Culture Club released their most successful single, “Karma Chameleon,” in September 1983. The song topped both the U.K. Singles Chart and the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. It went to #1 in 14 other countries and sold over seven million copies worldwide. It was the best-selling single 0f 1983 in the U.K. and won Best British Single at the 1984 Brit Awards.
According to the Boy George, “Karma Chameleon” is about the cause and effect of not being true to oneself for fear of being ostracized by other people. Although the group wrote their songs together, Boy George often crafted their lyrics. A frequent source of inspiration was his secret relationship with drummer Jon Moss, who inspired the lyric “You’re my lover, not my rival.” The stress of the public/professional and personal/private relationship would eventually take its toll on both of them, as well as the band.
The picture of Boy George on the record sleeve was taken by photographer, David Levine, brother of Culture Club’s producer, Steven Levine.
Karma Chameleon [7″ Version] 3’59/4’05
Karma Chameleon [Album Version] 4’11
The music video for “Karma Chameleon” is set in Mississippi in 1870; however, it was actually filmed in Desborough Island in Southeast England. Boy George, in his iconic fingerless gloves, braids, and black derby, sings as he and others await to board a steamboat, Chameleon. Meanwhile, a genteel pickpocket moves through the crowd and steals jewelry and wallets. On the boat, he plays cards with the other band members of Culture Club. He is eventually found out and forced to walk the plank. The music video ends with everyone singing and dancing.
My fondest memory of “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club is my mom buying a copy of the Colour by Numbers album because she fell in love with the song. She used to play the album all the time on her big-ass Curtis Mathis entertainment center that took up a whole wall of our living room. She’d also watch every interview with Boy George that came on T.V. It seemed like the song was everywhere and it was insanely catchy. However, it’s one of those songs that was played so much, I rarely have the urge to listen to it.
What are your memories of “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club?