Biography of Dead or Alive
Dead or Alive was an influential new wave band from Liverpool that rose to Anglo-American popularity during the 80s, also gaining a cult following in Japan during that time. With a mix of strident vocals and aggressive dance beats, they became best known for the hit singles "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" and "Brand New Lover", though releasing many tracks in their multi-decade career. They were lead by English singer-songwriter and transgressive LGBT icon Pete Burns.
Before Burns founded Dead or Alive, he was involved with a 70s Liverpool-based band named Nightmares In Wax (no relation to Nightmares On Wax). That group centered around dark, moody alternative rock music. They released their only record to achieve real notoriety, 'Black Leather', at the turn of the decade. Publication The Guardian later remarked that "Burns was famous before he was famous" due to his talent and image.
Upon devising the project known as Dead or Alive, Burns hired a friend named Steve Coy as drummer. Over the next four years, Burns would hire and fire many musicians, including alternative-minded British punk rocker Wayne Hussey. Eventually, Burns settled on a four piece made up of himself, Steve Coy, Mike Percy, and Tim Lever. This is the line-up that made their full album debut in 1984 and achieved top 40 acclaim with hits such as 1984's "That's The Way I Like It", 1985's "Lover Come Back to Me", 1986's "Brand New Lover", and 1987's "Something In My House", among several others.
Coming of age during the rise of flamboyant post-punk styles, Burns served as the vocalist of the band (and sometimes as a songwriter) since its inception. During his 1980 to 2016 tenure with the group, his voice was famously described as "a light which fills the darkness" or something of the sort by publication Melody Maker, a line that has stuck with him. Burns did not play any instruments on the group's famous hits, though he mimed with an electric guitar in some music videos. His androgynous persona has often involved a strident, aggressive sensuality on stage. Burns died of cardiac arrest on 23 October 2016, at the age of 57, effectively ending the band.
Steve Coy has worked as a drummer and producer for the group, getting started with them in 1982. The youngest member of the band during its heyday, Coy performed different instruments and served as a songwriter for the band for years, though not delving into the world of lyrics. From 1994 on, Coy worked producing Dead Or Alive's videos (starting with the David Bowie cover "Rebel Rebel" from the album 'Nukleopatra'). He passed in mid-2018 at the age of 56.
Timothy "Tim" Lever (1983-1988) played a significant role in the band during its heyday, playing keyboards, saxophone, and guitars. The prematurely bald musician from Liverpool appeared older than he actually was. He and Mike Percy became responsible for most of the actual songwriting for the band. Percy (1983-1988) also played guitar in the group. Percy was noted for his mullet hairstyle, quite a contrast with Lever.
Jason Alburey (1996-2016) Alburey appears in the 2003 video for "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)".
Wayne Hussey (1980-1983) An early member of the band who wrote the song Misty Circles and who left to join The Sisters Of Mercy before going on to form The Mission, a popular British New Wave group.
Dead or Alive (sometimes called DOA for short, but not to be confused with punk band D.O.A.), was founded in 1980 by Pete Burns, one of the most visible LGBT icons of the decade. Steve Coy, the longest standing member of the band, plays drums and percussion as well as sharing songwriting responsibilities. Former members of the band include Tim Lever (keyboards/sax) and Mike Percy (bass).
The debut album, Sophisticated Boom Boom, featured their first Top 40 single: a remake of KC And The Sunshine Band's 1975 hit "That's the Way (I Like It)".
In 1985, they released the album Youthquake, produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman and steeped in the sound of Hi-NRG which was then at the peak of its popularity in the gay clubs. The single "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" went to number one on the UK charts after having lingered outside the Top 40 for over two months after release, and twenty years later is still a dance-floor favourite. Several other tracks from the album, including "Lover Come Back to Me" and "In Too Deep", also became dance hits.
In 1986, Dead Or Alive released their third album, Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know., which included the dancefloor smash "Brand New Lover". Two years later, they parted ways with Stock, Aitken and Waterman, and released the self-produced Nude, which featured the hit "Turn Around and Count 2 Ten"; a single that spent seventeen weeks at number one on the Japanese charts.
1990 saw the release of Fan the Flame Part. 1, and 1995 the album Nukleopatra, which featured covers of "Rebel Rebel" and "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 and every release sported different art covers, 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 of "Even Better Than the Real Thing" and "I Promised Myself", and another remix album, Unbreakable: The Fragile Remixes, 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 40.
In 2004, Pete Burns enjoyed solo success with the Boys track "Jack and Jill Party". Although only released through the Pet Shop Boys website, the track reached number 75 in the single chart and was an underground club hit.
In January 2006, Pete Burns appeared on British TV in Celebrity Big Brother. Following a live performance of "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" during the show, Dead Or Alive then went on to re-release the single the same month accompanied with an updated music video featuring original band members. Again the song charted in the UK, this time hitting number five.
After their height of success during the 1980s, the original band parted in 1990 when songwriters and musicians Tim Lever and Mike Percy left to form careers as mixers and recordists. 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, mixing number one tracks from bands like S Club 7, Blue and Robbie Williams.
Pete Burns and Steve Coy joined keyboard player Jason Alburey in 1996 and continued to record and play venues. Though they have never replicated the success of 1985, Dead Or Alive still commanded a large international following.
Burns died of cardiac arrest on 23 October 2016, at the age of 57, effectively ending the band.
On 28 October 2016, a 19-disc box set titled Sophisticated Boom Box MMXVI was released by Edsel Records. The box set features all records, singles and rarities produced by Dead or Alive from 1983 to 2010, including Pete Burns' solo releases. Coy hinted there may be a second box set in the future to come and previously unreleased Dead or Alive albums as well.
Coy died unexpectedly on 4 May 2018 at the age of 56.
Rip It Up! Live
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 and Laserdisc. It was also re-released in 2003 on the Evolution DVD. 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, though this was not entirely true. Whereas Burns mimed to a vocal track, the band (Coy, Lever and Percy) played the backing track live while two dancers mimed the guitar solos.
Contrary to popular belief, the 1984 song "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" was not the band's biggest success. While the song topped the UK singles chart for two weeks, the 1989 track "Turn Around And Count 2 Ten" topped the Japanese charts for a massive seventeen weeks.
The bands other UK hits were the 1986 track "Something In My House", 1984's "Lover Come Back (To Me)" and "In Too Deep" (of the same year).
Due to Pete Burns' slight resemblance to the more well-known gender-bending pop star Boy George during the mid-1980s, many outside of the UK assumed Dead or Alive was an answer of sorts to Culture Club. However as stated in the above article, Dead or Alive was formed in 1980 - a year before the formation of Culture Club. Read more on Last.fm
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