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Dead Or Alive iTunes Tracks

Dead Or Alive

+ {Nightmares In Wax} + {Pete Burns}

For a time in the mid-80s, Pete Burns’ DEAD OR ALIVE were the toast of the post-new wave/hi-NRG scene, a scene that unveiled several major hits, including the Stock-Aitken-Waterman produced UK chart-topper, `You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)’, a resounding global phenomenon. Focal point Burns was able to plow his field of pop dreams: doors left ajar by VISAGE, SOFT CELL, CULTURE CLUB and Merseyside rivals FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD. From the 90s onwards, DEAD OR ALIVE were a spent force (in Britain at least), though their chameleonic cross-dressing frontman seemed always to hog the limelight; Celebrity Big Brother 4 (featuring his costly reconstructed lips), Celebrity Wife Swap and as a TV presenter, himself.
It was all so simple back in post-punk Liverpool where provocateur Pete Burns (born Peter Jozzeppi Burns, 5 August 1959, Bebington, Wirral) worked at Geoff Davies’ Probe Records shop. From there, he formed short-lived late-’77-era punk outfit, The Mystery Girls, a quartet that numbered PETE WYLIE, JULIAN COPE and drummer Phil Hurst, before all affiliates found their own niche. Both Burns and Hurst (the latter a replacement for PINK MILITARY-bound Paul Hornby) would duly re-surface in 1979 as front-and-back of NIGHTMARES IN WAX, a goth-dance act that also comprised keyboardist/co-scribe Martin Healy, guitarist Mick Reid (ex-Crash Course, ex-Glass Torpedoes) and bassist Pete Loyd; Loyd superseded Ambrose (ex-BIG IN JAPAN) who’d deputised for Walter Ogden on their only disc: the 7-inch EP `Birth Of A Nation’, which featured three cuts led by `Black Leather’ (a song that interpolated K.C. & THE SUNSHINE BAND’s `That’s The Way (I Like It)’).
The group name was switched to DEAD OR ALIVE prior to offering up tracks for a John Peel radio session in May 1980 and, after subsequent re-shuffling of personnel, Burns and Healy were joined by guitarist Adrian “Mitch” Mitchley, bassist Sue James and drummer Joe Musker (of FACTION); the scarily androgynous Burns was to marry Lynne Corlett, around this time.
A debut DEAD OR ALIVE single, `I’m Falling’ (also issued for local Inevitable Records), varied little from the keyboard-heavy, sub-goth wailing of NiW; drawing comparisons with The DOORS, if only for the Manzarek-like keys and Burns’ theatrical vocals. Yet while his singing suggested an imposing prince of darkness type figure, the frontman’s stage persona was more akin to a kind of sexually ambiguous, gothic dandy. By the band’s sophomore single, `Number Eleven’, the indie-goth quintet had attracted a cult following in Merseyside and beyond.
With the departure of Mitch and the arrival of Bristol-born guitarist Wayne Hussey (from PAULINE MURRAY & THE INVISIBLE GIRLS), and Mike Percy taking over from Sue, a percussive, organic tone was apparent on their self-financed 1982 single, `It’s Been Hours Now’, undoubtedly their best tune so far – or indeed, ever!
Released the same month as CULTURE CLUB’s chart-scaling “…Hurt Me” smash hit, the not-so-spectacular `The Stranger’ – complete with Pete’s dreadlock’d hair-bob on the pic sleeve! – found some airplay from Peely and, despite, or courtesy of, BOY GEORGE’s unintentional upstaging, Epic Records won the battle to sign DEAD OR ALIVE.
As Healy and Musker respectively moved aside for group songwriters Tim Lever (ex-MODERN EON multi-instrumentalist) and Steve Coy, the DOA sound began to undergo a sea change which would see Burns and Co transform into a chart-busting hi-NRG/dance glam-funk outfit. But initially it was not all plain sailing as both `Misty Circles’ and `What I Want’ failed to register a Top 75 place. When a disgruntled Hussey opted to leave for a full-on goth experience with The SISTERS OF MERCY (and later The MISSION), DEAD OR ALIVE were at the make-or-break stage; issued early in ’84, `I’d Do Anything’, compounded their woes when hitting only No.79.
Reflecting on the cult success and stage-version adulation of that certain KC cover, Pete and Co’s decision to upgrade `That’s The Way (I Like It)’ to a full-on re-tread, was rewarded when it soared into the Top 30. The long-awaited Zeus B. Held-produced debut album, SOPHISTICATED BOOM BOOM (1984) {*5}, repeated the chart pattern, although a re-issued `What I Want’ pretty much put them back where they started, just that they’d lost the support of their indie-goth ground-troops.
In answer to CULTURE CLUB’s soaraway pop success, Burns and Co were unlikely candidates for the Stock, Aitken & Waterman treatment, and loosely piecing together the dance grooves from LUTHER VANDROSS’ `I Wanted Your Love’ and Little Nell’s `See You Round Like A Record’, DEAD OR ALIVE’s compelling `You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)’ topped the charts late in ’84. Cutting a swathe through the Top Of The Pops fodder in his inimitably OTT gender-bending style, US-bound Burns made BOY GEORGE look like a choirboy by comparison.
Thankfully, the accompanying album, YOUTHQUAKE (1985) {*6} – mostly by dint of Burns’ vocal innuendo – bore little of the hallmark blandness that would characterise the group’s later proteges. It reached the Top 20 and furnished them with a further three sizeable hits, `Lover Come Back To Me’ (#11), `In Too Deep’ (#14) and `My Heart Goes Bang (Get Me To The Doctor)’ (#23).
Yet the fickle world of chip-paper pop had turned its back on DOA by 1987’s MAD, BAD AND DANGEROUS TO KNOW {*5}, their last release to crack the Top 30. While they did score a few further modest hits by way of the insipid `Brand New Lover’ (#31), `Something In My House’ (#12) and `Hooked On Love’ (#69), the cheesy SA&W production was wearing thin on a record buying public who’d become alien to Burns’ sassy class.
Subsequently turning heads in the Far East where a series of DEAD OR ALIVE singles topped the charts, Pete’s Samurai-style brand of high camp went down a storm with the Japanese. Prior to baring his soul and nearly everything else on the self-produced NUDE (1989) {*4}, there were a few farewell UK hits when `Turn Around And Count 2 Ten’ and `Come Home With Me Baby’ stalled in the lower reaches of the charts.
Burns and co-composer Coy duly took control of the DOA franchise, but with 1995’s Japanese-only comeback NUKLEOPATRA {*4} – featuring Jason Alburey on keys – they were dancing blind-folded under a shaky mirror-ball on Cloud 9. The previous year, Burns took on the mantle of “International Chrysis” – in honour of the transsexual entertainer who died in 1990 – for a cover of BOWIE’s `Rebel Rebel’, but this proved futile, while the High Energy remix of `Sex Drive’ (as “Glam with Pete Burns”), was never going to garner airplay outwith gay nightclubs.
2000’s re-hashed FRAGILE {*4} and its remixed counterpart UNBREAKABLE (2001) {*3} had little effect on anyone but delusional Pete’s loyal fanbase and, when Alburey bailed out in 2003, the proverbial writing was on the wall for DEAD OR ALIVE. Spouting an insatiable need for cosmetic surgery (Pete’s lippy looks were almost doll-like), BURNS’ projected solo career was limited to two further singles, the first in 2004 a la minor hit `Jack And Jill Party’ (for the PET SHOP BOYS website label), and the second in 2010: `Never Marry An Icon’; indeed, the star had separated from his wife in 2006 to wed long-time beau Michael Simpson. As controversy always seemed to come a-knocking, not even re-entries into the charts for `You Spin Me Round’ (in 2003 and 2006) could stop his subsequent bankruptcy and house eviction in 2014/2015. Tragically, while plans were afoot to make another comeback, Pete died on 23 October 2016 of a cardiac arrest. His fellow contestant from the Big Brother 4 house, MP George Galloway, succinctly paid tribute by tweeting “Sad to hear of the demise of Pete Burns. He was a cross between Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker. You don’t get more brilliant than that. R.I.P.”.
© MC Strong GRD 1994-2000/GRD // rev-up MCS Oct2016

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