Dead or Alive is a British New Wave band from Liverpool, England that rose to popularity during the 1980s with their 1985 #1 UK single "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)". Dead or Alive was the first group to have a #1 single under the production team Stock Aitken Waterman. They have released eleven albums and have become extremely popular in Japan, especially after the release of Rip it Up in 1987.
Androgynous frontman Pete Burns has recently appeared in several reality television shows, including Celebrity Big Brother, and is also collaborating with the British band The Dirty Disco.
The band members have included the following musicians.
Pete Burns (1980? ): Vocalist of the band and chief songwriter. Burns did not play any instruments but mimed with an electric guitar in some music videos.
Wayne Hussey (1982?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.
Mike Percy (1980?1989): Bass player. Percy was noted for his mullet hairstyle and, along with Lever, wrote most of Dead or Alive's songs from 1984 until 1990. Percy wrote and performed the backing track for the hit song "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)".
Steve Coy (1980? ): Was the only member to be a good friend of Burns' prior to the band's creation in 1980. Drummer for the band. The youngest member of the band, Coy 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, guitars. Lever and bassist Mike Percy were responsible for most of the songwriting for the band.
Jason Alburey (1995? ): Keyboardist for the band and modernized the band's musical sound. 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.
Cover of Dead or Alive's first EP, "It's Been Hours Now".
Early career of band
Dead or Alive (DOA for short, not to be confused with punk band D.O.A.), was founded in 1980 in Liverpool by Pete Burns, who was encouraged by local music promoters to gather a band together based on his outrageous appearance alone. It was only after rehearsing in 1977 with some friends that Burns realized he really did have a powerful singing voice, and his first band was an outfit he formed with friends Julian Cope, Pete Wylie, and Phil Hurst. Dubbing 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, though their only recording, a three-track 7" EP titled 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).
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 the more marketable Dead or Alive. The band went through several different lineup 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 Boy George, lead singer of the band Culture Club, who hit the music scene just a few years after Dead or Alive.
Dead or Alive's singles started placing high in the UK Indie Chart, with 1982's "The Stranger" reaching number seven, and Epic Records took notice and signed the band in 1983. Their first release for Epic was the single "Misty Circles", which appeared at number 100 in the Gallup charts of week ending 4 June, 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", were club hits but mainstream success continued to elude the band.
Their debut album, Sophisticated Boom Boom, (UK #29, GER #82) was released in May 1984 and featured Dead or Alive's first Top 40 UK single, a remake of the 1975 hit by KC and the Sunshine Band, "That's the Way (I Like It)". 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 #22 in the UK and the album at #29.
Cover of Dead or Alive's biggest hit, "You Spin Me Round".
Now a stable four-piece, in 1985 they released their second album Youthquake (UK #9, US #31), produced by the then-fledgling songwriting/production team formed of Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman known as Stock Aitken Waterman (SAW). The single You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) went to #1 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 and remains a club favourite over two decades later. It reached #11 in the U.S., #3 in Australia, #2 in Italy and achieved Top 10 status in numerous countries. Other album tracks released as singles included "Lover Come Back To Me", "In Too Deep" and "My Heart Goes Bang", all becoming huge dance hits. The music video of "You Spin Me Round", directed by Anthea Benton and Vaughan Arnell, is popular on YouTube, with over 6 million views.
In 1987, Dead or Alive released their third album, Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know (UK #27, US #52), also produced by SAW. The album included one of the band's best-known songs, "Brand New Lover", which was more successful in the U.S. (#15 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #1 on the Billboard dance chart) than in the band's native UK (#31). Three more singles from the album were released, all of them causing some sort of controversy. The most successful in the UK (a #12 hit) was "Something in My House", tonally very 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. A third single, "Hooked on Love", suffered from very little promotion due to what the record company felt was a "Gothic" overtone that had been added to the song in a post-production remix, and barely managed to scrape into the UK top 70. 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 some tearing off their shirts towards the end. However, despite these setbacks, the band continued to have chart success in U.S., England, Australia and particularly Japan.
In 1988, they parted ways with Stock, Aitken and Waterman, and in 1989, 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 recordists, Lever and Percy have had more chart success than they ever did with Dead or Alive, writing and mixing number-one tracks from bands like S Club 7, Blue and Robbie Williams. In 1989, Dead or Alive, pared down to a duo of Burns and Coy, released the self-produced Nude, which featured the hit "Turn Around and Count 2 Ten". "Turn Around" was the band's biggest hit in Japan, topping the Japanese charts for seventeen weeks in 1989. It was followed up by "Come Home with Me Baby", which hit #1 in Brazil. The single was a US club hit, including #1 on the U.S. 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 coming into the public consciousness.
1990 saw the release of Fan the Flame (Part 1); however, the album was only released in Japan. The album was a radical departure in style. Instead of high energy dance beats, 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". Fan the Flame (Part 1) also is notable because it contains the very first ballad that Dead or Alive ever recorded, a seasonal track called "Blue Christmas" (an original composition and not a cover of the song of the same name popularized by Elvis Presley).
In 1992 the band began recording the unreleased "Fan the Flame (Part 2)" which was another departure in style and featured simply a piano as instrumentation. The acoustic album was possibly going to include rerecordings of a few track from Part 1 and remakes of "Send in the Clowns", "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow", and "My Funny Valentine". The album was scrapped before production but has since resurfaced on the internet.
For a few years, Dead or Alive was mostly inactive in the recording studio, until Pete 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 major 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 a resurrection of the Dead or Alive moniker with keyboardist Jason Alburey joining Burns and Coy for the album Nukleopatra, which was eagerly anticipated by the band's large fan base. 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, unlike its predecessor, was also released in Australia, Singapore, South Africa, France and the U.S., 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)".
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 called 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 forty.
In 2004, Burns enjoyed solo success with the Pet Shop Boys-produced track "Jack and Jill Party". Although only released through Pet Shop Boys' website, the track reached number 75 in the UK singles chart, and was an underground club hit.
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 is also recording a song with electro-pop group The Dirty Disco that is to be released during the summer of 2009.
Dead or Alive in concert
In 1987 the band embarked on their world tour which consisted of dates in Europe, Japan and the USA. The dates in Japan (Tokyo and Osaka) were filmed and released on VHS. For the tour, the band remixed several of their songs including 1984's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" and "My Heart Goes Bang".
It was widely believed that the concert was entirely mimed; however, parts of the show were live, while others were pre-recorded or mimed. Whereas Burns lip synched to a vocal track, the band (Coy, Lever and Percy) played the backing track live while two dancers mimed the guitar solos.
The tour was re-released in 2003 on the Evolution DVD. It was also released as a Laserdisc and as a CD (though the CD version was not a live recording).
Dead or Alive played all their concerts fully live until 1985 and in 1990, most notably the Youthquake Tour in 1985. The band also went on many other tours, most notably the 1989 Japanese tour Disco in Dream and the 1990 Fan The Flame Tour.
Celebrity Big Brother
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, which received huge audiences. 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), the Youthquake version of "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" was re-released and reached the top five in 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".