Sometimes Britain hounds and ogles its flawed celebrities, sometimes it wills their redemption, often a little of both. Boy George’s turn of fortune from Britain’s top pop export to Britain’s most famous junkie was sudden enough and sad enough to put him into the group of ‘troubled’ stars who still enjoyed some level of public warmth, enough at least to send a bad solo record to the top of the charts. “Everything I Own” is the number one as sympathy vote, spun at the time as a happy ending for George.
But even if you’d left Britain in 1983, spent a few years as a hermit in the desert and returned without the faintest notion that George O’Dowd had ever been near Class A drugs, one play of this would tell you that something had gone badly wrong. George’s voice was never exactly powerful but it had a lithe presence that often carried Culture Club’s music and when it needed to stretch – on the opening of “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me”, for instance – it could. On “Everything I Own” it’s strained and hollow, trailing away particularly at the end of lines, ragged on the high notes, hiding in the (utterly uninspired) arrangement.
To George’s credit he didn’t walk this mawkish path to recovery for long: he found new direction in the club scene, made records where he sounded genuinely enthused again, rediscovered himself as a DJ and even managed to give his pop incarnation a proper send-off with “The Crying Game”. But this is the last we see of him, a spectral presence on his own comeback record.