Kipp Cheng
January 30, 1998 AT 05:00 AM EST

Rumors of singer Holly Johnson‘s death have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, because so many people were convinced that the outspoken, self-styled purveyor of ’80s excess had died after announcing in 1993 that he was HIV-positive, Johnson’s publicist issued a press release in 1995 stating that Johnson was still alive.

It’s just that Johnson (born William Johnson in 1960 in Liverpool, ”right around the corner from Penny Lane”) has turned inward. The singer has returned to his first passion, painting, and in 1994 published a well-regarded autobiography, A Bone in My Flute. Johnson, who says, ”In the past 18 months, my health has improved 100 percent” thanks to new AIDS treatments, has begun work on an introspective solo album, Soulstream, recording it in the studio at the London home he shares with his manager and partner of 13 years, Wolfgang Kuhle. Given the chance to relive the ’80s, Johnson says, ”I would have worn a condom.” But he’s not bitter. Says the onetime master of the Pleasuredome, ”I’m not into regretting things I’ve done.”

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