Here’s a rough-hewn picture of what Boy George is doing right now. He’s appearing in the London West End production of Taboo as the oversize performance artist Leigh Bowery. He’s just released a double CD compilation of dance music called Something Old, Something New. In July he will release a new acoustic album called You Can Never Be Too Straight. Another dance compilation album will find its way onto record store shelves by year’s end. And he’s looking at bringing Taboo to Australia in the nearish future, maybe coinciding with the Gay Games or Mardi Gras festival.
Pop star. DJ. Author. Notoriously loose-mouthed wit. Boy George is all of these things.
I’ve done everything, he tells me, rather tartly. It’s not a boast. He really has done everything.
He follows up this line with a quote, ?a Charlene, in a surprisingly crap singing voice: -¦ But I’ve never been to me. I forgive him for the coarseness of his interpretation immediately: he’s been late to bed recently, and up early on the day of our interview, dutifully plugging his new CD.
Something Old, Something New fuses highlights from the back catalogue of Boy George’s More Protein dance music label with some new delights. The Something Old selection harks back to a time (at least for this clapped-out old clubber) when dance music seemed less cheesy, more exciting. The choice cuts include Lippy Lou’s Liberation and Ezee Possee’s Everything Starts With An E.
[Something Old] is really just a way of explaining to people that this is something we’ve been doing for a long time, and it’s not something we started doing last week, George says. In the early days I avoided people knowing it was me behind [the music] because people, particularly in this country, are very bitter. Once you’ve had your go, if you don’t disappear they get very upset. They say, -˜You’ve already been famous. Fuck off.’
Pop star fame isn’t dissimilar to DJ fame, George reckons, although there are fewer groupies these days. (There isn’t much time to pick people up when you’re playing records, he says). But the critics can be just as savage.
If I took notice of everything that has been written about me over the past 20 years I would never leave the house, he says. I think the worst thing that was ever written about me was, -˜There’s nothing worse than a living ex-junkie.’ If I can weather that kind of statement I can pretty much weather anything.
I ask him how he reacted when he read that quote for the first time.
I just thought the person who wrote it was a cunt.
Of course. George himself has been known for his acerbic wit and memorable put-downs of fellow pop stars over the years.
I normally comment on what people are doing socially and politically, he argues. I slagged off Elton John for duetting with Eminem and I stand by everything I said. [Elton] was legitimising what Eminem was saying, and as a gay man I think he has a responsibility not to do that.
George admits he is just as forthcoming in his personal life, and his dirt- dishing 1995 biography Take It Like A Man threw barbs at a number of his ex-lovers, including Culture Club mainstay Jon Moss. Apparently, Moss dismissed the stories in the book (which he re-named Fake It Like A Ham) but the two were evidently mates once again when Culture Club toured Australia in 2000.
I’ve no kind of gripe with Jon, but when you’re sitting at a table with 20 people and someone you’ve had a relationship with for six years turns around and says, -˜I’m completely, 100 percent heterosexual,’ it’s hard not to find that highly amusing, if not insulting, George says, before adopting a slightly gruff tone: Well, you weren’t when you were sucking my dick!
In more recent times, George has wrangled with Madonna in the English press. A lyric in Taboo, penned by George, which poked fun at Mrs Ritchie was pulled from the show.
We did a pisstake of Vogue, which I thought was hysterical, he says matter-of-factly. We send everyone up in the show. I slag myself off. [George himself appears as a character.] There’s a line in which my character gets arrested and he says, -˜But I’ve already got a criminal record, it’s Karma Chameleon.’
Madonna seems to have taken less kindly to the Vogue pisstake. After some prodding, George recites a line: Ginger Rogers / Fred Astaire / That Madonna / Dyes her hair / They had style / They had grace / But they didn’t sit / On Sean Penn’s face, he sings.
Americans don’t have a sense of humour, it’s a well-known fact, he complains.
Taboo is George’s consuming passion at the moment, it would seem. But it hasn’t stopped his drive to achieve in other areas.
Next up is the release of You Can Never Be Too Straight, an unplugged re-recording of some of the tracks from his studio album Cheapness And Beauty, together with about six or seven new songs.
It’s very acoustic and it’s very queer. In fact listening to it may turn you homosexual. I think they may have to put a sticker on it, he jokes.
Then there’s the other project: stepping into the gargantuan shoes of Leigh Bowery, performing on stage while another actor, Euan Morton, plays the early 80s version of himself.
George has said that Morton plays Boy George so much better than I ever did.
He’s a lot younger and a lot less -˜lived-in’, so he’s bound to, isn’t he, George says. I mean, I’m 41 in a month. I couldn’t pass myself off as 19 even in my wildest dreams.
George’s first exposure to Bowery was as a star-struck club kid, venturing into Taboo, the club after which the show is named.
I remember being with Leigh on numerous occasions on the street when gangs of youths would approach us. You’d always think, -˜Oh my God, what’s going to happen now?’ But he was such an intimidating person. He was 6 foot 2 without heels, and he terrified people. He was an unknown commodity. He was so over the top, and so outrageous.
George says he is eager to bring the show to Bowery’s homeland.
We’ve had offers from Australia, and I would love to come out and do it there, he says. Leigh Bowery is more famous in England than he is Australia really, which I think is in itself a crime. One of your greatest treasures escaped. He was the greatest Australian ever. Print that!
Something Old, Something New is out now through Universal Music. The Star has five copies of the album to give away. To win, simply be one of the first five people to call 9380 5266 on Friday at 11am.