wed 25/04/2018

Boy George and Culture Club: From Karma to Calamity, BBC Four | reviews, news & interviews

Boy George and Culture Club: From Karma to Calamity, BBC Four

Boy George and Culture Club: From Karma to Calamity, BBC Four

The return of Eighties pop giants would be a sure-fire hit, if only they could nail the harmony

Culture Club: Crashing the tour bus down memory lane

The title signalled what was coming so clearly, it may as well have been called When Bands End Badly: the two camps, the arguments and sniping and the eventual collapse of Culture Club’s US and UK tour to promote an album of new material. It’s hardly a surprise though – this is a band that, history shows, would have benefitted from the visible presence of an armed UN peacekeeping force.

What is surprising is the way in which Boy George appears to be cast (by the rest of the band at least, if not explicitly the filmmakers) as the architect of this collapse: a sort of Fred Dibnah to the band’s towering reputation – albeit one in a much more extravagant hat. He really wasn’t though – professionalism, ambition and a desire to stop trading on past glories are only destructive traits if you’re on the kind of misty-eyed, retro circuit that go hand-in-hand with provincial Arndale Centres and fly-on-the-wall docum… Ah, right. We’re getting ahead of ourselves, let’s retrace for a second. 

Bassist Mikey Craig seems to be channeling Derek Smalls’s Spinal Tap role of lukewarm water

After the preamble potted history of the band (150 million sales, very public implosion etc), the programme began with the members meeting up at Boy George’s house to begin writing a new album. The singer and DJ has been a fairly constant fixture in the public eye over the years, so he’s, y’know, just George. First of the others to arrive was songwriter Roy Hay (Grange Hill’s Stewpot Stewart) followed by Mikey Craig (Dorian Gray) and George’s former partner Jon Moss (played brilliantly here by Tracey Emin). The next few scenes were fascinating and highlighted the dynamics that, one suspects, have changed little from the band’s heyday.

There was the good-natured and reasonably respectful jostling for position between creative leads George and Roy; the calming nature of bassist Mikey Craig (who seems to be channeling Derek Smalls's Spinal Tap role of luke-warm water for much of proceedings); and then we had the bitchy bickering and pointed potshots between George and Jon. Understandably, their relationship came under a great deal of scrutiny here and it’s clear that the band’s unfinished business isn’t just musical. Interesting though this could have been, it did seem to obfuscate the real issue, which lay very much in the present…

There were telling scenes as the band moved their operations to Spain to record an album and, effectively, lay the foundations to ensure it is never released. George, ever the professional, was there to do business, while the others, you got the sense, were happy for the excuse of a jolly. It all got too much during a photoshoot (pictured below) when a clearly uncomfortable Jon seemed intent on not taking it seriously and George reached the end of an already short tether and left. It was a shame, not to mention self-defeating, as the action drew focus and left the drummer’s childish petulance unchallenged.

The tensions continued to simmer throughout despite some genuine warmth and affection, but after management issues, medical conditions and differing goals were thrown into the pot, the whole thing inevitably boiled over and put out the flame that had ignited it in the first place. It was immensely frustrating to watch, particularly as what we heard of the new songs sounded better than anything they’ve done since Colour By Numbers.

There was a commendable lightness of touch to the direction – a stepping back to let the subjects fill the space – that ended up with a film about Culture Club, but, just as importantly, a fascinating study of group behaviour. Mikey, Roy and Jon clearly formed a close bond, while George, almost willingly, sat outside of the proceedings.

The problem was that, while others clearly thought George was being a flouncy prima donna, the two camps simply had different agendas. George’s seemed simple enough: to create a sustainable career for the band based on new material, to function in the present – to live in the moment. The others, despite the new songs, seemed resolutely stuck in the past. And that’s not a criticism that could ever be levelled at Boy George. While people may come away thinking that he doesn’t play well with others, at least he knows the game.

There was a commendable lightness of touch that let the subjects fill the space

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Comments

What a stupid review. There was nothing professional about how George acted. And to make Jon the whipping boy yet again. It's so wrong. Why is the media in love with Boy George and won't call him out on his mean vicious behavior ever? But it's always been this way with Culture Club. George is wonderful and Jon is to blame. Same old Same old.

this review (and description) is spot on!!

George does know the game. Jon is to blame. This time the media are correct.

Love Jon Moss! Without him there would never have been a Culture Club!

A poor review indeed. There is only one conclusion to be drawn from this Mike Nicholls-directed programme, and that is that Boy George and his newly appointed management must have been living in some alternative reality to allow it ever to be put out. Boy George comes out of it so badly that he may not be able to retrieve what is left of his singing career. The way he treats the other 3 is appalling throughout, and he is obviously determined to set himself apart from the outset, stating that, although they split royalties 25% each way in the early days, that was most definitely not going to be the case this time! He behaves like a bitchy diva throughout, and I'm just surprised that the other 3 stuck it out as long as they did. They don't have to suffer any more though, as Boy George and his management seem to have sabotaged both the record and tour, and that will surely be that for Culture Club. I for one will never buy a Boy George record again.

Thank,you I for one could not be happier that u will never buy BG. Music agine. More for me! With that said. I think u need to look back BG.put up with a lot of shit back in the day's. You said with out Jon Moss there wood be no band. With out BG. Singing none of them wood of done what they did. BG. Put up with a lot of shit! I said it then and I say it now. BG. Was and is a very talent'd Man! So let's say it like it is. They need too grow the hell up. Face it George got all that bull-shit! Then and now becouse he's Gay! You know it's true they could not handle it. Was and will all-way's be BG. Biggest fan. XxxxxxLOL! Too u BG. May your music never die.

I don't think George is like he was! 1, He got clean that a loan say ' 'S he's not how he was. He has changed. Look at it like this" Boss! Worker! George is a boss. The workers ! That's how life is. There wood have never been a band with out him" How ever this is what happen's when the boss go's to bed with the worker! Jon Moss, was with George for show. George I think he loved Jon , It did not work! So Jon, people felt sad for George when it did not work! . Fact Jon should have new how too milk it! George new how. [ Jon, Moss is the one that needs to let go of the past! If the band is going to work.

So is the whole thing over again??

I rather like George so I have no bias, but I felt he came across as a bit of a queeny nightmare in this programme. (Not necessarily a bad thing in a nightclub/at a party but not when trying to resurrect a music career). Of course TV documentaries are often edited carefully to skew stories a certain way, but the frustration of the band members was palpable and unmistakeable. It's sad all the old demons are still there and they couldn't make a go of things more maturely. George had a few hissy fits and no doubt knows his notoriety and higher status than his fellow band members means he has some "power" over them. It's interesting, and rather ironic, that I watched an older programme (circa 2001, via Iplayer) about New Romantics, where George talks about "emotional intelligence". Ahem.

God this review lives literally inside George's rectum! If George is for the here and now and creating a sustainable career why throw everything up in the air by employing new management in the middle of the process? Was George, 'ever the professional, there to do business' when he went off buying cherries or flew his photographer and make up designer in rather than be in the studio with the rest of the band? Was he ever the professional when he flounced away from a group dinner because he didn't like the topic of conversation (his past r'ship with Jon and its breakdown) around the table - a conversation HE started!?! Jon, Mikey and Roy had a night off when they went to the local pub to watch the football, that much is clear. If that's the sole evidence of them treating it like a jolly then your argument crumbles. What about the times George took off to do his Greta Garbo and be alone having coffee etc? They clearly each had their time off and each chose to use it differently. And yet, that said George DOES actually come across as level headed as he could possibly be in this and for the first time in years too. It is right that he shouldn't want the band to just trade of past glories, but he has to learn that the band is a four piece and not just The Boy George Show. If he wants them to have a future he has to include them in it and stop these mind games and prima donna fits.

I totally agree with everything you said. George has obviously spent too much time with his other band where he wore all the hats (no pun intended) I saw him twice last year on tour in the UK, and was amazed he was getting back with Culture Club to be honest. I have also noticed that some members from that band were also singing alon in Culture Club now!

Whilst it's a band and they have to work together, i'm totally with George, you don't have to spend every minute together. Its a job. And any job i've worked in, I haven't wanted to spend much time outside of it with them. Just do the necessary then out. I do feel there is something there not quite right with Jon that's causing tension. But anyhow, they all look blooming marvellous for their ages. Bring it on CC we're ready for ya!! PS. Why would the profits go 25% each? No way!! Big Up George!!

George has a lot riding on this comeback tour he just wants it to be perfect and for the rest of the band to take it seriously. He's changed in so many ways. As a long follower I will always support him through the bad and the good. He is a better man x

i loved the doc, good to see them all back together, I hope they can work through the drama and sort out the tour again, was looking forward to it. Too many managers /cooks spoil the pot/show! Boy George looks amazing, and seems in a good place, hope the throat probs have been sorted.

There's no culture club w/o Boy George. Boy George can survive; & has 4 many yrs now, w/o the Club. So to me (a die-hard George fan), it's more important that he's of sound mind and body. This whole "regrouping" thing doesn't seem 2 b good 4 him. So I will b more than happy 2 continue 2 see him w/o the old band. Sorry blokes.

Its honestly a joke now.. Anyone can see that Boy George has still not grown up. Yes, I feel sorry for the other band members. But think about the fans your messing about.. bought tickets..returned tickets. Album? no album. Get a grip.. its embarrassing.

Well, we watched it. I plan to watch it again! Unless it was the fault of editing, George came across as QUITE an "R. Sole". He seemed to constantly be overreacting to everything — especially Jon (even though what exactly Jon was actively doing or saying to rile George never seemed to be shown). George did seem interested in "getting the job done". Then again, he'd flounce off and leave everyone else to work & sort things out. Maybe that balances in the end? He's certainly not interested in getting a "co-produced by" credit, is he? Most importantly, the entire situation did not seem good for George. If he was happy & stable before this, just being with his three bandmates seem to send him reeling off-kilter (not to imply this was necessarily any fault of theirs). In what I've seen over the years, George is fine one-on-one with Roy. George is fine one-on-one with Mikey. George is even fine one-on-one with Jon. But the three of them together seems to set him off & stress him out — no matter how well things might be going at the time — there is a "them-against-me" mentality with George (real or imagined). I certainly hope it all gets sorted out, the tour happens and the album gets released. After all, I already paid for the album months ago!

The thing is, either you are a band or a singer and a comp group. If you are a band, it can't be based on the mood of the day of one person. One person can't decide what the photos should be like and if a person should wear their glasses or not. it can't only be one person who decided what songs to have. One person deciding what dinner conversations are allowed. There is no "I" in team. They need an objective team leader or manager that can lead the group cos as it is now it seems to be a lot of distruction. they are such nice boys all 4 of them.

Well the reviewer is as naïve as St Michael’s underwear, just citing that hand-me-down-figure of “150 million” sales. Which banker supplied that fantasy figure? Planet George is all about me, me, me without even enough calculated charm to woo anybody within 100 miles. O’Dowd comes across as an indelibly nasty piece of work, the band know it and after umpteen failed reunions over 20 years find themselves in another one doomed to plunge full fathom five. Who’d want to belong to a team where *three* managers and a primadonna (former) superstar can’t make the chemistry work? And invite a film crew in to witness the Titanic hit the iceberg? And fail to take out an injunction preventing the film’s broadcast? Thanks to this brilliant documentary, this band will never work again and rightly so. They are all twats.

Pretty sad. George seems to dislike and resent the others. He's on edge, ready for a fight. It's hard to believe that he is always this difficult and disruptive - his group of post-cc musicians has actually been very stable, even he has a string of incomplete projects behind him. As somebody said cc seem to bring out the worst in him. Such a shame, because the music we've heard sounds like a credit to all of them.

What a Nasty and Vile person George is, seems like he can chant all he wants but it does not change his negative energies or brings good energies to other people. I certainly would not want to be around him, and my interest has totally gone now from him and the group. He said, "come on guys we are taking this to the world's stage", hmmm didn't he realise his behaviour was also going on the world stage?

Longtime fans are aware of Georges self absorbed attitude. That hasn't changed in 30 yrs. And regardless of editing, we know he acted this way because it is on film. The thing is, whether he likes it or not; without Mikey, there would be no Culture Club. Mikey asked George to form a band, not the other way around. Without Roy's ablility to decipher his melodies to actual music, there would be no songs. Without Jon, he would have had no direction, no inspiration, and no sound business plan that has put him where he is. Without these three men he would just be some unknown hanging around London his whole life. Take away his musicians, old and new and he can't write or perform a song. So he needs to be a little more appreciative. The money should be divided equally for each because he doesn't write the music, and he doesn't play any instruments. He is a singer and lyricist only. Notice how he was on his phone while they were writing a song. Put the phone down and participate if you want to get paid. Just because you think you've finished "your part" doesn't mean you are done. Don't get me wrong, I have loved this band since 1982, and I still do. According to his previous interviews, I really thought George had become nicer and was having fun with the whole thing. I am distressed that I may not see them in concert ever again, or that my pre ordered CD may never get released.

Hear, hear

Is the writer a friend or an employee of the Boy?

Well the reviewer is as naïve as St Michael’s underwear, just citing that hand-me-down-figure of “150 million” sales. Which banker supplied that fantasy stat? As caught on camera, Planet George is all about me, me, me without even enough calculated charm to woo anybody within 100 miles. O’Dowd comes across as an indelibly nasty piece of work, the band know it and after umpteen failed reunions over 20 years find themselves in another one doomed to plunge full fathom five. Who’d want to belong to a team where *three* managers and a primadonna (former) superstar can’t make the chemistry work? And invite a film crew in to witness the Titanic hit the iceberg? And fail to take out an injunction preventing the film’s broadcast? Thanks to this brilliant documentary, this band will never work again and rightly so.

Love is what counts. And only ever what you all have to sing. Speaking from your Tribes, and raised well, I should say, "I am waiting...", as ever, for this Second Coming of a new CD. Release! And grow. You all really are better than this. And if not, I think that I am hearing a new tune. Much Love*

I found this documentary very interesting.What happens when you get individuals with very strong personalities .You get fireworks ! each person has a very different point of view . it's what makes working with other people fun and frustrating all at the same time.Its not the end of this group by any means. it's just another chapter in their story.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters