Losing Leonard Cohen at 82 and Leon Russell at 74 is tragic but 57 is just too young to leave. Pete Burns died suddenly of a heart attack on 23rd October after a life of brilliant eccentricity that in his own inimitable way he managed to manifest in a down to earth manner that made him just one of the boys – or girls.
My first exposure to Pete Burns was when I bought the Dead Or Alive 12 inch EP, It’s Been Hours Now released in 1982 (Wayne Hussey pre The Mission on guitar). I also bought the next release in the same year, the 7inch single of The Stranger. I was a fast fan, the Gothic voice and mysterious lyrics, the dark mood. Then suddenly in 1984 they released Sophisticated Boom Boom, the first album for a major label (Epic Records) and the tone had changed. An image revamp that took them away from Goth and closer to Dance, a more accessible sound with production by Zeus B. Held, it wasn’t until they released their fourth single, an unlikely cover of KC And The Sunshine Band’s 1975 worldwide hit, That’s The Way (I Like It) that they broke into the top half of the UK charts reaching No.22. The version also penetrated the Dance charts in the US making it to No. 28.
But it was their second album, Youthquake that featured the classic You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) that seriously put Pete Burns and Dead Or Alive on the musical map. It was catchy Dance Pop with a frantic synth sound that punched an androgynous hole in the charts, reaching No.1 in the UK and Canada, No.2 in Germany and No.11 in the USA breaking into the Top Ten all over the world including N0.3 in Australia and No.1 in Switzerland.
The video had insecure men quaking in their boots, locking their doors if they knew Pete Burns was in town as he swivelled his hips and challenged the world’s perception of sexuality and the norm. Tragically, multiple plastic surgery operations left Burns disfigured with life threatening consequences. Somehow he rose above it, he became a reality TV star, most famously on Big Brother. Through it all, he seemed rather straight talking and likable. In 2015 he was bankrupt, it doesn’t seem quite fair that he offered so much, experienced so many problems and left so early.
RIP Pete, we miss your uncompromising presence in our messed up world.