This post is part of my month-long "Blog of Tomorrow" celebration of the launch of Crushing Krisis's Patreon. Learn more or become a Patron today!
1983 was an obscenely good year of the music I love. Seriously, check out this list of releases at the top of my personal iTunes charts:
David Bowie – Let’s Dance, Billy Joel – An Innocent Man, Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual, Madonna s/t, The Police – Synchronicity, U2 – War, plus singles like “1999,” “Sweet Dreams,” and “Flashdance What A Feeling” – plus, the music video of “Thriller”!
(Sadly, they were all shut out at the Grammys by Thriller, which arrived on November 30, 1982, after the end of the 1982 Grammys eligibility period.)
How to choose? As much as my heart lies with Madonna when it comes to 1983, I’ve already done a lot of writing about her best songs. Cyndi Lauper’s album is an all-time classic, but I didn’t have ears for it until after I met Lindsay. I love the singles from An Innocent Man, but in 1983 we were still spinning Glass Houses.
After agonizing over the decision, I realize I was making the mistake of looking for songs that I love now, when really I should be searching my earliest memories for songs I loved then. And, after “Thriller,” the great love of my three-year-old life was “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya.”
Yes, by Culture Club. I was so addicted to that song as a kid. It was the earliest example of my childhood choreography, as I’d launch into a series of somersaults during the chorus.
But, what is this monstrosity? It begins with mariachi horns and castanets, it briefly turns into a sort of lounge song, before turning into queer calypso elevator music on the chorus. And, check out the lyrics to the verse:
Downtown we’ll drown
We’re in our never splendour
Who’s got the new boy gender?
I’ll be your baby, I’ll be your score
I’ll run the gun for you and so much more
Holy crap, tiny Peter, was your first favorite song really an ode to blurred gender roles and sexual innuendo? And, also, how was Culture Club so deeply weird yet also so incredibly successful?
I cannot answer any of those questions, so I turned to the next closest source of information: my mother. Yes, my beloved readers, you about to witness a Crushing Krisis first: A BLOG POST FROM MOTHER OF KRISIS.
Take it away, Mom:
I first heard and saw Culture Club on MTV, which was new at the time. We didn’t have a big income, but we did have cable TV. There was something about their sound that grabbed me.
You were a music lover from a very early age. You definitely had your favorites and I can safely say “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” was one of them. You would become a little animated dancer when it came on. You were a little young for a full fledged somersault, but you gave it your best try.
We lived in South Philly, and I used to take you to the playground off of 13th & Oregon and push you on the swings while I sang you my newest favorite song, like “Electric Avenue” and “I Can’t Go For That.” Through the process of elimination, perhaps I bought Kissing To Be Clever at a record store on East Passyunk Ave? Sometimes, when the weather was nice I would take you for a walk there. [Ed Note: See, my mom was a hipster before all of y’all were hipsters, okay?]
As far as the club music I was exposed to, the most important aspects of a song were:
Does it have a good beat? and
Can you dance to it?
Calypso, Caribbean, reggae, soul, funk, etc … they generally have a beat and you can dance to them. “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” fit those parameters.
I suppose I noticed Boy George’s way of being different, but I didn’t care one way or another. I just liked the music. I guess different was ok with me. Bear in mind, I had spent a considerable part of my young life being a huge Bowie fan, so I wasn’t phased much by Boy George’s gender-bending feminine look (though, in no way did Boy George remind me of Bowie).
Not to blow my own horn, but I don’t think I was ever judgmental about how people looked or acted. Perhaps I developed a tolerant attitude as it relates to gender and sexual orientation. I mean, I was about 10 years old when my parents took me to visit my cousin D and her partner [a woman]. This was 1965. Also my cousin W was gay. The family just accepted it. Even my parents.
(I am the same person who bought you no less than two baby dolls, Care Bears, Jem, and both He-Man and She-Ra.)
That was… actually pretty awesome. Thanks, mom! Perhaps we can tempt her into another guest appearance as the month presses on. I love that last little aside, in case any of you ever doubt me saying I was all about inclusivity right down to the toys I played with as a toddler.