Pop star

Born: August 5, 1959;

Died: October 23, 2016

PETE Burns, who has died of a heart attack at the age of 57, was an androgynous, mouthy, provocative presence who was a pop star in the 1980s, a celebrity TV star in the 21st century and throughout his life a flamboyant product of his own sense of style.

He came to fame as a member of the band Dead or Alive who scored a number one hit in 1984 with You Spin Me Round (Like a Record), produced by 1980s production team Stock, Aitken and Waterman, but it was his knife-sharp tongue and his willingness to go under the knife that kept him in the public eye, particularly when he began to be offered appearances in programmes such as Celebrity Big Brother, alongside George Galloway, and Celebrity Wife Swap.

Born to a Liverpudlian father and a German Jewish mother whose own father was said to have been killed on the way to a concentration camp, Burns was brought up in Port Sunlight speaking German. His mother was an alcoholic who attempted suicide on a number of occasions, but he once said of her "she's the best human being that I've ever had the privilege of being in the company of."

Burns started standing out from an early age. He left school at just 14 after his headmaster objected to him coming to school with dyed red hair, one gigantic earring and no eyebrows. He got a job in a hair salon, where he met Jayne Casey, soon to be a member of seminal Liverpool band Big in Japan. It was not to last. "He was so vile that they sacked him after two weeks," Casey once said.

He then worked at Probe Records in Liverpool where he would refuse to sell records he did not like to customers, while giving a running commentary on their dress sense, or lack of same.

Liverpool at the end of the 1970s was nurturing a wave of wannabe pop peacocks who defied the city's rundown northern reality with their charity shop-styled exoticism. They congregated in the city's gay bars and around Eric's nightclub. Even surrounded by the likes of Holly Johnson and the shaven-headed Casey herself, Burns stood out, a proto Goth before the term became widely known.

He began his musical career in the company of Julian Coe and Pete Wylie - later of Teardrop Explodes and The Mighty Wah respectively. The Mystery Girls, however, were not built to last. Nor were his next band, Nightmares in Wax. This post-punk outfit morphed into Dead or Alive exchanging Gothy guitars for dance-friendly pop.

Burns was made to be a pop star in that moment. His androgynous otherness chimed with the Blitz Club graduates such as Boy George and Marilyn who were then breaking into the charts (inevitably, Burns claimed that Boy George stole his look).

His waspish provocations were made for attention-grabbing interviews in the music press. The surprise was that he did not become a star earlier.

Dead or Alive did break the top 30 in 1983 with a cover version of That's The Way (I Like It), a record Burns professed to hate. But it required SAW's input to You Spin Me Round - grafting a hi-energy-inspired rush to Burn's guttural baritone that had none of the tinniness that they would give to later recordings by Kylie and Jason - that pushed the band to the top of the charts.

The band would never match it, though, unlike Casey, they were always big in Japan. And for a while in the mid-1980s Burns was ubiquitous. He even became friends with Morrissey - a curious coming together of a natural pop puritan with pop's wildest cavalier - that ended when Burns bought a fur coat much to Morrissey's disgust.

Burns married Lynne Corlett in 1978 and they were together for the best part of three decades until they separated in 2006. "We're still really, really close," Burns later told a newspaper. "It's not about sexuality, it's about the person."

In 2006 he married Michael Simpson, inviting television cameras to the wedding. In his autobiography Freak Unique, Burns said that people always wanted to know about his sexuality. "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 it's been invented yet. I'm just Pete."

“Pete,” however, was an ongoing transformation. In later years he began to use cosmetic surgery to reshape himself. He admitted to having more than 300 operations, mainly to his face. "Changing my face is like buying a new sofa," he once claimed.

But the surgery saw him labelled freakish in the press and he almost died in 2006 during surgery on his nose. He also went bankrupt after paying for extensive corrective surgery after an operation on his lips went wrong. He was evicted from a London flat owing more than £30,000 in unpaid rent.

In the end Burns's musical output never matched the size of his personality but his intention was never to be invisible. In that he succeeded without a doubt.

He is survived by his partner Michael.