206. Culture Club – ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?’ (1982)

“Give me time
To realise my crime
Let me love and steal
I have danced inside your eyes
How can I be real?”

Taken from the album Kissing To Be Clever

UK #1, AUS #1, US #2

Widely known as the first Culture Club single (although they had a few low-key releases before it), ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?’ was the world’s introduction to the voice of Boy George, his “outrageous” image and the skills of a little British band called Culture Club. Catchy yet sad, full of meaning and somehow still perfect for endless radio play, it has become a classic of the eighties.

I find the definitive version of ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?’ is the 1993 The Best Of Boy George & Culture Club… At Worst edit, which features a spoken intro from Malcolm McLaren: “Popularity breeds contempt”. Those three words speak so much about the rise and fall and possible rise of Boy George, and the song would become a theme for his career. The gospel intro gives the song a strange, classy atmosphere, and while the reggae beat kicks in, George never loses this feeling.

I go on and on about his voice but it really is spectacular, and this whole song relies almost entirely on his incredible, emotional performance. In comparison the other sonic elements of the song sound twee and ineffective, that’s how good the lyrics are and the way George expresses them. Paired with the engaging video, which featured “Boy George through the ages”, being rejected and shunned from a number of places for his appearance, and then thrown in jail, only to seemingly be saved by the music, ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?’ was a huge international hit and one of Culture Club’s signature songs.

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