Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Culture Club - Waking Up with the House on Fire

Tomorrow (October 22nd) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Waking Up with the House on Fire, the third studio album from Culture Club. The record did well, charting at number 22 in West Germany, number 21 in Switzerland, number 19 in Sweden, number 15 in New Zealand, number 9 in Norway, number 7 in the Netherlands and Italy, number 6 in Canada, number 4 in Japan, and number 2 in Australia, France and the UK. Here in the US, it spent twenty weeks on the Billboard Album Chart with a peak spot of 26.

Side one opens with “Dangerous Man”, a swinging mid-tempo groove that name drops some guys named Brian, John and Martin (I am rather partial to that last one).

“The War Song” was released as the lead single. It hit number 17 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 12 in Germany, number 10 in Switzerland, number 7 in the Netherlands, number 6 in Sweden, number 5 in France, New Zealand and Norway, number 4 in Belgium, number 3 in Canada and Italy, number 2 in the UK, and number 1 in Ireland. Unlike a number of critics, I liked this danceable, Caribbean sounding anti-war song and its children sung mantra chorus. I remember bouncing up and down on the dance floor to it in 1984 and 1985.

“Unfortunate Thing” continues that sweet soul sound that the band conveyed on their earlier records. I like the way Boy George sings the title words here; it is done in a concerned and non-condescending way.

The band steps back in time to the early days of rock and roll with “Crime Time”. It has a very bluesy rhythm, complete with sax accents and an organ keyboard.

“Mistake No. 3”, the second single in North America, went to number 33 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 10 in Canada. Boy’s vocals on this ballad are simply beautiful.

Side two starts off with the funky groove of “The Dive”. Mikey Craig really nails with a killer bass hook.

“The Medal Song” tells of Frances Farmer, a 1930’s American actress who was committed to a mental hospital for many years. Jessica Lange played her in the 1982 film Frances which inspired Boy George to pen the song. As a single, it went to number 50 in New Zealand, number 32 in the UK, and number 14 in Ireland.

“Don’t Talk About It” is a song about burying deep the pain. The song has a very catchy chorus to it. I think it might have made a good single.

“Mannequin”, with another throwback rhythm, is about fashioning the perfect love only to have it shatter.

The original vinyl album ends with “Hello Goodbye”, a surprising hard rocking number that ends up working well. Roy Hay’s guitar is on fire, and Jon Moss keeps the beat strong and solid.

The 2003 CD re-issue of the album added four additional tracks that included B-sides to some of the singles.

I owned a copy of Waking Up with the House on Fire on vinyl back in the day. Having become a big Culture Club fan with their first two albums, there was little hesitation to picking this one up as well. I liked it well enough though it did not get nearly as much play on my turntable as the first two. I picked it up again recently in digital format (since my vinyl was long since gone) and enjoyed revisiting it once more. I definitely enjoy it a lot more today, thirty years later.

For more Culture Club, click here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I also loved this album back in the day. Thank you for revisiting it and motivating me to the same.