[18] Boy George, ‘King Of Everything’

2013-boy-george

They all came back, David Bowie, Justin Timberlake, Adam Ant, Boy George, all these pretty things who still had something to say. Boy George’s This Is What I Do shared qualities with Dion’s Born To Be With You – shooting for redemption, cleaning up the old act – just with rather more sunshine reggae interludes. In King Of Everything (“Put down the booze/Let the demons win the fight/I drop my gloves to the ground”, “Tempting myself time and time again/Like self-destruction was so cool”), George was contrite but bombastic, with a tingler of a bridge and a gloriously lived-in voice to lift the song out of the Oasis swamp.

Some people don’t think he managed that. “It’s a bit slow and drooping,” says Junior. But surely that’s its stately power? Junior 2 shakes her head. Junior 3 has fallen asleep.

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[8] Roxy Music, ‘Virginia Plain’

Roxy Music

They say there was playground uproar when Bowie appeared on Top Of The Pops, singing ‘Starman’ and snogging Mick Ronson. And obviously our nation was cramped with confusion at Boy George a decade later. So how did the public react when presented with preening peacock Bryan Ferry? Without bothering to research it, we can only guess: “Why’s Mike Yarwood doing Prince Charles doing Liberace?”

Obviously they all looked so staggering on TOTP that I’m thinking of dressing like Phil Manzanera right now, but the music was something else too. A runaway stallion of glam wrecks’n’effects, with a tune you can never quite nail because it’s always one second in the future.

Junior rolled the words “Roxy Music” around her tongue, trying them for size, then asked if she could dance. The dance involved a stiff-backed march around the room. You can just see those boys in the military, can’t you?

[2] The Human League, ‘Love Action (I Believe In Love)’

The Human League

Not a chart-topper like Oakey and Sulley’s “No, I’M in the driving seat” cocktail bar drama, but easily the most dense, intricate and balls-out inspired of Dare’s mega-hits, ‘Love Action’ is arguably (I’m arguing) the shimmering pinnacle of ‘80s synth-pop. How come? It’s packed to the rafters with electronic effects, boasts half a dozen different keyboard riffs – each digression as thrilling as the last – and there’s that beam-me-up ‘meoww’ sound at the start. All this, and it glories in a towering Big Phil rap that casts Lou Reed forever as “the old man”. And Susanne yelps “HARD times”, without sounding awkward for once.

Echoing her confusion at The Man Machine’s cover, Junior sees Phil’s slapped-up face on the front of Dare and asks, “Why’s he a she?” Lord knows what she’d have made of Boy George in autumn 1982. She and my old man could’ve exchanged unhip daddio jokes. The next puzzle is “Why’s he looking through a rectangle?”, and perhaps we’ll never know. Still, these obstacles negotiated, she pops her feet into her dad’s Converse and winds her body to the sci-fi disco.

This is Phil talking:

[8] Jesus Loves You, ‘Bow Down Mister’

Jesus Loves You

Part of Boy George’s 12-step programme, no doubt: “Create devotional dance group, throw in Hari Krishna references willy-nilly, rope Asha Bhosle in for authenticity – hey presto, you’re clean! At least for a bit.”

A ludicrous record, obviously, but so full of mad ideas and uplifting chords that you have to cherish it. I’d say the Jesus Loves You stuff was the big man’s most consistent work, and the More Protein label produced lots more good things besides. ‘Bow Down Mister’ is a ‘My Sweet Lord’ for the 90s, and God knows we all needed that, heathens that we were.

Forget raised temperatures, Junior’s hands are raised to the Lord. The rest of the time she peers around the laptop screen to smile at her dad, who’s grateful for the chance to bunk work. Sorry, work from home.

[All my vinyl rips seem to have corrupted; Top 11 mp3s to follow… later]

[1] Wham!, ‘Freedom’

We’ve established that I was a low-key Duranie. Revisionist history always has it that pop from ’82 to ’84 was all about Duran Duran vs Spandau Ballet*. Rubbish. The world was fought over by Duran Duran and Culture Club. As a consequence I hated Culture Club, even though these days I can listen to one or two singles and always enjoy a crass and bitchy Boy George innuendo.

‘Freedom’ killed Culture Club. There was a blaze of publicity for CC’s return, but ‘The War Song’, released the same week as ‘Freedom’, just couldn’t cope with Wham!’s sales juggernaut and was pulverised**. A swift fall down the chart was assured, and next single ‘The Medal Song’ peaked at No.32. Disastrous.

This is No.1 for other reasons, naturally. It’s a perfect pop Motown pastiche, for one, and the guitars and horns go mad at the end, for another. It was all very easy for George. Time after time, he was releasing vinyl joy.

Junior got into the record by standing on her dad’s lap, clapping and trying to eat his hands. By the last chorus, she was trying to eat her own feet. We’d reached the edge of elevenses.

*Spandau Ballet were irredeemably awful. No exception. Ok, except maybe that winningly hackneyed saxophone solo in ‘True’, weirdly.

**It’s incidental that ‘The War Song’ was useless anyway.

[14] Pointer Sisters, ‘Automatic’

I’d seen enough of Boy George and Marilyn by 1984 to recognise a man in drag. Imagine my surprise when this lot turned out to be genuine sisters, albeit with fierce looks and a vocal range to embarrass Rula Lenska.

The song has dated but it’s still a stirring mix of Chic, electro and Jam & Lewis, as if it passes the baton from disco to modern r’n’b. The delivery is robotic, the lyrics listing the mechanics of lust; if they’d kept the fourth member, they could’ve been the Barbies to Kraftwerk’s Kens.

There’d been a Valentine’s Day airing of Will Young’s ‘All Time Love’, but this was the first record today that had Junior beating the sides of the inflatable. She likes a faster tempo, and she can empathise with pushing “a stream of absurdities” from one’s lips. She’s definitely saying “Dada”, though.

Band Aid/Band Aid 20, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’

As a globally conscious 12-year-old, I spent my hard-won cash on the single like millions of others. I was struck by how much one of the Ethiopian children on the cover looked like Bob Geldof. Yesterday morning, Junior was subjected to the original and the recent remake – she was lucky that I couldn’t find the awful Stock Aitken Waterman version, or I would’ve carried out my threat to play one a day ‘til Christmas.

I’m one of the few who admits to liking the 1984 song. I’m one of the even fewer who can see value in 2004’s edition. I like Thom Yorke’s piano. The Darkness guitars are dreadful, though, and it goes on way too long. Also, don’t we get proper heavyweight pop stars any more? There’s hardly anyone on the later record to compete in terms of fame, glamour, ego and interest with the likes of Simon Le Bon, George Michael, Boy George, even Sting. I bet Status Quo weren’t plying Will Young and Jamelia with Class A drugs.

Junior can’t see what any of the fuss is about. She manages to laugh near the Dizzee Rascal bit, and I can see her wondering who Glenn Gregory is. Or was.