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Music / Dead or Alive

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The band's mid-80s lineup. Left to right: Tim Lever, Pete Burns, Mike Percy, Steve Coy.
You spin me right 'round, baby
Right 'round like a record, baby
Right 'round, 'round, 'round
"You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)"

Dead or Alive was an English New Wave-New Romantic-Synth-Pop band popular in the 1980's and the very early '90s. Their popularity mostly stemmed from their androgynous frontman Pete Burns.note 

Hailing from Liverpool, the band started in 1980 with keyboardist Marty Healey, guitarist Mitch, bassist Sue James, and drummer Joe Musker. The band had a few hits like "I'm Falling" & "Number Eleven", but the rising recognition of other acts like Duran Duran meant the public quickly forgot about them. In response, the line-up was retooled, with Wayne Hussey and Mike Percy becoming the new guitarist and bassist, respectively. After signing on with Epic Records, the singles started rocking the charts around 1984, with music videos on MTV giving the band a much needed boost. Their big hit that year, "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)", has gone one to become one of the most beloved 80s songs and was the first in a string of hits by the production team of Stock Aitken Waterman.

Their albums were popular, if not well-reviewed, until the release of Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know, which was considered very bad by critics and fans alike (though the Japanese fanbase liked it). After 1988's Nude, the band lost several principal members, essentially making them dead, yet still alive, with three more albums being released from 1995 onward.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, Pete Burns was a regular on the UK reality show, Celebrity Big Brother, where he became well known for his entertaining cattiness and increasingly insane facial reconstruction surgeries. This helped the band maintain a fanbase as they continued to tour for the next two decades.

The band officially broke up in 2016 when Pete Burns suffered a fatal heart attack. Steve Coy died two years later.


  • Sophisticated Boom Boom (1984)
  • Youthquake (1985)
  • Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know (1986)
  • Nude (1988)
    • Nude - Remade Remodelled - (1989) (A Japanese-only remix of Nude)
  • Fan the Flame (Part 1) (1990)
  • Nukleopatra (1995)
  • Fragile (2000) (Another Japanese-only album combining new songs with re-recordings and remixes of existing material)
    • Unbreakable_The Fragile Remixes (2000) (Different remixes of the Fragile songs—unreleased outside Japan until 2017)
  • Fan the Flame (Part 2) - The Resurrection (2021)

Dead or Alive provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: There was no Fan the Flame (Part 2), at least until its 2021 release.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Inexplicably happens to Pete in the music video for "I Would Do Anything", which is a fairly typical song about wanting to get with the object of his affection.
  • Break-Up Song: "Brand New Lover" is a surprisingly mean-spirited one, with the speaker leaving his partner because he was bored of their "sweet nature", searching for a new lover because he's a "pleasure seeker"
  • Cover Version: A few, including KC and the Sunshine Band's "That's the Way (I Like It)", Blondie's "Picture This", David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel", and U2's "Even Better than the Real Thing".
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Their early work as Nightmares in Wax is a lot closer to post-punk, or even early gothic rock than the glitzy synthpop they would become famous for, with distorted guitars and far less prominent synths, as well as extremely explicit lyrics, not that Dead or Alive was particularly subtle in that department.
  • Gender-Inclusive Writing: Similar to Culture Club, most of the songs dealing with romance use the word "lover" instead of "she" or "her".
  • Intercourse with You: About 90% of their catalogue was about love and sex, up to and including one song that was straight-up called "Sleep With You."
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: In the 90's, around the time they faded from the spotlight, and Pete began his radical physical transformation, Dead or Alive adopted a more current Eurodance sound, as seen in the mid-90's remix for You Spin Me Round, and ultimately stopped making new music entirely, as Pete became a reality star.
  • Lesser Star: Mike Percy and Tim Lever. While they were full-time members and appeared in all the videos, they were both fairly regular looking guys which made it hard to stand up when in a band with both Pete Burns and Steve Coy. Not helping things is that both of them had left by the end of the 80's, officially making Dead or Alive Pete and Steve's band only.
  • Jerkass: Intentionally or not, the speaker of "Brand New Lover" comes across as one. Could be a recurring theme with the amount of songs admitting that the speaker was sleeping around, sometimes behind the partner's back.
  • One-Word Title: The albums Youthquake, Nude, Nukleopatra and Fragile, along with Nukleopatra's Title Track and the early B-Sides "Flowers", "Namegame" and "Whirlpool".
  • Vocal Dissonance: Despite his very androgynous appearance, Burns sang in a masculine baritone voice.