Culture Shock

Posted: September 17, 2013 by generationgbooks in Music
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 Culture-Club-Mystery-Boy-39944

A whole lot of good it would have done to post an image from Kissing To Be Clever, Culture Club’s debut album. It’s a pretty widely known and published image. This post is going to highlight my hunt for TWO different Culture Club vinyls that I was seeking. I had easily found Colour By Numbers on vinyl, in a bin at a garage sale in Justice, IL. I was with my mom and her friend Darlene, and I started screaming like a Republican on State Aid. Kissing to Be Clever drove me into weird and far-reaching locations in an attempt to locate it. Yes, I even went to the land of the end of time- Ohio. Mystery Boy, the rare B-side, was equally challenging in terms of hunting and obtaining. Even more fun? The fact that I hadn’t even heard the fucking song when I went gusto blusto trying to find it! The image above is the Japanese pressing of the single, backed with the easily forgettable and cloying instrumental known as Murder Rap Trap. Do yourself a favor, and don’t listen to it. Mystery Boy, yes. The B-side to that B-side? Pass. “Mystery Boy” was the song included on the Japanese pressing of Kissing To Be Clever, so the paths do entwine. 

Kissing To Be Clever haunted me for years. Namely because I kept buying the cassette, overplaying it, and weeping like a bereft Jedi when the cassette snapped. I’m not sure if it was because of the entire album, or if it was because I had to play “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” multiple times a day. The fact that this song tormented the hell out of my brother likely had more than a fair bit to do with that, but overall, Kissing To Be Clever was, and remains, a solid album from start to finish. Sure, I really do intently dislike “White Boys Can’t Control It”, but I can ignore not caring for one song if the other 8 are solid, and they are. I’ve already spoken of my deep and abiding love for The Boy. My obsession with “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” really drove my desire to own this album above and beyond my curiousity about the enigmatic Mr. O’Dowd and Co.  When I got the album on cassette for Christmas 1983 (best Christmas ever: I got KTBCColour, Prince’s 1999, and Bryan Adam’s Cuts Like A Knife on cassette. Still one of the best Christmases ever), I listened to it. Again and again and again. Colour By Numbers is solid start to finish also, but it was the newest hot thing…everyone, by this point, had moved on from the first album. I am a rabid fan and collector of debut records, and I think this, or Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, may have started that trend. I could not move on from that record. I am still obsessed with it now, although it sounds dated, with its poppy, emotionally wrung out melodies and the Boy’s blue eyed-soul. Sorry, I seem to have turned into a record reviewer for a moment there.

The first time I actively began looking for Kissing was in 1984. I scoured all the usual suspects, to no avail. I still question why it was so hard to find this album, when Culture Club were, at that point, doing a wildly successful world tour. Maybe it was Boy George’s Grammy Awards acceptance speech for Best New Artist that did it (“America, you know a great drag queen when you see one.”)? Maybe it was just “out of the public eye” because it was two years old. Unsure.  JR’s didn’t have it, Rose Records was just starting out, and they didn’t have it either. No one had it. I gave up on owning the vinyl for the time being. Flash forward 7 years to the entry of one Disco Chuck into my hemisphere. That dude dug records almost as much as I did. The record shows began, and I had no trouble locating Waking Up With The House On Fire, Culture Club’s subpar 1984 release, and I even found the hard to find and far better From Luxury To Heartache. That final album was the last gift from Biceps For Jesus before he had his mom ask for the engagement ring back. An appropriate title for an appropriate gift! Anyway, Disco Chuck was hugely responsible for my finding and procuring numerous Boy George/CC singles and vinyls, but even he had to call fatwa on this one. I gave up; if the combined forces of Disco C and Crisco G couldn’t locate it, it wasn’t meant to be mine. Flash forward to 2005. A Bibles A Zillion trip for District 10- we were off to the merry Republican wilderness of Dayton, Ohio. We were in a van that we rented and that Donna and Mary took turns driving. We had some free time when Books & Co wasn’t teaching us how to run a cafe that none of the Chicago market would ever see, and Donna and I found a record store. I hadn’t looked for the fucking album in years….for some reason, I did- and guess what? There it was. In perfect condition. In the middle of Dayton, Ohio. Again, it had to be Donna, because I found all kinds of awesome shit whenever she and I weren’t looking for stuff, and it happened again. I somehow managed to conceal it from my curious co-workers at the Books & Co, except for Donna, who loves Boy George and thought it was awesome.  But it was mine- at last! In Ohio. I still have it, in plastic. I did find a second copy that I bought at Beautiful Day Records in Lagrange, IL, right before it closed up shop, in 2010. I use that copy to play- the Dayton, Ohio, copy stays in the plastic. Because it’s symbolic of how hard it was to finally find it, and I didn’t want to muck it up. I love the album that much. 

The first awareness I had of Mystery Boy was reading about it being the song in a popular commercial for Suntory Whiskey, over in Japan. Then I promptly forgot about it, likely at the bottom of a bottle, ironically. Then my friend MIchael who owns Medazzaland Records in Seattle put up on his site that he had a rare VHS copy of a Boy George solo video compilation. Of course, since he was persona non grata in the US for many years due to that heroin problem, they never played his solo videos. I ordered it and at the end there were miscellaneous clips; including that Japanese commercial. It is brief, the snippet of the song, but I was intrigued. Especially hearing The Boy singing in Japanese. I wrote an email to Michael asking how hard it would be to obtain a vinyl single for that song, and the answer was not a resounding positive. I next tried Orbit Recordsan little place in Naperville that was good at getting their mitts on obscure vinyl and other items in the 90’s and most of the 2000’s (yes, it’s gone now). No dice. I tried the usual suspects, and came up empty. The owner of Beverly Records placed a special order for it for me, but after 3 months, they gave up as well. I let it go for awhile, but something about the unknown meant I became slightly unhinged in my attempts to obtain it. Finally, Heidi and I ended up going to the infamous Chicagoland Record Show at the Hillside Holiday Inn, and it was hiding. In the wrong place. Some idiot sphincter had shelved it with THE NKOTB. There it was, the Japanese pressing of it, backed with “Murder Rap Trap”They could have just marketed it with “Mystery Boy” and saved the ears of any poor soul who happened to hear the B-side. I paid a ridiculous amount of money, although it was well worth it to own that song. It’s only a little over 3 minutes, but it’s a truly catchy little ditty. Well worth the 14 years it took me to find it!

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