LONDON – Their infectious melodies, flamboyant frontman and multiracial mix made Culture Club a sunny beacon of 1980s pop. Now, though, it's war.
Two of the band's founding members told The Associated Press last week they're furious with Boy George, who recently accepted an award without telling them and labeled their new vocalist "dreadful."
"We've never said anything about George, because George has always been George," said drummer Jon Moss. "But this has gone too far."
Culture Club topped the charts in the '80s with songs such as "Karma Chameleon," "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" and "Church of the Poison Mind." The androgynous George, with his broad-brimmed hats, makeup and beribboned hair, became an early MTV star and a global style icon.
By the late '80s, the band had split. While other members have combined music careers with reasonably quiet lives, George has stayed in the headlines — most recently during an August stint sweeping streets in New York City as punishment for falsely reporting a burglary at his apartment.
Culture Club reunited successfully in 1998, but George, whose real name is George O'Dowd, declined to participate this year.
The band, which also includes bassist Mikey Craig and keyboardist Phil Pickett, recruited 29-year-old unknown Sam Butcher for a British tour that starts Dec. 7.
George wasn't impressed, telling an audience at a music awards ceremony he thought the new singer was "dreadful."
"I wanted to like it," he said of the group's new sound, "but I couldn't."
Last week, George picked up a classic songwriting award at the Q Music Awards for "Karma Chameleon," a song credited to all the original band members.
"We should have been there," said Craig, 46. "George wasn't the sole writer of the song. We wrote collectively."
"At the end of the day, Culture Club was very much ours as well as George's. He was the visual impact that everyone got, but there was a hell of a lot behind it."
Even the singer's iconic name, Moss said, was his bandmates' doing.
"He wanted to call himself Papa George," said Moss, 49. "It doesn't have the same ring to it. And he wanted to call us Caravan Club."
A spokesman for George, 45, didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Moss, now married with three children, has had a volatile relationship with George. He and George were lovers at the height of the band's success, though the relationship wasn't made public at the time.
In his autobiography "Take It Like a Man," George said many Culture Club lyrics were about his feelings for Moss, and claimed the band's breakup was driven by the collapse of their relationship.
Moss said the book is misleading, and that George's claim the band split "because he was distraught and brokenhearted over our love affair" was "complete and utter cobbler's (rubbish)."
"The only person George loves is George," Moss said.