80’s ICON and Dead or Alive singer Pete Burns had spent many years in the limelight, whether it be for better or for worse, before his untimely death on the 23rd October. We take a look at some of the highs and lows of his turbulent past.

Pete Burns and his mother Eva (photo credit: Pintrest)

The star was born on the 5th August 1959. His mother, a holocaust survivor, suffered from depression and turned towards alcohol and substance abuse when Pete was just 14. He revealed to Ok! Magazine: “I couldn’t take it. I’d come home and find her with her wrists slashed and blood splattered all over the place.” However, in his autobiography Freak Unique he recalls a rather different tale, stating: “I couldn’t possibly have wished for a better friend. She gave me the power to dream, the power to remove myself from where I might not be having any fun, and go inside my head and be somewhere else.”




While Pete was advancing his musical career he took a job flogging vinyl in Liverpool’s premier record shop Probe Records which was a hub for all things new wave and the meeting place of Pete Burns (Dead or Alive), Julian Cope (The Teardrop Explodes) and Paul Rutherford (Frankie Goes to Hollywood) who would begin their musical legacy together in their short lived band The Mystery Girls. The Band Played one gig in Eric’s supporting Sham 69 before disbanding.

One fan spoke to us about Pete and she said:

“We would hang around Probe just to get a glimpse of Pete Burns. His flamboyant clothing and weird contact lenses had never been seen before. We were entranced by him. I bumped into him in Eric’s once and he said: ‘watch were you’re f****** going.’ “


In ’78 the androgynous pop star shocked fans by marrying his Stylist Lynn Corlett. When questioned on his sexuality Pete famously responded: “[People] always want to know – am I gay, bi, trans or what? I say, forget all that. There’s got to be a completely different terminology and I’m not aware if it’s been invented yet. I’m just Pete.”

1979 Pete Burns
Nightmares in Wax (Photo credit: Pete Burns I Love You Youtube)


In 1979 Pete fronted a gothic post-punk outfit called Nightmares on Wax comprising of Martin Healy, Mick Reid, Paul Hornby and Walter Ogden. The band played their first gig at Eric’s in June 1979 and scored a record deal with the Eric’s label releasing a three track EP called Birth of a Nation. One of the singles off the EP ‘Black Leather’ featured a Segway into KC & The Sunshine Band’s That’s the Way (I Like It) a song that Pete would later revive with Dead or Alive.

In the 1980s Pete founded the band that would cement him in pop history, Dead or Alive which recorded the seminal pop smash You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) and the album, Youthquake. Dead or Alive created a sound that many of his contemporaries sought inspiration from such as Bananarama and Kim Wilde. Before the success of Youthquake, Dead or Alive saw moderate chart success in the Indie charts with single The Stranger reaching number 7 and their first UK top 40 placement with Sophisticated Boom Boom. After the commercial success of Youthquake, Pete’s yearning to improve his image lead him to go under the knife, resulting in an horrific botched job that made his nose so crooked that he couldn’t wear sunglasses.

In 1997 Pete revealed that he had previously made attempts to end his own life and shared: “a severe depression hit me, but I didn’t respond well to anti-depressants. It still occasionally hits me, but I’m in the hands of a fantastic psychiatrist and I’m on medication that works.”

This year saw Pete’s worst surgical disaster when a botched job led his lips to swell to 18 inches threatening lip amputation and jaw amputation and his face was in serious danger. He shared: “I started to develop holes in my skin and if I so much as touched my face there would be an audible hissing and out onto the mirror would vomit this yellow fluid.” The humiliation caused Pete to descend into another deep depression but didn’t halt his longing for more plastic surgery.


2003 saw the BBC forced to apologise for Burns’ furious rant when questioned about his views on Micheal Jackson’s court case. He swore multiple times before the watershed on the show Liquid News.


2002 pete burns
Pete Burns and George Galloway © WENN

Pete split with his wife of 25 years, Lynn Corlett in 2006 after having an affair with his future husband Michael Simpson. He also sparked outrage during his stint in the Celebrity Big Brother house when he boasted about wearing a gorilla fur coat. Later that year he was arrested for assault but the charges were dropped and he appeared on the show ‘Pete Burns Unspun’ as a last ditch effort to revive his career.

Pete was arrested again in 2012 for a minor breach of the peace and was “freed” from prison by his Celebrity Big Brother pal George Galloway who said at the time: “I got him out of jail,” he says. “I had to go to a police station and pay a sum of money, of surety, to get him out of the cells.”

Pete was declared Bankrupt in December.

Pete was evicted from his rented flat for non-payment of over £34’000

Pete tragically died of a sudden cardiac arrest on the 23rd October 2016.


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