Saturday, April 07, 2007

The King Of Queer Pop - Pete Burns

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.


Robpop said...

As a gay boy from Liverpool I can understand what this lad is on about. He is a fighter. In a time when the government was legislating things like s.28 and the city was so poverty stricken the Thatcher executive considered using the military to put it right.

Go to liverpool and gay lads like Pete are everywhere. You can see it on their faces. Perhaps not so glam or destroyed by plastic surgery but you can see it in their eyes.

As for Queer Icons...this man makes feel dead. He is an icon of Liverpool but I don't hold him up as a gay musician that makes me go "wow". I do however agree with you with regards to Will Young and Mika. Its nice to have them and its interesting that Mika is now on the front cover of Manner!

Still, there's something lacking in these singers. So my eyes glance beyond what Britain has to offer and I settle on Alexander Bard and his Army Of Lovers. I'm not 100% for BwO and Alcazar but Army Of Lovers had the music sorted, the politically erect lyrics and fierce gayness.

I don't want this to be a "kylie v madonna" topic but BwO/Alexander Bard are beyond iconic. Queer is central to their existence. They celebrate surgery but don't push the body to extremes. They'd never appear on Big Brother and their greatest hits cover included a dildo. Their material was banned in Isreal and MTV U.S.A refused to play Crucified. They challenged absolutely everything through their music. For me Mike, Army Of Lovers make me proud of who i am. I want to join this army, sing Hands Up while wrapped up in a rainbow flag.

My point is this-for me Army Of Lovers are the key Queer Icons of Music. Pete is just mess. Musically they've allowed for bands like Army Of Lovers but DoA protracted a bit didnt they. Especially with their constant re-releases of remixes of that one hit.

Its a shame the members Tim and Mike(Percy) gave all their hit songs to Billie Piper, S Club 7, Emma Bunton, Girl Thing, S Club 8, Blue, Spice Girls, Five, 911 and Kylie! You can sort of see that DoA could STILL be huge today.

Pete: an icon. Of music. No. Of Queerdom. Perhaps. But not for me. He's an icon of Liverpool.

Trash Addict said...

Hey BIF,

I think you misread my article. I detest and despise Mika and Will Young. I think they're about as useful as tits on a chair. Pete strikes me as being an authentic free spirit, someone who has never given a fuck about what people think of him and the lifestyle choices he has made. To me that makes him a powerful queer icon. I can't stand the sappy poofs ruining music today. Give me a coked up, plastic surgey addict who shits on stage every time.

I like Army Of Lovers, but I find their music a bit repetitive. They are far more interesting than the incredibly overrated BWO but I don't consider them in the same league as DOA.

Now Rob - true or false. Has Pete really been seen meeting with SAW recently?!

Miss Halliwell said...

I have all their albums darling, Fan the Flame (parts 1 & 2!)...Part II is chronic. Pete on crack doing dodgy torch songs with a piano and a DOA wasn't worth sleeping with someone for i'll tell ya!

I do love Pete's music MORE since the PWL/Pete thing went tits up. Nukleopatra is fab and Fragile is a wet dream. Isn't it a pity is really a touching kinda tongue-in-cheeks song and all that...

I must say YUK! to the pic of Pete's bollocks. Looks like an upside down turkey took up residence in Dame Burns' frock and forgot to come out for the party!

Hope you got yer Dolly...

Miss H

Trash Addict said...

Deirdre, I totally agree about Pete only becoming more fabulous post PWL. I love the supposed Japan only material. I didn't even know there was a Fan The Flame Pt 2! I am intrigued. Is it really, really bad?

Pete's scrotum doesn't really do it for me either. Although the bog on the stage next to him is a classy touch.

I did receive the Dolly. Thank you kindly!

Ro Ro said...

That was a scrotum i thought it was the wrestler chyna with her overly large clit? lmao seriously tho pete is fab. I had the pleasure of meeting her in Dallas when they were promoting Nukleopatra. They toured various gay bars here it was quite tragic really. Then gave autographs after. Pete was very short. His wife who he was still with at the time spilled her drink on my best friend. Pete is a total cunt if u ever should meet him he was entirely rude to us lmao. But i kinda loved that about him really.I agree with u 2 fierce diva's that Fragile and Nukleopatra was his best work to date. I also had the misfortune to hear fan the flame part 2 and it is ear shattering but still worth one listen.

Miss Heide Von Binterschlappen said...

There is something utterly fabulous about Pete, but at the same time he isn't that likeable - but that makes him more fabulous in a way. He has great taste in reading material too!

That picture of him shitting on stage, bollocks dangling freely is hilarious!

Trash Addict said...

Pete comes across as a bitter and twisted old queen but that's what I like about him. I can't stand warm & fluffy old fags like Elton John. Oh, and the fact that Pete is an out and proud Dannii fan also adds to fabulousness!

Ugly Betty said...

The vile image of Pete's swinging balls and turd is photoshopped, dahhlings. Not exactly an image you want here really, with such a fab article!

Anonymous said...

For me Dragchrist is and always will be the King/Queen of pop, a true independent free spirit, who has always been very open about their sexuality, and has remained true to their underground punk gender bender roots. A pop star in the real true sense of the word.

Anonymous said...

In the era of political Queerness (really, since Act Up, Sommerville etc.), it's refreshing to look back @ Marc Almond, Boy George and Pete Burns as a sigh of relief. I mean really, who really wants to look like a queer clone (white t, blue jeans, shaved head and boots?).

rusty said...

Wow, the whole ball thing just made me loose my lunch. Don't hormones make them shrink? Can you imagine how huge they used to be?

houston Kenna said...

Nice experience shared. Its not less than an interview. Great way of posting such good and informative stuff.
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