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Boy George

Boy George — The singer updates the title track of Neil Jordan’s ”The Crying Game”

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If The Crying Game continues to captivate movie audiences with its plot-twisting secrets, it stands a chance of reviving the career of George Alan O’Dowd, the witty ’80s cross-dresser who still goes by the name Boy George. His slick remake of the title track, a 1965 British top 5 hit for Dave Berry that never charted here, will be released on Feb. 23 as a single by SBK/ERG. (So will the soundtrack, including Berry’s version.) ”It’s a simple, melodic song,” says George, 31. ”One of the greatest downfalls of (his former band) the Culture Club was moving away from that kind of simplicity.”

According to the film’s director, Neil Jordan, Boy George was his first choice to update the tune. And not because of George’s gender-bending tendencies but, says Jordan, because ”he has one of the most beautiful voices in the business, and his version was perfect.” Actually, complete perfection was only reached after some high-tech tinkering from the Pet Shop Boys, who are producing the soundtrack. ”At first I was startled by the way they mixed it — my voice sounded very sci-fi,” says George. ”I was like, God, it’s weird, and then I really fell in love with it.”

In both its versions, ”The Crying Game” has haunted the film’s audiences. ”Sometimes you get a popular song that is cheap and schmaltzy, but it hits something exactly,” says Jordan. He was 14 when he first heard the Berry version, and it left a strong impression. ”Dave Berry was a precursor of guys like David Bowie,” he says, ”very theatrical and very strange.”

Berry disappeared from the music world after ”The Crying Game,” and Boy George — absent from the Top 40 for the last five years — can empathize. Publicity about George’s heroin problem in 1986 led to a sharp drop in popularity and a retreat from the business. ”I can definitely understand how Dave Berry feels,” he says. ”After all the drugs, things were really bad for me on every level. The last four years I’ve been building my self-esteem more than my career.”

Part of his therapy has included writing an autobiography called Take It Like a Man, which will go on sale in Britain late this year. The book has brought him back into music (he’ll start recording a new album, tentatively titled Familiarity Breeds Contempt, next month) and back into the world. ”One of my favorite things to do during the Culture Club period was go to the toilet and lock the door,” says George. ”I’m much happier now.”