Sunday in front of the telly, Cloverdale, Western Australia, late 1982
I was 20 I reckon. I had moved out of home but it was Sunday and I was back for the weekly roast and an afternoon of cards, arguments and telling whoppers. Then it was The Winners on the telly followed by Countdown.
For some reason Dad was home in the late afternoon as well. His usual thing was the Sunday session at the Belmont Hotel, where he ruled the pool table. The family had grown up on the Sunday afternoon ABC-TV daily double of Australian rules football and pop music but Countdown had been losing its lustre for a few years.
Still, every so often it produced a surprise. This time it came in the form of Culture Club (or more particularly, Boy George) and their song, Do You Really Want to Hurt Me. Nothing had prepared me for this shock of the new. And I had already been knocked sideways a few years before by the Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen. (That song focussed my interest in music; every 14 year old needs a song or a band to do that.)
Culture Club were something different altogether. The Pistols shot the myth of music to pieces. Boy George drew you into a conversation about identity and sexuality and empathy that you didn’t even know was taking place.
So, my Dad and I sat watching transfixed by this androgynous, gender-bending boy-man as if we were looking at something from outer-space. A lilting reggae beat accompanied words so simple and eloquent. Boy George plaintively singing into the camera, ‘Do you really want to hurt me?’ seemed to coalesce every tangential thought and idea I had about respecting an individual’s sexuality in one idea.
At the end of the song I just wanted to hear it again and again. I was moved. I turned to Dad and as I did (I think he sensed my expectation) he laughed and said: ‘What sort of weirdos are they letting loose on the telly these days?’
I could barely comprehend how two people could experience the same moment so radically differently. We never talked about the song again. More’s the pity, because it is a song that should be discussed.
At the time the song’s theme was so challenging, which seems laughable now. I was challenged.
© Rick Kane. Rick is a regular contributor to our partner site The Footy Almanac, where he writes under the pseudonym of Trucker Slim.