Pete Burns is an enduring oasis of originality and wit in the increasingly dull world of pop. As the outrageous driving force behind Dead Or Alive, Pete stands alone as the only gay pop star to represent the queer community with any sense of flair or authenticity. If Boy George would put down that bowl of ice cream and do something apart from making bad house records under a seemingly endless stream of aliases, he might actually provide Pete with some competition. I have also become fond of George Michael as he has transformed into a fat drug addict with a beat fetish. However, the boring nature of his music negates his increasingly fabulous image. That leaves us with a pack of pathetic cunts like Will Young, Mika, Elton John and Anthony Callea. They should all be locked away in a soon to be demolished building as a public service to the gay community. In a gay pop star battle royale, Pete Burns would be the only queen left standing.
Many people disagree with the high esteem in which I place Pete Burns. His detractors usually refer to the fact that he was married to a woman for 25 years before coming out, ridicule his supposed plastic surgery addiction and claim that he has been milking one song ("You Spin Me Round") for almost a quarter of a century. I would reply by pointing out that Pete has had the same gender-bending image since day one. The videos for early Dear Or Alive songs are so overtly gay that I can hardly believe they were ever shown on morning television. Pete is far from the only gay man to have been married before coming out and he has been incredibly open about his sexuality since meeting his long term boyfriend. As far as the plastic surgery comments are concerned, any ageing diva worth their gay fanbase has been under the knife. If anything, Pete's changing visage only adds to his fabulous allure. The final criticism is interesting because until very recently, I would have agreed. Despite being a fan, my knowledge of Dead Or Alive came to a screeching halt with 1988's "Nude" album. I was aware that the band had continued releasing material in Japan but assumed it must be second rate junk. I have Max to thank for opening my eyes to the delights of Dead Or Alive's brilliant Japanese material and I am devoting this post to covering the band's output from 1990's "Fan The Flame (Part 1)" to 2000's "Fragile".
Dead Or Alive's success in Japan in nothing less than astonishing. If Wikipedia is to be believed, the band has scored nine #1 albums in Japan and seventeen #1 singles. I'm sure these were #1 hits on the Japanese International Chart but that makes the achievement no less impressive. Dead Or Alive's first Japan only album was 1990's excellent "Fan The Flame (Part 1)". The album marked a departure from the band's usual output in both sound and lyrics. The sound had evolved from the typical Hi-NRG beats of their early material to explore a richer sonic pallet. The result is something akin to Stock Aiken Waterman on acid. I particularly love "Unhappy Birthday" with its darkly amusing tale of a fucked up birthday party. I can definitely relate. The theme of shitty celebrations continues with "Blue Christmas", which I believe is the band's very first ballad. I'm surely I'll have this on high rotation in December. The gorgeous "Lucky Day" finds Pete in a much lighter mood. The video for the album's lead single, "Your Sweetness Is Your Weakness", is worth checking out for Pete's La Toya Jackson inspired outfit!
It took several line-up changes and five years until the release of "Nukleoptra", which was not only released in Japan but also found its way to Australia and a couple of other countries due to popularity of the club hit, "Sex Drive". "Nukleopatra" is my favourite of Dead Or Alive album. It is surely one of the campest recordings ever released and shows off the band's fabulous new dance pop sound to great effect. The album was Pete's first since leaving his wife and officially coming out and these events are reflected in the lyrics. For example, the title track sends up Pete's gender bending image with a fabulous lyric about forming a "she-male race", while "I'm A Star" contains hilariously bitchy lyrics about George Michael and Take That. It also boasts several memorable lines about "riding" a DJ. "International Thing" is a more straightforward dance pop song, while "Sleep With You" is a down and dirty slut anthem. Throw in the international club hit, "Sex Drive" and the band's cover of David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" and you have one of the most enjoyable pop albums of the 1990s.
Dead Or Alive released "Fragile" in Japan in 2000 and, rather predictably, it hit #1. The first single, "Hit And Run Lover" also reached the top spot and the video clip is a thing of beauty. "Fragile" is predominantly a remix album but also includes several new tracks. The new tracks are interesting and find the band experimenting with a harder club sound. "Fragile" is a very good record but there is a bit more filler than killer. Nevertheless, "I Paralyze" is something of a club stomper, while "Isn't It A Pity" provides another commentary on his evolving image. Pete's talent for witty lyrics are on full display with several funny lines. In my opinion, the album's best pop song is the anthemic "Just What I Always Wanted", which strikes me as being more than a little autobiographical.
It has now been almost a decade since Dead Or Alive released their last completely new studio album. There have been greatest hits compilations, remix albums and various re-releases of "You Spin Me Round" to keep fans satisfied but it is high time that Pete made a proper comeback and put all the pretenders back in their place. Thanks again to Max for opening my eyes to this fantastic period in Dead Or Alive's amazing career.
Help cover Pete's plastic surgery fees by purchasing one or all of these fabulous albums from Amazon or Ebay.