Dead or Alive (band)

Dead or Alive (band)
Dead or Alive
Origin Wirral, England, United Kingdom
Genres Post-punk
Gothic rock (early)
New Wave
Years active 1980–2011
Labels Epic
Sony Japan
Pete Burns
Steve Coy
Past members
Wayne Hussey
Timothy Lever
Mike Percy
Jason Alburey

Dead or Alive were a British New Wave band from Wirral, England, United Kingdom, Europe. The band rose to fame in the 1980s with their number one single on the UK Singles Chart, "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)". They were the first group to have a number one single under the production team Stock Aitken Waterman. The band, 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), has released eleven albums, and has become popular in Japan, especially after the release of Rip it Up in 1987.[citation needed]

After the success of "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)", they never achieved another Top 10 single in the UK until the song's re-release in 2006, after Burns appeared on Celebrity Big Brother. Although considered a one-hit wonder in the United States, two of their singles reached the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. "You Spin Me Round" reached number 11 in 1985, and "Brand New Lover" reached number 15 in 1986. The latter also became the first of two singles to top the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play (now Hot Dance Club Songs). Androgynous frontman Burns has appeared in several reality television shows, including Celebrity Big Brother, and has also collaborated with the British band The Dirty Disco.[citation needed]


Band members

The band members have included the following musicians:[citation needed]

  • 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 (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.
  • Mike Percy (1981–1989): 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 (1982–): Formerly a roadie, and then the drummer, he was the only member to be a good 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, he 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.

Earlier members

  • Sue James (1980–1981): bass guitarist
  • Adrian Mitchley (1980–1981): guitarist
  • Joe Musker (1980–1982): drummer
  • Martin Healy (1980–1983): keyboardist


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.[2] 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.[2] Nightmares in Wax played their first gig at Eric's in February 1979,[3] 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).[4] 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).[2]

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.[2] 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.[citation needed]

Dead or Alive's singles started placing high in the UK Indie Chart, with 1982's "The Stranger" reaching number seven,[5] 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.[citation needed]

DOA's debut album, Sophisticated Boom Boom, (UK number 29, GER number 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 number 22 in the UK and the album at number 29.[citation needed]

Cover of Dead or Alive's biggest hit, "You Spin Me Round"

Chart success

Now a stable four-piece, in 1985 DOA released their second album Youthquake (UK number 9, US number 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)[6] went to number one on the UK singles chart[7] 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. The single also hit number one in Canada. It reached number 11 in the US,[8] number two in Italy,[citation needed] number three in Australia,[citation needed] and achieved Top 10 status in numerous countries.[citation needed] 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 more than 14,327,000 views (as of October 2011).[9]

In 1987, Dead or Alive released their third album, Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know (UK number 27, US number 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 US (number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number one on the Billboard dance chart[8]) than in the band's native UK (number 31). Three more singles from the album were released, all of them causing some sort of controversy. The most successful in the UK (a number 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 and a sampling from the George A. Romero American movie trailer from his film Day of the Dead (1985). 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.[citation needed] The video was banned by MTV because of its suggestively homosexual content,[citation needed] 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. However, despite these setbacks, the band continued to have chart success in US, England, Canada, Australia, and particularly Japan.[citation needed]

In 1988, DOA 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.[10] As recordists, Lever and Percy have had more chart success than they ever did with Dead or Alive,[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] It was followed up by "Come Home with Me Baby", which hit number one in Brazil.[citation needed] The single was a US club hit, including number one on the US dance charts,[8] 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.[citation needed]

Later releases

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 had planned to release Fan the Flame (Part 2), which was very similar in style to Part 1. 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". The album also featured tracks which would later be re-recorded for the Nukleopatra album, including "Sleep With You". Unfortunately, the album never saw release. Burns was reportedly displeased with the album's conservative musical style, which may have contributed to its eventual withdrawal. 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) and has since been bootlegged with the title Fan the Flame (Part 2): The Acoustic Sessions.[11] This album is another departure in style and featured simply a piano as instrumentation. The acoustic album included rerecordings of a few tracks from Part 1 and remakes of "Send in the Clowns", "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow", and "My Funny Valentine". According to Burns, the album was scrapped before production but has since resurfaced on the internet.[12]

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 US, 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,[citation needed] and was an underground club hit.[citation needed]

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 that was scheduled for release during the summer of 2009.[citation needed] The single has yet to be released as of February 2010.

In January 2010, it was announced that Dead or Alive was planning on touring for the 25th anniversary of the release of "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)". This tour never finalized, and during a Q & A session on Pete's official Facebook group on August 21, 2011, he stated Dead Or Alive will never reform, however Pete will still have solo releases.[13]


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 Disco in Dream tour 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.[citation needed] 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".[14]


See also


  1. ^ Dead or Alive on All Music Guide. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d Greene, Jo-Ann "Nightmares in Wax Biography", Allmusic, Macrovision Corporation
  3. ^ Jonathan Buckley, Mark Ellingham, Justin Lewis, and Jill Furmanovsky (1996) The Rough Guide to Rock, Rough Guides, ISBN 978-1-85828-201-5
  4. ^ Gimarc, George (2005) Punk Diary: The Ultimate Trainspotter's Guide to Underground Rock 1970–1982, Backbeat Books, ISBN 0-87930-848-6, p.312
  5. ^ Lazell, Barry (1997) Indie Hits 1980–1989, Cherry Red Books, ISBN 0-95172-069-4, p.61
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c
  9. ^ "YouTube - Dead or Alive - You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)". YouTube.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Pete Burns "Freak Unique" (2006), pp.129-130. John Blake Publishing: London. ISBN 978-1-84454-438-7
  13. ^
  14. ^ Pete Burns: interview with Lorraine Kelly at GMTV (

External links

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