“I LIKE this song. I know, I know...” He was red-faced. It was a big moment for him.
“Yeah, yeah, s’pose it’s all right,” I said, sensing a weak point in the fragile teenage psyche of my friend.
We were at his grandma’s and Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon was on the TV, Boy George, for no obvious reason, performing said song on a riverboat, supposedly in Mississippi, but actually in Surrey.
The song wasn’t that good, but it was 1983 and I was 15 and, well, things were different then. So different that newspapers had asked the question as to whether George was male or female. Ooh, the intrigue and speculation that caused in the country’s backwaters.
The implication in much of the coverage surrounding the band was that, ooh, the singer might be gay. It mattered. Really mattered. No-one had ever really come out before. No-one that famous.
I was under the misapprehension that I was listening to more left-field music than Culture Club, but my mate was into mainstream gunk such as Phil Collins, Paul Young and Luther Vandross — every footballer’s favourite in those pieces in magazines that asked your favourite music, food (always steak and chips), TV programme (Starsky and Hutch) and what your ambition was after your career was over (to run a pub — these days after a season at the top they would be able to buy a chain of them).
Another lad at school had earlier expressed a liking for Adam Ant as well as Boy George and, well, that was him off everyone’s Christmas card lists. He wasn’t on them anyway, to be fair.
Ridiculous really as judging by the amount of records these bands were selling he wasn’t the only one enjoying what they did.
“I really like it though,” my mate went on. I thought we were in for a big revelation here, one even more off the scale than expressing admiration for a song your mate — me — might not care for.
“But I’m not gay,” he added, just in case I was in any doubt.
“Yeah, it’s not bad,” I said, unable to find any better words in my locker to convey my comprehension of what he had just said.
We parked the conversation, him happy that he had confessed before I had spotted a copy of the seven inch single in his vast collection — how did he afford so many records at that age? — me that I hadn’t gone as far as saying it was a good song.
It would be some ten years later when I was sharing a house with two other journalists in Devon and heard Mike Flowers Pops' camped-up version of the Oasis song Wonderwall repeatedly booming out of a bedroom. This was followed by a string of plays of Gina G’s Eurovision hit Ooh Aah...Just A Little Bit.
“I’ve got something to tell you,” my mate — a different one. Yeah, I’ve had two — said one night as we all walked back from the pub.
“You like those songs? It’s fine,” I replied, more confident in myself by now.
“No, I’m gay, I’ll move out,” he said, bravely confirming what, to be fair, should have been obvious, but wasn’t because, though in the decade since Boy George had entered the music scene, things had moved on, they clearly hadn’t moved on enough thanks to the attitudes of certain elements of the media.
“Oh right, it’s still fine,” I said.
Thirty years on I’m not sure we would need to have that conversation... or at least we shouldn’t have to.
I should have told him to move his record collection out though.