Altered Images formed in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1979, with founding members Clare Grogan (vocals), Gerard “Caesar” McInulty (guitar), Johnny McElhone (bass), Tony McDaid (guitar), and Michael "Tich" Anderson (drums). In 1980 Clare appeared in Bill Forsyth's film Gregory's Girl which helped to bring attention to the band, and after sending a demo to Siouxsie & The Banshees they secured an opening slot for their 1980 tour. This association soon resulted in the choice of Banshees bassist Steven Severin to produce AI's first recorded work.
Following the 1980 tour and with the support of John Peel, Britain’s most influential DJ, the band signed with Epic. The first two singles, Dead Pop Stars and A Day's Wait, saw the band beginning to develop their own sound. Epic wanted the band to add one more element to the mix: chart success. With this in mind they brought in producer Martin Rushent, who had an established track record of crafting left-of-centre hits with the Buzzcocks, the Stranglers, and Generation X. The addition of Rushent, along with second guitarist Jim McKinven, resulted in the single Happy Birthday, which managed to channel AI's sound in a more commercial direction without losing their distinctive sound. The remainder of the album, also titled Happy Birthday, was produced by Severin, but it was Rushent who had charted the course for the remainder of the band's career.
Rushent returned in 1982 to produce Pinky Blue, a much more upbeat album than its predecessor. The three singles released from the album, I Could Be Happy, See Those Eyes, and the frenetic Pinky Blue, all sounded more commercial than most of the band's early material, but Grogan's unique vocal style assured that AI would retain a slightly otherworldly quality. The band also contributed a cover of Del Shannon's Little Town Flirt to the Party Party soundtrack in 1982. Following Pinky Blue, the band replaced drummer Anderson and second guitarist McKinven with Steve Lironi (guitar, drums).
Production chores on the next album, 1983's Bite, were split between Tony Visconti and Mike Chapman. In an unexpected move, AI switched to a slick disco sound in an acknowledged effort to gain a wider audience. Changes in image were made as well, as the cover of Bite made clear - the black and white photo of Clare looking very sophisticated in a black evening gown was a radical switch from her previous portrayals, as well as a break with the previous tradition of featuring the entire band on album covers. In an interview with NME Clare noted that the image makeover was intentional, but would not be a new uniform: "We decided we'd have to do something pretty drastic to make people realise that I wasn't going to parade about in ra-ra skirts for the rest of the century. And I'm not going to parade about in black evening gowns on tour!" Nor on television, as the video for Don't Talk To Me About Love features Clare looking very comfortable in a sophistication-free jogging suit. Although the change in the band's sound did help them achieve greater radio exposure, with "Don't Talk To Me About Love" going Top 10, the group would not stay intact to enjoy their success. After a UK and North American tour in 1983 with added members David Wilde on drums and Jim Prime on keyboards, the group broke up.
Following the dissolution of AI, Clare returned to acting, appearing in Bill Forsyth's 1984 film Comfort And Joy, the Red Dwarf and East Enders series, and also served as the host for the Sky Movies television program. She would return to various musical endeavors from time to time, including hosting a UK video show, and recording a number of tracks in 1987 for a planned solo album called Trash Mad. Ultimately only the "Love Bomb" 12" single was released from these sessions, the rest of the tracks from the album remain unreleased. From 1989-1990 Grogan and Lironi performed occasionally under the name Universal Love School, but never released any recordings. Clare's guest appearances on other artists' recordings include "This Grudge" on Bionic in 1996 and "Night Falls Like a Grand Piano" on Hyacinths and Thistles in 2000.
After the first 2 Peel Sessions, Gerard “Caesar” McInulty went on to form The Wake.
Johnny McElhone formed the band Hipsway in 1984, which had some success with the Honeythief single from their self-titled 1986 album. Hipsway would break up following their second album, after which McElhone formed Texas, a group which would have intermittent UK success but is largely unknown in the U.S.
Steve Lironi became active in production, songwriting, and session work after AI, working with a great variety of artists including Dot Allison, Black Grape, Hanson, and Bon Jovi.
In 2002 the unexpected announcement was made that Altered Images would be reforming for a series of Christmas shows for the Here And Now 80's revival tour.