To celebrate the release of This Is What I Do, Boy George’s first studio album in 18 years, we invited him to take over eMusic. You can read our revealing interview with the pop legend here, and he shares his favorite albums on eMusic, below.
New York's avant-rock legend, who passed away shortly after we spoke with Boy George, caught in righteous live form immediately post-Velvet Underground.
When I was 14, I bunked into a Who concert at Charlton Stadium [in South London], because Lou Reed was playing. Like everyone else, I discovered him through Bowie. It was around the time of his live album Rock & Roll Animal, so he had the bleached hair, and he was pretty wasted, but I didn't know. I just thought it was amazing! Now, with hindsight, I realize he was probably a little bit shaky.
I remember my parents saying, "You mustn't go to this gig, it's 70,000 people, it's dangerous." I was quite independent, so I went down on spec, on my own. I saw some kids climbing through a hole in the fence and followed them, and ended up sitting with these people that had massive Lou Reed cardboard cut-outs.
I met Lou a couple of years ago at an Antony & the Johnsons concert. I didn't ask him for a photo, because I'd never do that, but as he was getting up to leave, this fan jumped up and said, "Hey Lou, can I have a picture?" The guy was fumbling with his camera, and Lou said, "Any time this week." Which made me piss myself, because it's what I say to people all the time.
He's not a traditional singer. He's just cool, isn't he? I think there's quite a bit of Lou Reed influence on the new album. "Bigger Than War" is like a Lou Reed melody, especially the part that goes "Love, love, glorious love, makes you crazy, but you want that stuff." That's very Lou, and very deliberate.
The soul showman, best known for his late-'60s work with his Family Stone, and latterly for his eccentric behavior.
Sly & the Family Stone are amazing. I think he is one of the greatest artists ever. In fact, I posted something about him on Twitter last week, and a couple of people were like, "No thanks." I was like, "Are you fucking crazy?" To me, that's sacrilege. His life has obviously been a bit of a car crash, but that early stuff, and all the stuff with the Family Stone, it's timeless, and it's influenced so many people. Prince — where would he be without the Sly Stone influence? Recently Sly said something great: "I have many regrets, but I can't think of one right now." Brilliant.
John Lydon's 2012 return from 15 years in the wilderness of reality TV and butter adverts.
Vintage Johnny Rotten, and with PiL as well — how could you not love him? He was a part of my formative teenage years. He was the coolest punk, he really embodied the style — that ratty looking face, the perfect spiky hair.
Soulful pop-reggae which provided the roots for George's reggae excursions in Culture Club and beyond.
Richie Stevens, who I did my new album with, is a reggae obsessive. He's one of those very British white boys who knows more about reggae than anyone black. I'm pretty good with reggae, but I'm not as good as Richie.
My favorite singers are Eek A Mouse, Johnny Nash, Clint Eastwood & General Saint and Ken Boothe. Obviously I covered his track, "Everything I Own." I like more the lovers thing, and then all the obvious stuff like Bob Marley.
The Teutonic femme fatale of "Velvet Underground & Nico" fame, captured live and eerie on consecrated ground in France.
I'm a massive Nico fan. I lost my virginity to Chelsea Girl, in an apartment in West Hampstead. It was the first night I spent with a gentleman, and he was playing that album all night. In the morning, this guy's ex-boyfriend turned up, and almost kicked the door down, and started a massive fight. It was the most terrifying thing ever. I just hid. So there are a lot of memories with that record.
Nico had that Marlene Dietrich thing. In the '60s, she was so beautiful, and like Lou Reed, she was the embodiment of cool. I like a lot of her stuff, things like Desert Shore [from 1970]. She is an acquired taste. But there's no one on earth who can't say "I'll Be Your Mirror" [from the first Velvets album] isn't the greatest thing ever.
The eighth album from Marc Bolan's combo, recorded at the height of his glam-rock majesty.
Very recently I was given a "faders-up" version [i.e. warm-up mix] of Tanx. It's one of my favourite T. Rex albums. I got it from Daniels of T-Rextasy — he's the lead singer in the tribute band. I put it on in the car and it's amazing. You can really hear what a genius Marc Bolan was. He's talking so camp — there's this bit where he says to the drummer — [Bronx hooker drawl] "Oh don't worry about it, darlin', Ginger Baker did the same drum rolls for 25 years!"
I did a concert with T-Rextasy, and it was such a great reminder of how amazing Marc was, and how his writing was so different to everyone else.
Yoko in full primal-screaming, avant-skronk splendor in 2012, with backing from Sonic Youth's king and queen of cool.
I love unusual voices, like Nico, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Steve Harley — all very unorthodox people, with character. Yoko falls in that category for me. She's always been true to herself, she's never really been anyone else but Yoko, and that counts for a lot.
I really like her avant-garde stuff. And I quite like her screaming version of Katy Perry's "Firework" — it really bears very little resemblance to the original, but I actually think it's superior! Most people laughed at it, but I was like, "This is great." I'm also a big fan of some of her more traditional songwriting. I think she writes some really nice lyrics.
One of the all-time-great singers from the early 20th Century. Cooke has informed the crooner in George.
His voice is magnificent. You don't really hear singers like this now — guttural, emotional, giving every bit of themselves to a song. And he does it so effortlessly. It's kind of the music I grew up on.
I also like Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald and Bessie Smith — she was an influence on Marc Bolan. Apparently the reason he ended up with the exaggerated vibrato in his voice was because he heard a Bessie Smith record playing at the wrong speed.
The former Stooges front-loonie, recorded circa '77, with superfan David Bowie on keyboards.
Through Bowie, I discovered so many things, including Iggy. I covered an Iggy song, "Funtime," which is on here, and in fact Iggy said to me he preferred my version, which was nice to hear! His songs are such an important part of my record collection. The silver trousers, the whole butch drag thing, all the stories you used to hear about him — who cares if they were true?
Rock stars used to be more ambiguous, and that's how it should be. When we went to gigs as kids, it was all very mystical and fantastical, but now pretty much everyone that goes to a gig knows everything about the artist, and where to buy the clothes.
Some cheese to finish off the musical feast, from the biggest-selling Latin artist ever.
My favorite singers are Sam Cooke, Sly Stone, and Aretha [Franklin], obviously, but I also love Julio Iglesias. People always look at me and say, Really?! Yes, absolutely!