Jan 15, 2015

Culture Club: From Hinting "We're Gay!" to Yelling "We're Straight"

In 1982, the conservative retrenchment had not quite set in yet, and hinting that you might be gay marked you as naughty, scandalous, and cool.  So the Culture Club pretended.

Lead singer Boy George was actually gay, and drummer Jon Moss (left) was bisexual.  The other band members, Mikey Craig (below) and Roy Hay, were heterosexual.  But they all had fun inviting speculation, giving coy answers to inquiries, and recording songs that dropped the "girl! girl! girl!" refrains in favor of hints and signals.

Some of their songs treated sexual identity as a choice.  You could decide to be straight today and gay tomorrow, why not?

"Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" (1982)
In my heart, the fire's burning
Choose my color, find a star.

Sometimes "gay" and "straight" were just labels, unable to capture the fluidity of desire.

"Karma Chameleon" (1983)
I'm a man without conviction,
I'm a man who doesn't know how to sell a contradiction.

But by 1984, the era of Ronald Reagan and Rambo and Real Men Don't Eat Quiche and Brave New World, only heterosexuals were welcome. Homophobia skyrocketed.  At first Culture Club rebelled:

"The War Song" (1984)
Now we're fighting in our hearts, fighting in the streets
Won't somebody help me
Man is far behind in the search for something new
Like a Philistine, we're burning witches too.

Then they gave up and started yelling, loudly, that they were just kidding, they had been heterosexual all along:

"God, Thank You Woman" (1986)
Woman, thank you, thank you.
God, thank you, woman.
Woman, you're so sweet, I would give my heart to you.
There's nothing I wouldn't do.

Then they went away.

Boy George waited until 1995, when the conservative retrenchment was over, to reveal that he was, in fact, gay.

See also: Subtext Songs of the 1980s; The Village People