How Could They Forget this Icon of the Eighties?

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October 16, 2004

How could they forget this icon of the Eighties?
By Adam Sherwin, Media Reporter

TOGETHER they sold 100 million records, invented the pop video and left a trail of screaming girls in their wake. But Boy George and Duran Duran have been written out of the 1980s in Britain’s first music Hall of Fame.

A panel of experts led by Sir George Martin has drawn up a shortlist of ten artists who will be considered for each decade in the Channel 4 series. The 1980s nominations will be revealed tomorrow night and the public are invited to choose the most worthy entrant. But The Times has learnt that the two decadedefining groups have been snubbed.

Viewers will not be allowed to choose Duran Duran or Culture Club, led by the flamboyant Boy George, after the panel decided that they did not have sufficient musical merit.

The ten will include purveyors of rock music’s gloomier moments such as the Smiths, REM and Joy Division. But the panel, which includes the broadcaster Paul Gambaccini, the musician Dave Stewart, the Blur bassist Alex James and the Glastonbury festival organiser Emily Eavis, has ruled against unashamedly pop acts.

Critics said that excluding Simon Le Bon’s group and Boy George was an omission akin to whitewashing Margaret Thatcher and Diana, Princess of Wales, from the same decade’s history. Their absence is even more controversial given the names touted for inclusion at their expense.

A source on the jury said: “There was a very strong feeling that the Beastie Boys deserved to be in the Top Ten.”

Peter York, the style commentator who chronicled the 1980s, said: “These are extraordinary omissions. There is a place for REM but the Eighties was a decade of fantastic, uniquely British pop music which people still enjoy listening and dancing to today.”

He said that Duran Duran’s Rio video offered a “picture postcard of prosperity”, predicting the working-class conspicuous consumption of the late 1980s that was inspired by Thatcherism.

Boy George was a “very important figure who produced inventive pop music which mixed a variety of musical styles”. The Pet Shop Boys, who mixed English melancholy with electronic beats, had a better case for inclusion than the Beastie Boys, Mr York said.

The panel had displayed “muso-rockist” tendencies by rewarding Morrissey and Bruce Springsteen at the expense of the genuinely popular, he said.

Although the 1980s have been derided as a musical void, the organisers of the poll said that it had proved to be the most competitive decade.

Madonna and U2 have been awarded the first honorary places in the Hall but there are other musical titans to accommodate. Prince and Springsteen dominated the live stage while Michael Jackson’s record-breaking Thriller could mean that he is entered for this decade too.

Synthesizer pop threatened traditional guitar bands and rap music broke into the mainstream. Jamie Theakston, the Hall of Fame presenter, has nominated the militant rap group Public Enemy as the band of the Eighties.

The decade ended with a flowering of British talent, the “Madchester” scene led by the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses. The Hall of Fame steering group has attempted to reflect every influential musical genre in its list of ten for each decade, meaning that some big-name acts will be overlooked.

Duran Duran sold 70 million records — more than Oasis — and will tomorrow enter the charts with the first new album by their original line-up in 20 years.

The Birmingham five-piece pioneered the pop video with exotic short films in the early Eighties and were awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Music honour at this year’s Brit Awards.

For three years Boy George was the most famous pop star in the world. Culture Club scored a string of No 1s including Karma Chameleon, but it was the cross-dressing Boy George who inspired an army of lookalikes. He was mobbed from Tokyo to Los Angeles and his caustic comments — once declaring that he preferred a cup of tea to sex — allowed him to negotiate the chat-show circuit with ease. Heroin almost proved to be his downfall but he recovered to pursue a career as a DJ.

In a concession to British pop, George Michael is likely to be included in the Eighties nominees, not so much for the hits of the teen idols Wham! but in recognition of his transition to “mature” solo artist.

The winner in the Nineties category will also be revealed tomorrow night after a week-long public vote. Robbie Williams was the early leader in the phone poll which pitted him against Oasis, the Spice Girls, Blur and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The winners will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in a live broadcast from the Hackney Empire next month.

UK Music Hall of Fame, Channel 4, 9pm, tomorrow


1 Wham!
2 Spandau Ballet
3 Adam and the Ants
4 Culture Club
5 Duran Duran
6 Gary Numan
7 Fine Young Cannibals
8 Frankie Goes To Hollywood
9 Shalamar
10 Pet Shop Boys

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