Released today in 1983: Karma Chameleon

Virgin VS612

Virgin VS612

One of the great singles of the 1980s, Karma Chameleon was #1 for six weeks in 1983, during which time it earned Culture Club a platinum disc for sales of over a million copies – making it the biggest selling single of 1983, and the highest selling single of the decade to that point. Little wonder it won ‘best single’ at the following year’s BPI Awards. With an urgent rhythm, a distinctive harmonica solo from veteran session player Judd Lander, witty lyrics (“You come and go” being one of the best lines on a pop song in the 80s), Boy George on top form, and a memorable music video set aboard a Mississippi paddle steamer, it was Culture Club’s finest moment. “The song is about the terrible fear of alienation that people have, the fear of standing up for one thing,” George later said about the track. “It’s about trying to suck up to everybody. Basically, if you aren’t true, if you don’t act like you feel, then you get Karma-justice, that’s nature’s way of paying you back.” Much later he confirmed it was another of his lyrics directed at Jon Moss and the part-time nature of their affair.

“Three minor problems as regards this one,” wrote a cautious Tom Hibbert in Smash Hits when the single was released. “1) The tempo is much speedier than our Boy is used to: being almost as bad a dancer as Jay of Bucks Fizz, how’s he going to cope when he does it on telly? 2) The mouth organ player (on the run from countless Western soundtracks) seems to be getting in the way rather a lot. 3) The use of ‘karma’ in the title; the last popular singer to use this word was The Beatles’ George Harrison who turned ‘odd’ soon afterwards. Otherwise, it’s fine – the irresistible chirpiness and George’s (as always) assured vocal performance make this a good record.” His needn’t have been so reticent, as the single went on to #1 in several more countries, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Holland, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States: their only US #1.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Sep. 5
1980
MADNESS Baggy Trousers (Stiff BUY84)
The TEARDROP EXPLODES (Julian Cope) When I Dream (Mercury TEAR1)
1983
CULTURE CLUB Karma Chameleon (Virgin VS612)
KAJAGOOGOO Big Apple (EMI EMI5423)
PULIC IMAGE LIMITED (John Lydon) This Is Not A Love Song (Virgin VS529)
1986
BIG COUNTRY (Stuart Adamson) One Great Thing (Mercury BIGC3)
1988
The ASSOCIATES Heart Of Glass (WEA YZ310)
BROS I Quit (CBS ATOM5)
FIVE STAR There’s A Brand New World (Tent PB42235)
SOUL II SOUL (Jazzie B) Feel Free (10 Records TEN239)

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