Lost in the ’80s: Culture Club, “Mistake No. 3″

lit80s

It must have sucked to be a non-Boy George member of Culture Club.  Well, except for Jon Moss, who was actually sucking a member of Culture Club.  Okay, cheap shot.  But seriously, here you are, finally realizing your dreams of being in a hugely popular rock band and, to paraphrase Roy Hay in the group’s Behind the Music special, you’re stuck in the middle of a gay soap opera.

Besides the lead singer and drummer having screaming fits in hotel hallways, you’d also have to deal with the pressure of your label demanding a third album of original material in as many years.  And to top it all off, your singer and visual focal point of the band has become a raging coke head.  Is it any wonder your third album was a comparative failure to the first two?

Culture Club’s Waking up with the House on Fire was aptly named, since the band was in a shambling mess of an emergency.  After their first two multi-platinum smashes and several hit singles, expectations were extremely high for the third and the only place to go was down.  The album’s first single really set the tone, as “The War Song” was a simplistic, jingoistic, embarrassing attempt by Boy to be political.  “War, war is stupid” – shock!  Thanks to the chart momentum from the last two years, it still made the Top 20.

While the U.K. and other territories got “The Medal Song” as the album’s second single, Epic made the wise choice of picking “Mistake No. 3″ (download) to be the follow-up single in the States.  I’ve read that the song was about Boy George warning young couples against marriage, that being the titular mistake number three.  I’m not quite sure what the first two mistakes are supposed to be.  Shagging your drummer and snorting coke, perhaps?

Speaking of Bolivian marching powder, check out the video, featuring Boy George as the huge bride on an even huger wedding cake:

Despite a desperately raspy vocal from George, which actually helped rather than hinder the song, the single barely scraped the Top 40 and Waking up with the House on Fire died a swift death.  Culture Club made a comeback of sorts in 1986 with “Move Away,” then split for quite a while before reuniting twice since.  These days, when he’s not chaining escorts to his bedroom wall, Boy George is a tremendously popular club DJ and rampant Tweeter.

“Mistake No. 3″ peaked at #33 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and at #61 on the Hot R&B Singles Chart in 1984.

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  • jamesballenger

    Only because I grew up on them do I defend the War Song. I mean c'mon with the chick going off like she's singing that Great Gig in the Sky towards the end? That is a great catchy little tune.

  • JohnHughes

    Melody-wise, I don't mind “The War Song” at all – especially the “can't do that to me, no” bridge. But lyrically … ye gods.

  • Confuzzled

    I'm a “War Song” fan, too. Well, maybe not a fan, but I have fond enough memories of the song. It's kind of harsh to rag on it as being simplistic after Culture Club burst out of the gates with “I'll Tumble 4 Ya”–which is catchy, but not exactly brain trust material.

    Jingoism is a word usually reserved for aggressive, warlike patriot stances. “The War Song” is totally pacifist.

  • JohnHughes

    D'oh! And here I thought it referred to “jingles.” ;)

  • http://retro-remixes.blogspot.com deltablues2

    WUWTHOF definitely came out too soon. The group really needed to re-focus before doing another album. It's definitely a heavy-handed effort but it's actually got some decent material on it. It's not nearly the gutterball that people assume it is. Mistake No. 3 is really a nice little song with the usual bizarre lyrics. George's vocal is haunting and the song flows along nicely but sounds unique enough that you know it's Culture Club. Aside from War Song (yes, it's kind of bad), Mistake No. 3 is usually the only song from this album to ever turn up on hits collections.

    For anyone who skipped this album because of what they heard, I definitely recommend they give it a try. The first 3 CC albums have been remastered and re-released with bonus tracks and sound glorious.

  • felicity4771

    He’s so hot. I wouldn’t mind being chained up by him…provided there was a safe word!

  • martymartymarty

    Whatever the reason – coke, blow jobs, fisticuffs – this album was just too … BLAND. Culture Club's first two albums showcased a wonderful versatility with a variety of musical styles done very well. This 3rd album not only felt like the rush job that it was, but abandoned those influences for some very forced material. “Hello Goodbye”, in particular, was abysmal.

    I think the desperate variety of Boy George's looks at this time indicate the overwhelmed state him and the band were in. He changed hair colors, make up styles, everything!, with each photo session and video. The complaint about Culture Club being “style over substance” could not have been more true at this point and the contents of this album just proved it even more so.

    I am a longtime fan, always will be, but this album is just weak and “Mistake No. 3″ is not all that much better. The video clip is fun, but again — it showcases the million directions they were all rushing into image-wise, in a seeming attempt to counter how dull the music was thanks to its being rushed out so quickly.

  • JohnHughes

    Total agreement and nice summation of what went wrong with this album!

  • JohnHughes

    Total agreement and nice summation of what went wrong with this album!

  • martymartymarty

    Whatever the reason – coke, blow jobs, fisticuffs – this album was just too … BLAND. Culture Club's first two albums showcased a wonderful versatility with a variety of musical styles done very well. This 3rd album not only felt like the rush job that it was, but abandoned those influences for some very forced material. “Hello Goodbye”, in particular, was abysmal.

    I think the desperate variety of Boy George's looks at this time indicate the overwhelmed state him and the band were in. He changed hair colors, make up styles, everything!, with each photo session and video. The complaint about Culture Club being “style over substance” could not have been more true at this point and the contents of this album just proved it even more so.

    I am a longtime fan, always will be, but this album is just weak and “Mistake No. 3″ is not all that much better. The video clip is fun, but again — it showcases the million directions they were all rushing into image-wise, in a seeming attempt to counter how dull the music was thanks to its being rushed out so quickly.

  • JohnHughes

    Total agreement and nice summation of what went wrong with this album!