Official Chart Flashback 1983: Culture Club – Karma Chameleon

Boy George and the gang’s biggest hit was Number 1 on the Official Singles Chart 34 years ago this week.

It is a time of eyeliner, layer upon layer of lippy and long lustrous hair – and that's just the boys. The year is 1983 and while pretty much everyone on Top of The Pops looked like they’d been covered in superglue and rolled around a charity shop floor, there was one shimmering beacon of style who outdid all the rest. Boy George, with his expertly made-up pretty, ragged dreadlocks and shabby chic style made sure all eyes were on him.

But it wasn’t a case of style over substance for Boy George and his band Culture Club – they had the toe-tapping tunes to match that eye-popping look. They’d already made headlines when their debut hit Do You Really Want To Hurt Me peaked at the top spot in September 1982, and enjoyed success with their first album Kissing To Be Clever, but it was Karma Chameleon that would cement their place in pop history.

MORE: View Culture Club's full Official Chart history

Watch the video for Karma Chameleon before we find out what Boy George really thinks of his monster hit.

When caught up with Boy George back in 2013 to talk about the track, he revealed the band didn’t see its potential at first.

“When I sang Karma Chameleon to the rest of the band for the first time, they just laughed at me,” he explained. “I wrote the melody pretty much all the way through in my head and I sang it to them back at Ray’s flat and they laughed at me.”

But it would be George who had the last laugh. Karma Chameleon shot to Number 1 in its second week in the Official Singles Chart and stayed there for a whopping six weeks. It became the biggest-selling single of 1983, selling 955,000 copies that year alone. Karma Chameleon also took away the Best Single BRIT Award for 1983 and Culture Club bagged the Best Group BRIT that year, before going on to win Best New Artist at the Grammys.

The track's parent album Colour By Numbers spent five weeks atop the Official Albums Chart, and Boy George's superstar status was assured – there was hardly a magazine cover those expertly painted lips didn't grace.

Despite Karma Chameleon being Boy George and Culture Club’s biggest hit and netting them an impressive awards haul, George still has mixed feelings about it. “Karma Chameleon is one of those songs nobody ever admits to buying," he told us. "I have fallen out of love with it a number of times.”

MORE: The UK's Official Chart 'millionaires' revealed

Karma Chameleon is still a staple of any wedding disco and has sold over 1.5 million copies in total in the UK. “Do I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written?” mused George. “No. But I’m very proud of it.”

Karma Chameleon would be Culture Club's last Number 1. The group would go on to have four more Top 20 hits in the '80s, before George's battle with drug addiction and group infighting led to them disbanding in 1986. George went on to solo success, taking his version of the much-covered Everything I Own to the top of the Official Singles Chart in 1987. He also founded dance group Jesus Loves You and became a bonafide superstar house DJ in the early 1990s, while in 2010 he collaborated with Mark Ronson on the exceptional Somebody To Love Me

Elsewhere in the Official Singles Chart that week in 1983, Culture Club knocked UB40's (also million-selling) Red Red Wine down to Number 2, and David Bowie landed his 20th Top 10 hit with Modern Love at 8 (it would go on to peak at Number 2). 

Further down, there were big climbers for New Order's Blue Monday and Unique's What I Got Is What You Need, while there Toyah's anthemic and futurist Rebel Run was new at Number 29.

View the full Top 100 Official Singles Chart from this week in 1983 

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