Boy George & George Michael duet
THEY were the two Georges who dominated pop music in the '80s.
Boy George and George Michael enjoyed a friendly rivalry that came with the occasional barb.
When Boy George Tweeted recently about an 'unreleased' new George Michael song many felt he was taking shots at a man no longer around to defend himself.
"The song's not a new song. It's an old song," Boy George says of Fantasy, which was an old track re-recorded by Nile Rodgers to promote the Listen Without Prejudice reissue.
"My point was would have he wanted it out? Prince never wanted his songs on You Tube or Spotify now they're all over both of them. I think that's a good thing. I always used to go on You Tube looking for Prince songs and they weren't on there.
"The point I made was it's amazing George is being celebrated. I quite liked seeing Wham Rap in that new H & M commercial, it made me smile, but I did think what would he say if he was around? But I'm an artist. Rather than criticising, I'm asking how he would feel? I think that's a very valuable question. Why do people think I was slamming him? I was a massive fan. That's why I wonder what he'd think."
Boy George admits he recently found out just how little control he has over his own music due to archaic contracts signed in the '80s, leading to Culture Club hits being used on TV ads without his approval.
"Look perhaps the George Michael thing was some projection on my part," Boy George admits.
"The problem with Twitter and the internet is you cannot have a rounded conversation with anyone about anything. Everything gets misconstrued. But we have to acknowledge the fact George Michael was a perfectionist."
Boy George had first-hand information on this - there's a duet called Freedom between the two Georges in the vaults.
It's not George Michael's Freedom, rather a studio version of a Boy George song called Freedom , from his 1987 solo album Sold, which they'd performed at an AIDS charity show that year then went in a studio to record as a duet.
"We sang it together in the studio but he wasn't happy with it, so it was never ever released," Boy George says. "I know what he was like. It's one of the things I admired about him. I always imagined him in the laboratory with a white coat - his vocals, the production, the harmonies, they were so perfectly executed. Maybe that song is lying around somewhere, unless he wiped it!"
There is new music coming from Boy George - he recently signed a solo deal with BMG, the label that's also signed Kylie Minogue, Blondie as well as a little band called Culture Club.
Culture Club are expected to rework the Tribes album they almost released last year, with new material already being aired on the road including a song called Resting Bitch Face.
Boy George says the lyrics are about him learning - through age - to stop over-analysing.
"I used to be very jealous, kind of obsessive in relationships. Not only personal relationships but working ones. I always wanted to control everything. I definitely do that less. Even down to times where I might look at the band and think 'Oh god what are you wearing?' but I just butt out, it's not my business. If you ask me I will tell you.
"Sometimes there's just no point. Back in the day I would have been saying 'You can't wear that' and make it a big thing. Now I'm more easy going. Not in my head, I still have opinions, but it's about choosing your battles. The song is laughing at that behaviour. It never makes your life better."
His first solo album for BMG will be the covers album he's almost made twice in his career.
"I've always wanted to do my version of Bowie's covers album Pin Ups," he says. While he's been covering '80s hits like Sweet Dreams and Tainted Love live, he's planning to find more obscure tracks for his record.
"I'm looking at bands like Fever Ray. Like when I did The Crying Game, I want to find songs that are brilliant but no one knows them. That's the trick."
There will, naturally, be a David Bowie cover - but possibly a recent one.
"I have my eye on Where Are We Now, the first Bowie record to make me cry. I thought he'd retired when that song came out. A friend rang me at 3am to say 'There's a new Bowie song!' This is how Bowie fans are. I woke up and got on iTunes and it really hit me emotionally. For me, that song and Blackstar were the most emotional things he did."
Culture Club are a relatively drama-free affair these days, with George suggesting it may be due to the fact he has a personal manager (Paul Kemsley, whose wife Dorit is one of the cast of The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills) and the band have their own separate manager.
"It's something I would have laughed about 20 years ago, the idea of having more than one manager, you're like Fleetwood Mac. But to be honest when this all started (again) I tried several times to have one manager for the band. (Different managers) turned out to be the best thing ever. Not that we really argue anymore, but if a situation arises I can just say 'Get our managers to talk'.
"It's not impersonal, it allows us to be friends. Things can be resolved between the two managers, so it's a bit more civilised. You'd think it'd be the biggest nightmare but it's surprisingly easy for me. My manager is a proper diva, but he's very sensible when it comes to business. He can be a bit Elton John about certain things on the rider, but when it comes to business decisions he's black and white and I love that."
George keeps pushing the boundaries with Culture Club shows, trying to get different songs in the setlist so it's not purely a night of nostalgia.
"I do so many other things. If I look at some of my contemporaries some of them are still doing the same thing. When I got out on the road with Culture Club I'm not trying to be who I was in 1984 or 2001. I'm quite aware of who am I now. I don't want to make it exactly like it was.
"I'm the one who's always trying to add new things in, let's try this. Even making the last record I was the one saying 'Let's go more rock, don't be scared of guitars'. You have to make it fun for yourself. I've always had a massive understanding of what the audience want, you slip things in. Same as when you're DJing, play things people know and slip some other stuff in. It's a balance so people don't get bored and disappointed."
Boy George does get a few of his solo songs in the Culture Club shows, but he's keen to get his 1991 hit Bow Down Mister included.
"I'd love to do it, it's a crowd-pleaser and from a spiritual point of view it's a good song to do because it makes people happy. Back in the day people were hostile about that song. But it resonates - people sing 'hare krishna' without being scared they're being lured into some cult!"
As well as promoting the pleasures of kimchi and kombucha on Twitter amid an endless string of happy birthday messages to followers, George is a practicising Buddhist.
"I don't go around saying I'm spiritual but I'm trying to be. I'm trying to be the best version of myself that I can be at the time. You grow into yourself if you're lucky. You become who you were meant to be. At this point I quite like who I am. I like my own company. That's the test. I like to be alone. If you can't be alone that says a lot about you. I like people, I'm always around people, but I'm comfortable going home, shutting the door and being by myself."
Culture Club, with Thompson Twins' Tom Bailey, Eurogliders, Hoseah Partsch. Rod Laver Arena, November 30, ICC Sydney December 1, Brisbane Entertainment Centre December 2, Newcastle Entertainment Centre December 3, Wollongong Entertainment Centre December 5, AIS Canberra December 6, Adelaide Entertainment Centre December 7, Perth Arena December 9 (Perth show features The Human League, not Eurogliders).