Monday, June 19, 2017

"The War Song" by Culture Club

Song#:  2075
Date:  10/06/1984
Debut:  56
Peak:  17
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  With two hit albums, six Top 10 hits, and a Grammy, Culture Club was a phenomenon of the times. But it didn't come without a price. There was turmoil within the group, Boy George's growing drug habit, and after a grueling tour in support of their 4x platinum album Colour By Numbers, their label was hounding them for new material to sell. The band reluctantly went in the studio and emerged with their third album Waking Up with the House on Fire. This first single got things started and in their UK homeland it was another hit getting to #2. Other countries around the world also pushed the track into their respective Top 10's, but the tune didn't quite mesh with US listeners and it faltered just inside the Pop Top 20. It would do better at Dance where it reached #7. After the album was released, it could only get to a lackluster #26. Although it would go platinum, it was seen as a commercial disappointment following Colour By Numbers. It was an unfortunate sign that perhaps their best days had come and gone.

ReduxReview:  I remember being highly disappointed with the reaction to Waking Up with the House on Fire and this song. True, the album was not nearly as good as Colour, but I thought it had some nice moments. For something they were kind of forced to push out, the results were respectable. But critics ripped it apart and those who were into Boy George for a minute moved on to the next artist-of-the-moment and Culture Club was kind of left in the lurch unable to really prove themselves as long-lasting artists. It was all unfortunate. This song probably wasn't the best one to release in the US. I'm sure it played well overseas, but for those wanting another dose of "Karma Chameleon," they were not going to get it here. Plus, I think some folks were even turned off by the chorus of "war is stupid and people are stupid." People wanted the fun Boy George, not one that issues a kind of protest song. Regardless, I always like the tune. My guess is that if it had different lyrics, it might have done better. Who knows. Perhaps US folks were just over the whole Culture Club phenomena. I wasn't. I saw them in concert supporting this LP and they were really great. I still have the big souvenir program from the show.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Due to their work with background singer Helen Terry on their Colours album, a lot of folks thought that the wailing vocal done on this song was Terry. However, it was not. The vocal passage was done by singer Claire Torry. Torry got work as a session singer in the early 70s and also served as a touring background vocalist for several artists. Her biggest claim to fame came in 1972 when engineer Alan Parsons tapped her to do some vocal work on a Pink Floyd session. With no words or melody to really follow, Torry riffed above the song "The Great Gig in the Sky." That tune would be a part of the landmark 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon. For her improvisational work, Torry was paid the standard wage for the day (around $30 at the time). Years later in 2004, Torry ended up suing Pink Floyd for royalties for her work. Since her contribution to the song was basically the melody, she thought a writing credit was in order. The courts agreed and a settlement was reached. Further pressings of the album now have her listed as co-writer.


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