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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 fascial reconstruction surgeries. This helped the band maintain a fanbase as they continued to tour for the next two decades.

The band officially became dead, not alive 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"
  • Camp Gay: Downplayed with Pete, but he did have the tendency to dance & pose theatrically in his music videos.
  • 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".
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Pete Burns was one of the first New Wave/New Romantic examples, beating both Boy George and Marilyn by a few years. Despite his androgynous or genderfluid persona, he was clear throughout his life that he always considered himself a man.
  • Extreme Omnisexual: Pete Burns described his sexuality as "a completely different terminology and [he's] not aware if it's been invented yet". He never defined himself as straight, gay, or bi, though pan is a reasonable guess.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Burns wears one in some photos and music videos, like the one for "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)".
  • Friendly Enemy: Pete Burns & Boy George. Despite the fact that they seemed to be bitter rivals in the 80's, with Pete publicly accusing George of plagiarizing his look, they grew to have a grudging respect for each other from The '90s onward. George was even kind enough to pay for Pete's funeral when he learned that Pete's husband was too broke to pay for it himself.
  • Gender-Neutral Writing: Similar to Culture Club, most of the songs dealing with romance use the word "lover" instead of "she" or "her". Given that Pete later married a man, it's quite fitting.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Pete Burns & Morrissey, though the heterosexual part is a bit iffy (there's rumors they actually had sex with each other).
  • Hypocrite: Pete fully admitted that he had an equal amount of songs that were about being unfaithful the frustration of being cheated on.
  • I Am Not Pretty: As a child, Pete was frequently bullied for being ugly, resulting in his plastic surgery addiction in his adulthood (when, ironically, most fans agreed destroyed the natural good looks he'd since developed).
  • 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."
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Despite his childhood insecurities about his appearance, most would agree that Pete Burns was significantly more attractive prior to to the over 300 facial reconstruction surgeries he had from 1998 onward, turning him from an androgynous yet handsome man to some cross between a Drag Queen and a rotten vegetable.note 
  • 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.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Pete Burns, as befitting of a New Wave band vocalist.
  • 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.