Shortlink to this content:

Saturday, September 24, 2016 11:58am ET by  
Comments (0)

, , , ,

Marilyn: 'My defence was my sexuality'

Marilyn and Boy George's UK promo tour took them to London's swanky Edition Hotel on Friday afternoon (September 23) for a Q&A hosted by writer, author, and star of BBC's 'Grumpy Old Women', Kathryn Flett.

The two best friends, once labelled 'gender benders' by '80's British media, brought banter, wit, laughter and sheer fabulousness to the event.

Marilyn and Boy George have known each other for over three decades, having initially met when they were teenagers, and now the two music icons have come together to collaborate for Marilyn's highly anticipated comeback single, 'Love Or Money'.

The event was to celebrate how the two stars leapt onto our TV screens in the '80's, their long-term friendship, how things were then and by contrast, how they are now.

Both mavericks not only helped shape pop music in the '80's by injecting some much needed glitz and glam into the grey Thatcher-dominated '80's era, but also helped pave the way for a level of artistic freedom which has become more acceptable in pop culture today.

How they first met:
They were introduced by 'Punk Jane' in Swiss Cottage in 1977. They then met at a 'rundown' club called Sombero. Marilyn turned up with Mud Club founder, Philip Sallon, whilst wearing 'full on Marilyn Monroe drag'.

Boy George: 'I loved the way he looked. I was fabulous, he was fabulous. We were destined to be friends!'

Marilyn: 'When I look into someone's eyes, what I see beyond the façade, that's what's important to me. When I looked at him. That's what happened when I looked in Boy George's eyes.'

Boy George: 'Was it romantic?!'

Marilyn: 'It wasn't that kind of look but something (happened) on a really deep level'.

Boy George went on to explain the feeling in society at the time. If you looked different, you built up a defence mechanism as a powerful tool against the stares and real risk of getting beaten up.

He said: 'Eccentric people don't like to be homed in on. It's a weird one. You dress up but you don't really want people to make comments, which is really odd because obviously they're going to. So, I recognised myself in that weird defensiveness. Being a bit spikey.

'You were always running the gauntlet. Particularly in the '70's, because you had that fabulous tribal stuff with the mods, skinheads and rockers. There was always someone to punch you. It was quite brave.'

Marilyn: "Because I was Marilyn, THAT 'Marilyn', you know the one, I kind of used sexuality - that was my thing. My defence. But there was a downside of that - I had a secret because I'm a boy.

"It was a really weird one. I got the attention. Like straight guys... once I found out he (a straight guy) fancied me, gave me their phone number, then I'd go: 'What?! You think I'd sleep with you?!'.

"It was all to do with my childhood, you know. I was dressing up because my mother refused to and I would beg her to put her fabulous clothes on."

The personal role of music:
'Whatever's going on in my life, there's always a soundtrack, always a soundtrack to my life and corresponding emotions.

'I use music to rinse the arse out of an emotion I was feeling or change what I'm feeling. It's always been a part of me from singing in the school choir, to records. It's another way of expressing myself.

'When you're in the womb, you're growing and everything your mother eats, the environment she's in, the moods, the music is being played, it effects you. I grew up in Jamaica and if you ever go there, there's a very specific vibration to the island. It kind of throbs. That had a huge effect on me.'

How this particular collaboration came about:
"I had like some problems in my life and I had to work through a whole load of fluff and part of that process was moving from Norfolk in the middle of nowhere, from there back to London.

"A good friend of mine from Soul II Soul had access to a studio and said 'anytime you want to come and write...',  providing me with an environment for me to come back in with no pressure, to be creative.

"I tried to fit in in Norfolk, tried to get a job in Tescos, trying to be normal. Tesco's turned me down! I was trying to get a job late at night, in the overnight where you stack shelves 'n' that. They wouldn't even give me a job stacking shelves! Then I see other people doing that and I'm like 'why?'"

asked what was Tesco's reason for turning Marilyn down.

Boy George answered: 'Too fabulous!' 

'I'm unemployable! That's the interesting thing about the '70's. It created a lot of people that never really worked. They never had a regular job for more than 6 weeks. People can't do now, what we did then.'

Marilyn: "The way society is, it manipulates you. You go to school, you learn what they teach you, you go out, you get a job, you do this, you have a family. Who's making all the rules? What's happened to just be yourself and enjoy your life. Or be a good person and see what happens and help other people. 

"It's like this: 'If I do this for you, will you do that for me?' It's a barter system.'

"I'm an idealist. What's wrong with doing what you want to do?"

The music choice available in the '70's:
Boy George: "I grew up  in the '70's. Why I love the '70's is that you had everything. Choice. Things you didn't like, things you loved, things your mum liked, I loved. That bombardment.'

'I'm quite capable of listening to Dolly Parton and Anthrax and Suede, I don't need to be controlled. I'm quite capable of listening to all those things, even at the same time.

"I think radio in the '70's just played music. It was kind of random and it was all over the place. It was great, and now we're told 'you can't handle that, drum and bass is only on this station, we don't want you to get too troubled by it'. Everything is put in a box.

"As a musician I love everything. There's nothing I don't love. As Marilyn said there's always a song for every mood. Whether it's 'Missisippi Down' by Nina Simone or something by Skepta, or Disclosure. Music does different things to you at different times. I've always been one of those people that loves everything.

'We had incredible freedom in the '70's. I think it would be much more difficult now to do what we did, but if you're passionate about something you'll never be stopped. If you have a calling in you to do a certain thing, you will just do it.'

Band Aid:
Boy George: "At Band Aid - people were nice to each other. The '80's where 'all about me, all about me', but Band Aid was one of those events when you found yourself in a room with people you slagged off. Suddenly you all had to work together on this project. People were just a bit nicer. It's funny now when you see bands from that time, people are friendly, but that's probably just a grown up thing more than anything."

If Marilyn was a 15 year old boy today with the advent of social media
'The difference between then and now?  I would have had a lot more gay sex. Back then it was a secret. Straight boys: 'Is that a man or a woman? Is it gay or straight? It's all going into a grey area. I'm not sure what's going on.' They're all having a good time, missy! I would!'"

'Love or Money', the single:
Boy George: "When we did that I was like 'this is really special'. It has a real feel to it. It just feels familar.

"To me, when you make a record and you feel like you know it, like it's always been here - that's the feeling. It feels like an old school reggae tune. The thing about reggae music is that it's always there. We dip into it here and there. There are reggae hits but it's a music that always exists."

Marilyn's message in his music:
'I always write about things I know about. I don't do third person stuff. It's all very personal. The album I did before, 99% was about the relationship I was having, the problems, the joy, all different aspects of it. It has to resonate with me.

'The baseline is be yourself, be honest and enjoy it.'

Boy George:
"I was recently looking for this clip of Marilyn, I think it was his second performance on 'Top of the Pops' or maybe third. He had 'the hood', the monk's hood on. I was like 'Ooh!' It was this fantastic moment. It all came back to me - I was with my parents for some reason. The nation just couldn't cope, it was so over the top!"

"There's a line in 'Love or Money' which I think is quite poignant, where he says: 'I was serving the truth while you were sitting on the fence.'  What he was about at that time, because it was definitely more sexualised than what I was doing. I never really felt that way about myself. I never felt I was hot. My thing wasn't about sexualtiy, it was about vulnerability.

"I just remember that very significantly. We'd been to Eygpt and Marilyn had bought this chain mail vest thing. He wore that on 'Top of the Pops' and very little else! You can't get away with that now.

"There isn't that kind of weird freedom that used to exist because we live in a world where everyone feels they know everything about everyone, 'the gays'. They've got us all worked out. It's much more everyone is in their little box. That's the difference between now and the '70's and '80's."

Who made the first move with collaborating:
Boy George: "I forced myself on him! He was doing something that he played me and asked my opinion and I really loved the way his voice sounded. His voice sounds really great, has a really great tone to it. I thought 'you're a better singer now, there's more gravitas and experience in your voice'."

"We talked about maybe doing some writing together. We started that process and came up with 'Love or Money' and decided to do more and more.

"It's more of an organic thing, and who knows we might work with other people but at the moment it's kind of a nice formula that we've got. I'd like to get at least a record out of it. One album, that would be really nice. One L.P."

Their friendship's longevity:
Boy George: 
"We've always spoken. Over the years, even if we haven't seen each other, we've had intense conversations over the phone. I used to always get off the phone and go 'this guy's smart!'"

butts in: "Like it's a shock?! I love that part!! (laughs)"

Boy George: 
"You might ring up about something really innocuous, and end up having these quite wise conversations."

When asked if Marilyn had any fear about being re-introduced to the world:

"There's always that thing before you do something, thinking about it. Like today, coming here. It's like 'Oh! Sitting in front of a room full of people! What will they think?' I kind of want people to like me but I also don't want to be phoney.

"All that thought process. I don't know if that's fear or a bit of excitement but yes, stepping back in front of an audience, there is a bit of fear in there but it is a good fear.

"It's exciting! I'm enjoying the fear!"

'Love or Money' 
by Marilyn, co-written and produced by Boy George is out now on Marilyn's own label, through RightTrack/Universal.

Follow us: @Pressparty on Twitter Pressparty on Facebook.

Watch Marilyn with Boy George at the BBC in London this week, below:


Latest 10 Marilyn News Stories

  Shortlink to this content: