“Do You Really Want To Hurt Me”

“Do You Really Want To Hurt Me”

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song

Roy Hay
“Do You Really Want To Hurt Me”

Written by M. Craig, Jon Moss, Roy Hay, George O’Dowd
Recorded by Culture Club

I was the keyboard player and guitarist for Culture Club and we had just been signed to Virgin Records. It was 1982 and “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” was the second song we were writing for our first album. We were already a hip young band in London with that underground sound like Adam and the Ants, the Thompson Twins and Spandau Ballet. (Boy) George, of course, was big in the club scene because he was so flamboyant.

We had a big following, but we had no recording experience or success. We were in a rehearsal studio in London and made a conscious choice to try to write what we wanted to record, more melodic tunes, not just a “hip” sound. There’s something special about the early days of a band. You do what you want and don’t care because you have nothing to lose. There’s usually plenty for a band to write about for the first two CDs, then there’s angst that makes it difficult to have fresh ideas. We weren’t thinking about writing a hit, that’s the kiss of death for bands. We wanted to write what we liked and believed in.

All of the songs on our first two albums were inspired by the love affair that George was having with the drummer. When we wrote, we were like the kids from Fame — one person starts, then another. I started playing the chords on a Fender Rhodes and then added the rhythm box programming. It sounded good to me at the time. The bass player was a Jamaican who brought pre-programmed beats with a slow reggae groove into the band. The bass line unites the track. George started singing the melody. The song was written in 20 minutes. George went away and worked on it a little more.

It’s not a conventional song since it has no real chorus. It has a long, drawn out, almost a capella, intro. George sounded like Smokey Robinson when he sang it; he had a tenor alto voice then.

We didn’t consider this song a single. We already had two singles out. We were playing for about 2,000 people one night in a club and a reviewer picked up on this song and gave it attention. The head of Virgin Records then put it out. That afternoon, Radio 2 DJ in England, who largely appealed to housewives, started playing the song. We hadn’t had any radio success yet, and this wasn’t our audience at all, but suddenly we were popular with them and the song went to #37 on the charts.

The big television show in England for an artist to be on at the time was Top of the Pops. We were at the top of the waiting list to appear on the show but there was no opening. Shaky Stevens, who was like Elvis in the UK in the ’80s, was scheduled to perform on the show but got the flu. When the slot opened, we were booked to go on the next day. Boy George’s performance was definitely controversial, but the song went from #37 to #17 to #1 in three weeks. It was a life-changing event. But for this one fluke, it may not have happened for us. We thanked Shaky later.

Almost immediately, we doubled the size of our live audiences. In a very short time, I went from being an average guy doing music, to traveling the world. The song soon became #1 worldwide.

We were initially worried about George’s image in the U.S., so we released the record in a plain white cover. With no identification or photo, Black radio thought we were a band from Jamaica and we got a lot of airplay. Once our video was released on MTV, everything changed.

We had a very successful career for a couple of years and had lots of fun. In 1999-2000 we did a reunion tour and the crowd still went mad every time we played the intro to this song. It is our musical legacy. That is the insanity and glory of this business.

There have been lots of interpretations of the lyrics. In an interview once, George was asked if it was a gay S&M (sadomasochistic) song. A TV show we did in Holland built a set that was a dentist’s office and tried to put George in the chair to sing it. He threw a hissy fit and, rightfully, refused to do it. Reba McEntire has recorded it and Wyclef Jean has said it’s his favorite song.

“Do You Really Want To Hurt Me”

Give me time to realize my crime

Let me love and steal

I have danced inside your eyes.

How can I be real?

Do you really want to hurt me?

Do you really want to make me cry?

Precious kisses, words that burn me

Lovers never ask you why.

In my heart the fire’s burnin’

Choose my colour, find a star

Precious people always tell me

That’s a step, a step too far.

Do you really want to hurt me?

Do you really want to make me cry?

Do you really want to hurt me?

Do you really want to make me cry?

Words are few, I have spoken

I could waste a thousand years

Wrapped in sorrow, words are token

Come inside and catch my tears.

You’ve been talkin’, but believe me

If it’s true you do not know

This boy loves without a reason

I’m prepared to let you go.

If it’s love you want from me

Then take it away

Everything is not what you see

It’s over again.

Do you really want to hurt me?

Do you really want to make me cry?

Do you really want to hurt me?

Do you really want to make me cry?

Do you really want to hurt me?

Do you really want to make me cry?

Do you really want to hurt me?

Do you really want to make me cry?

Do you really want to hurt me?

Do you really want to make me cry?

Words and Music by George O’Dowd, Jon Moss, Michael Craig and Roy Hay. © 1982 EMI VIRGIN MUSIC LTD. All Rights in the U.S. and Canada Controlled and Administered by EMI VIRGIN MUSIC, INC. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured. Used by Permission.

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