Dead or Alive were a British New Wave band from Liverpool, England. The group found success in the 1980s and had seven Top 40 UK singles and three Top 30 UK albums. They were the first group to have a number one single under the production team of Stock Aitken Waterman. Dead or Alive, which has variously included Pete Burns (vocalist), Wayne Hussey (guitarist and songwriter), Mike Percy (bass guitarist), Steve Coy (drummer), Timothy Lever (various instruments), and Jason Alburey (keyboardist), have released eleven albums, and became popular in Japan.
Two of the group's singles reached the U.S. Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100; "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" No. 11 in 1985, and "Brand New Lover" No. 15 in 1986. "You Spin Me Round" charted in 1985 in the UK, then again in 2003 and 2006 following Burns' appearance on the television reality show Celebrity Big Brother. The latter also became the first of two singles to top the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.
History[edit source | edit]Edit
Early career of band[edit source | edit]Edit
In 1977, Burns formed a band with friends Julian Cope, Pete Wylie, and Phil Hurst, calling themselves The Mystery Girls. They played only one gig (opening for Sham 69 at Eric's in Liverpool in November 1977) before disintegrating. Burns returned in 1979 with a new band, Nightmares in Wax, featuring a gothic post-punk sound, with backing from Hurst, keyboardist Martin Healy, bassist Walter Ogden, and guitarist Mick Reid. Nightmares in Wax played their first gig at Eric's in February 1979, and were signed to the associated Eric's Records label, although their only recording, a three-track 7" EP entitled Birth of a Nation, was released in 1980 by Inevitable Records (a 12-inch single featuring two of the tracks from the EP, "Black Leather" and "Shangri-La", was released in 1985). The EP featured "Black Leather", which halfway through turned into K.C. & the Sunshine Band's "That's the Way" (a song later revived by Dead or Alive).
Dead or Alive was founded in 1980 in Liverpool by Burns, who was encouraged by local music promoters to gather a band together based on his outrageous appearance. In 1980, after several line-up changes since the start of the year, and just before they were to record a radio session for John Peel, Burns changed the name of the band to Dead or Alive. The band went through several different line-up changes over the next three years while recording a series of independent singles. Burns' eccentric and androgynous appearance began attracting attention, often leading to comparisons with Culture Club and its lead singer Boy George.
Dead or Alive's singles started charting on the smaller UK Indie Chart, beginning with 1982's "The Stranger" reaching No. 7 on that chart. This prompted major labelEpic Records to sign the band in 1983. Their first release for Epic was the single "Misty Circles", which appeared at No. 100 on the major UK Singles Chart in 1983. At this point, the band was a five-piece consisting of Burns, Mike Percy (bass), Tim Lever (keyboards/sax), Steve Coy (drums), and Wayne Hussey (guitar). Two more singles, "What I Want" and "I'd Do Anything", attracted club play, but mainstream success continued to elude the band.
Dead Or Alive's debut album, Sophisticated Boom Boom, was released in May 1984 and featured their first Top 40 UK single, "That's the Way (I Like It)", a remake of the 1975 hit by KC and the Sunshine Band. Hussey departed Dead or Alive just before the album's release, despite having had a hand in writing much of the material that appears on it. The single peaked at No. 22 in the UK and the album at No. 29.
1980s chart success[edit source | edit]Edit
Now a four-piece, in May 1985 the band released its second album Youthquake (US No. 31, UK No. 9), produced by the then-fledgling songwriting/production team ofMike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Pete Waterman known as Stock Aitken Waterman (SAW). The single You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) went to number one on the UK singles chart after having lingered outside the Top 40 for over two months (the song was SAW's first chart-topping single). The song also hit No. 11 in the US and No. 1 in Canada. Other album tracks released as singles included "Lover Come Back To Me", "In Too Deep", and "My Heart Goes Bang". Although none of these additional singles became US hits, they all reached the UK Top 30.
In February 1987, Dead or Alive released their third album, Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know (US No. 52, UK No. 27), also produced by SAW. The single "Brand New Lover" became a modest UK hit, peaking at No. 31, but was more successful in the US where it reached No. 15 on the US Hot 100, and number one on the US Billboard dance chart. Three more singles from the album were released, although none saw any notable US success on the pop charts. All of these singles caused some sort of controversy in the UK. The most successful in the UK was "Something in My House" (UK No. 12), tonally Gothic and with a sleeve depicting Burns in front of what appears to be a Satanic altar, featuring an inverted crucifix. A 12" version of the song, the 'Mortevicar Mix', featured sampling of dialogue from the soundtrack of The Exorcist and a sampling from the George A. Romero American movie trailer from his film Day of the Dead (1985) and other 80's horror films. A third single, "Hooked on Love", failed to make the UK Top 40 and had a "Gothic" overtone that had been added in a post-production remix. The picture sleeve to the fourth single, "I'll Save You All My Kisses", originally featured Burns with a metal "Sex" belt buckle in front of his lips, but Epic covered up the word "Sex" with a sticker that said "Kiss" after retailers objected. The video was banned by MTV because of its suggestively homosexual content, which depicted Burns in black tights and a leather jacket singing the song from a baseball diamond while a number of men clung to a fence and ogled him, with one tearing off his shirt towards the end. Despite this, the band continued to have more success across Europe, and particularly, Japan.
After the release of the album, Tim Lever and Mike Percy left the band to form careers as mixers and producers. The pair currently own and operate Steelworks Studios in Sheffield, UK. As mixers and producers, Lever and Percy experienced success writing and mixing songs for acts like S Club 7, Blue, and Robbie Williams. In 1987, they released their mega greatest hits album Rip It Up, and a concert tour of the same name. It was said on Japanese television that Michael Jackson and Madonna had to reschedule their shows to accommodate the band. In 1989, Dead or Alive, now pared down to just a duo of Burns and Coy, released the self-produced Nude, which featured the single "Turn Around and Count 2 Ten". "Turn Around" was the band's biggest hit in Japan. It was followed by "Come Home with Me Baby". The single was a US club hit, including number one on the US dance charts, but it failed to generate significant radio play, partially due to a reactionary attitude toward the song's seemingly casual attitude toward sex at a time when AIDS awareness was strongly engrained in the public consciousness.
1990s[edit source | edit]Edit
The year 1990 saw the release of Fan the Flame (Part 1); an album released only in Japan. A radical departure in style, the album had more of a 1970s disco style crossed with lounge-style vocals. The album had three singles, "Your Sweetness (Is Your Weakness)", "Gone Too Long", and "Unhappy Birthday". The band had planned to release Fan the Flame (Part 2) in 1992, which was similar in style to Part 1, but with the modest sales of Part 1, Part 2 was never released. It would have featured tracks such as "I Don't Care About Your Heart", as well as a cover of Barry White's "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me". Some tracks were later re-recorded for the band's Nukleopatra album. It is often confused with the acoustic Love Pete album, which was sold in cassette form on the band's 1992 tour (during which tracks from Part 2 were previewed).
For a few years, Dead or Alive was mostly inactive in the recording studio, due to the death of Pete's mother who had a long struggle with cancer and alcoholism. Burns resurfaced in 1994 as vocalist on a single for the Italian techno outfit Glam. Burns helped write the single, "Sex Drive", which was a return to the dance floor. Burns and Coy flirted with the idea of recording under the name International Chrysis, named after the late transsexual nightclub performer, and released a single as such in 1994, a cover version of David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel".
The year 1995 saw new work from Dead or Alive with a new keyboardist named Jason Alburey, joining Burns and Coy for the album Nukleopatra. The album featured a smattering of previously released material, including "Rebel Rebel", "Sex Drive", and two tracks that originally appeared on Fan the Flame (Part 1), "Gone Too Long" and "Unhappy Birthday". The album also featured a cover of Blondie's "Picture This". Initially released in Japan only, Nukleopatra was later released in Australia, Singapore, South Africa, France and the United States, and each release sported different cover art, tracklistings, and song versions. Many releases of Nukleopatra also included one or more remixes of "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)".
2000s[edit source | edit]Edit
In 2000, Dead or Alive released Fragile, a compilation of remixes with several new tracks and covers including U2's "Even Better Than the Real Thing" and Nick Kamen's "I Promised Myself". A second remix album,Unbreakable, was released in 2001. This was followed by a greatest hits album entitled Evolution: the Hits, released in 2003 which featured yet another remix of "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)"; both of them enjoyed, for the first time since Nude, a UK release, with "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" re-entering the Top 40. Later on in 2003, Dead Or Alive's keyboardist (Jason Alburey) leaves the band.
In 2004, Burns enjoyed solo success with the Pet Shop Boys-produced track "Jack and Jill Party". Although only released through the Pet Shop Boys website, the track reached number 75 in the UK singles chart.
In April 2009, Dead or Alive announced the release of an album later on in the year, and the possibility of a promotional single. It was also announced that Steve Coy now manages the band. Burns was also said to be recording a song with electro-pop group The Dirty Disco. No such releases have ensued.
2010s[edit source | edit]Edit
In January 2010, it was announced that Dead or Alive was planning a tour, however, this tour never materialised. During a Q & A session on Burns' official Facebook group on 21 August 2011, he stated Dead Or Alive will never reform, and that they have broken up permanently. Burns, however, will continue with his solo career. In September 2010, Burns released a new single, "Never Marry An Icon".
On 21 December 2012, Burns (billed as Dead Or Alive) performed at the Pete Waterman concert, Hit Factory Live at London's O2 Arena. Other artists on the bill included Jason Donovan, Rick Astley, Steps, Sinitta, Pepsi & Shirlie, Hazell Dean, Princess, Sybil, 2 Unlimited, Lonnie Gordon and Brother Beyond. It was not clear whether other members of the original Dead Or Alive line-up will also accompany Burns.
Concerts[edit source | edit]Edit
The band toured regularly in the UK in the first half of the 1980s, but their first world tour began in 1987, with dates in Europe, the US, and Japan. Film footage was recorded at two shows at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan on 9 October and at Osaka's Osaka-jō Hall on 11 October 1987, and released on video cassette (VHS) and Laserdisc that same year under the title Rip It Up Live.
The concert was eventually issued as bonus material for the first time on DVD as part of the 2003 compilation release.
From the year 1995 on wards, Dead or Alive start to perform in local night-clubs (mostly gay). Dead or Alive were featured in Gay Pride on the year of 1995.
Celebrity Big Brother[edit source | edit]Edit
In 2006, Pete Burns took part in the TV show Celebrity Big Brother in the UK. His eccentric appearance, surprising behaviour, and explosive attitude made him a staple character in the show. Burns became known for openly insulting actress Traci Bingham and performing modern dance with socialist politician George Galloway. Following the end of the show (Burns finished in fifth place), "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" (from 1985's Youthquake album) was re-released and it reached the top five on the UK singles chart. Burns himself expressed distaste for the re-release, he is quoted as saying "it's like wearing a school uniform at the age of 46".
Band members[edit source | edit]Edit
- Core members
- Pete Burns (1979–2011): Vocalist of the band and chief songwriter. Burns did not play any instruments, but mimed with an electric guitar in some music videos.
- Mike Percy (1981–1989): Bassist. Percy was noted for his mullet hairstyle and, along with Lever, wrote most of Dead or Alive's songs from 1984 until 1989. Percy wrote and performed the backing track for the hit song "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)".
- Wayne Hussey (1981–1984): An early member of the band who wrote most songs in 1982-1983, plus the Epic Records singles "Misty Circles" and "What I Want". Hussey departed in early 1984 to join The Sisters of Mercy for one year, and then formed The Mission in late 1985.
- Steve Coy (1982–2011): Formerly a roadie, and then the drummer, he was the only member to be a friend of Burns prior to the band's creation in 1980. He was also the youngest member of the band, who wrote music for the band, but not lyrics. As of 1996, Coy took over the job of producing Dead or Alive's videos, starting with the David Bowie cover, "Rebel Rebel", from the album, Nukleopatra.
- Timothy Lever (1983–1989): Keyboards, saxophone, and guitars, Lever and bassist Mike Percy were responsible for most of the songwriting for the band.
- Jason Alburey (1995–2003): Keyboardist for the band, Alburey appears in the 2003 video for the re-release of "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)", despite having nothing to do with the song itself. Jason now has a solo career and is known as JEYJON.
- Dean Bright (1995–2003): Back-up keytarist for live concerts. Bright appears on one of the 'You Spin Me Round (2003 remix)' videos.
- Earlier members
- Martin Healy (1979–1983): keyboards
- Phil Hurst (1979–1980): drums
- Walter Ogden (1979–1980): bass
- Pete Lloyd (1980): Bass
- Mike Reid (1979–1980): guitars
- Joe Musker (1980–1982): drums
- Sue James (1980–1981): bass
- Adrian Mitchley (1980–1981): guitars