08

"Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?"

Culture Club
Michael Putland/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A handful of U.K. music fans in 1982 may have been aware of the Boy George phenomenon. However, most folks - especially in America - squarely remember being introduced to Culture Club through this great song and its flashy, androgynous frontman in particular. It happens to be one of the most memorable and permanent tunes of the early '80s, built on a lovely, haunting melody and a plaintive vocal performance from George. The group's blend of R&B and pop sounded unlike anything else the new wave era had produced thus far, and that had as much to do with the song's status as international chart-topper as any reactive pop culture fascination. For a real treat, check out Violent Femmes' excellent cover of this tune, a truly weighty version of a classic.

02
of 08

"Time (Clock of the Heart)"

Culture Club released
Single Cover Image Courtesy of Virgin Records

For all his post-Culture Club antics over the years, Boy George immediately presented himself as a fresh and gifted songwriter and vocalist during the band's breakout years of 1982-1983. This track, another Top 10 international hit, anchored the American version of the group's smash debut, Kissing to Be Clever. It also makes a more than solid case for the position that so-called "disposable" music of the early '80s was sometimes too easily dismissed as such. This tune functions effectively as sweeping entertainment even if its glossy orchestration occasionally feels excessive. Luckily, George and Co. keep the hooks coming in a flurry of romantic pop that was perfect for radio. Still, it couldn't have hurt that George's look commanded attention.

03
of 08

"I'll Tumble 4 Ya"

British group Culture Club delivered a number of sunny '80s singles, including the ebullient
Single Cover Image Courtesy of Virgin

I was once on a university summer paint crew with a pair of colleagues who were surprise devotees of this track. And while it would be easy to dismiss their affection for the tune as an ironic form of novelty, there really is much to enjoy here. From the joyful introductory horn section to the infectious if silly chorus, the song generates sunny goodwill all the way around. Hence all the tumbling. Still, the centerpiece of this Top 10 North American hit (it didn't quite catch on in the group's native U.K., interestingly) undoubtedly stands as the fantastic verse melody that provides the listener with the sound and feel of some kind of island paradise. Danceable perhaps to a fault, this is '80s music at its optimistic peak.

04
of 08

"Church of the Poison Mind"

Culture Club's sophomore album, 1983's 'Colour By Numbers,' contained even more and bigger hit singles than its predecessor.
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Virgin

As the first single from Culture Club's sophomore release, 1983's Colour By Numbers, this tune performed quite well on the charts internationally, even though the massive if somewhat puzzling success of the next single, "Karma Chameleon," left it an overshadowed dark horse from the group's catalogue. Built on a bouncy Motown beat and a gifted, soulful lead vocal performance, this song follows the pattern in many ways of a namesake pop revivalist, George Michael, who was on the rise at just about the same time. Perhaps 1983 was the Year of Culture Club for a number of reasons only marginally related to music, but it's hard to deny the accessibility and songcraft displayed quite consistently to this point by Boy George and the rest of the quartet.

05
of 08

"Karma Chameleon"

Culture Club's
Single Cover Image Courtesy of Virgin

Only because of its frothy, ultimately forgettable chorus did I even consider briefly leaving this tune off the list, but once again I have to admit that Culture Club's prominent place on the international pop charts was largely earned. "I'm a man without conviction, I'm a man who doesn't know," sings George, riding the crest of a pure, uncanny sense of melody in the song's transcendent bridge. An image-centered act with a cross-dressing lead singer could scarcely avoid some backlash from its mainstream audience, but unfortunately one of the primary things I remember about this song is how some classmates enjoyed distorting its lyrics to besmirch George regarding his mysterious sexuality. It's not hard to say who wins on cleverness there.

06
of 08

"Victims"

Single Cover Image Courtesy of Virgin Records

As an American pop music listener of the early '80s, I completely missed out on the pleasures of this lovely piano ballad. A significant European hit - even reaching No. 3 in the U.K. - this track offers yet another quite different angle on the band's versatile sound. George's vocal takes center stage, but the melody's sense of depth all but proves that the songwriting and musical talent of this sometimes-dismissed band really deserved some serious acknowledgment. The great thing about Culture Club's work, particularly on its solid first two albums, is that there were few selections that could be characterized as throwaway tracks. Though some may still be reluctant to admit it, Culture Club remains one of the most important early-'80s acts.

07
of 08

"Miss Me Blind"

Culture Club continued its singles chart assault with
Single Cover Image Courtesy of Virgin

I don't see myself rushing to purchase a Culture Club retrospective after revisiting the group's catalogue for this list, but I'm certainly surprised to find myself appreciative of almost every one of the band's well-known tunes. Maybe I wasn't paying much attention as a pre-teen or had yet to embark on the evolution of my musical taste, but I truly expected to dredge up far more complaints than I have so far about Culture Club's legacy more than three decades later. Artistically speaking, this particular hit, a Top 5 American smash that maintained the group's momentum stateside, demonstrates that among its contemporaries, Culture Club was focused and consistent in churning out pop confections with far more substance than most of us realized.

08
of 08

"It's a Miracle"

The solid
Single Cover Image Courtesy of Virgin

By the time this 1984 single made its significant mark on the pop charts, Culture Club's peppy sound could have easily begun to suffer from a certain sameness in presentation. On the other hand, it's always important for musicians to understand what they do best, and there's no doubt that horn-inflected, celebratory pop ditties had clearly become the group's specialty. Though 1984 was certainly the year Culture Club's massive popularity would begin to wane, this track showed little evidence of a corresponding dip in song quality. Despite a tumultuous personal life that would only grow stranger, George had a real knack for writing thoughtful lyrics that complemented the group's melodic embrace of various pop music styles.

  • Dave Stewart (left) and Annie Lennox of Eurthymics perform live in Chicago in 1984.

    Hit-Making English Duo Eurythmics Delivered Moody, Eclectic Pop/Rock

  • Tears for Fears, from left: Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith.

    Top Tears for Fears Songs of the '80s

  • alabama-band.jpg

    Alabama Scored Often As One of the Few Major Country Bands of the '80s

  • The '80s lineup of English progressive rock group Yes featured shifting personnel and also delivered a more mainstream arena rock sound during the decade.

    '80s Version of Yes Generally Delivered Mainstream Arena Rock Songs

  • Terri Nunn of the group Berlin performs with guitarist David Diamond at the US Festival, Ontario, California, May 30, 1983.

    Berlin Had the Appeal of Frontwoman Terri Nunn and Some Great Songs

  • Whitesnake in concert

    8 Top Whitesnake Songs From the 80s

  • INXS

    Best Songs of '80s Australian New Wave and Mainstream Rock Band INXS

  • English synth pop group The Human League performs live in late 1981.

    The Human League Gifted '80s Music with Plenty of Luxurious Pop

  • David Byrne, front man for the Talking Heads

    This Must Be the Place for the Best Talking Heads Songs of the '80s

  • Led memorably by distinctive frontman Robert Smith (center), English alternative band The Cure performs live during the early '90s.

    The Cure Served as a Sonic Salve for Many Fans of Underground '80s Music

  • Kevin Cronin and Gary Richrath of the American rock band REO Speedwagon perform in Boston during summer of 1981.

    REO Speedwagon's Best Songs of the '80s Merged Stadium Rock & Pure Pop

  • Spandau Ballet

    The 8 Top Spandau Ballet Hits From the '80s

  • Adam Ant in 1981

    Top 8 of the 80s: Hit Songs by Adam Ant

  • Michael Jackson

    Top Michael Jackson Songs of the '80s, Part 2

  • Australian rock group Men at Work - portrait circa 1983 in New York City.

    Australian Band Men at Work Banged Out Hit Songs in a Brief Career

  • Best Dokken Songs Prove L.A. Outfit Was One of Finest '80s Bands