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RETRO CHART 1983: Karma-justice gives Culture Club biggest seller of year

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A colourful Boy George in the video for ‘Karma Chameleon’.

A colourful Boy George in the video for ‘Karma Chameleon’.

‘Karma Chameleon’ is among the UK’s best selling singles of all time.

‘Karma Chameleon’ is among the UK’s best selling singles of all time.

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A colourful Boy George in the video for ‘Karma Chameleon’.

1 Karma Chameleon Culture Club

2 They Don’t Know Tracey Ullman

3 New Song Howard Jones

4 All Night Long (All Night) Lionel Richie

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5 Dear Prudence Siouxsie and the Banshees

6 (Hey You) The Rocksteady Crew Rocksteady Crew

7 In Your Eyes George Benson

8 Modern Love David Bowie

9 Superman (Gioca Jouer) Black Lace

10 Say Say Say Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson

‘Karma Chameleon’ was the UK’s biggest selling single of 1983, with British sales that year of almost a million. Since then it’s sold over five million copies globally.

The song was taken from the band’s second album ‘Colour By Numbers’, a ten-million seller that is to date their only album to top the UK charts.

The second Culture Club single to top the charts in the UK (after ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me’ in September 1982), Karma Chameleon was number one in many countries, including Ireland, Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands and South Africa. In early 1984 it spent three weeks at the top of the US Billboard Hot 100. It is the band’s only US number one.

With sales to date of more than 1.5 million, ‘Karma Chameleon’ is the 38th biggest-selling single of all time in the UK. It won Best British Single at the 1984 Brit awards.

Culture Club frontman Boy George has said that the song is about “the terrible fear of alienation that people have, the fear of standing up for one thing”.

“It’s about trying to suck up to everybody. Basically, if you aren’t true, if you don’t act like you feel, then you get Karma-justice, that’s nature’s way of paying you back.”

Boy George wrote the song while on holiday in Egypt and The other members of Culture Club weren’t interested in recording it at first, as they felt it sounded like a country and western number.

Boy George’s difficult relationship with the group’s drummer Jon Moss was the inspiration for the lyric “You’re my lover, not my rival”.

The song’s distinctive harmonica part was played by Liverpudlian Judd Lander, a prolific session musician who was a member of Merseybeat group The Hideaways in the 1960s. They hold the record for the most performances at the famous Cavern, surpassing The Beatles.

Culture Club were accused of plagiarism on ‘Karma Chameleon’ by the writers of ‘Handy Man’, a 1960 hit for Jimmy Jones, but Culture Club rejected the claims. Boy George said: “I might have heard it once, but it was certainly not something I sat down and copied. We gave them ten pence and an apple.”


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