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Bauhaus

A gender-bending but hard-edged collage of cool glam and primeval punk influences shrouded in debauched horror posturing, the godfathers of gothic-rock BAUHAUS carved out their own inimitable niche in the early 80s post-new wave wasteland. Spearheaded by the Dirk Bogarde-meets-IGGY POP of the movement, Peter Murphy, and incorporating a heady cocktail of angular rhythms over electro, funk and avant-metal, BAUHAUS peaked much too soon, leaving the globe bereft of their talents.
Formed in Northampton, England, in late 1978, from out of The Craze, guitarist/vocalist Daniel Ash, bassist/vocalist David J (alias David Jay Haskins) – a replacement for Chris Barber – and his younger brother Kevin Haskins (drums/percussion), roped in aforementioned singer Murphy for rehearsals and dropped the print factory employee into the deep end at an inaugural gig that New Year’s Eve. Initially calling themselves Bauhaus 1919 (the name of a period art school movement in Germany), a live video demo shot by friend Graham Bentley, done the rounds of various independents, although this unorthodox procedure led to ambiguity from the ones that didn’t possess a VHS at hand.
Unperturbed, BAUHAUS duly recorded a 5-song demo at Beck Studios in nearby Wellingborough, impressing Walthamstow-based Small Wonder Records, who released one of the titles in August ’79: the “live in the studio” 12-inch-only dub-guitar epic, `Bela Lugosi’s Dead’, referencing the horror-flick actor who portrayed Count Dracula. A few minutes warming up, so to speak (Murphy fitted into the role of head vampire), while the quartet’s subsequent signature song shimmered until its cold-in-the-coffin climax 9 minutes later.
A whole new decade in front of them, the decadent `Dark Entries’ (about modern-day prostitution) was unveiled by 4 a.d. Records, having outsold its initial run of copies on the label’s Axis off-shoot. The truly scintillating birth of BAUHAUS served up another exercise in tabloid headlines as `Terror Couple Kill Colonel’ (concerning the death of Paul Bloomquist at the hands of the Red Army Faction) raced into the indie Top 5.
Self-produced but engineered by Paul Cook (not the ‘Pistols sticksman), the band’s debut album IN THE FLAT FIELD (1980) {*6} divided fans such as John Peel and critics (mainly from the NME and Sounds). No room for any of the aforementioned 45s (a Peel take of `Dark Entries’ was omitted last minute), the manic Murphy and Co gambled gloriously with the family jewels, their screeching goth performed to the max on the opening cavernous cuts, `Double Dare’ and the title track – both worthy of the admission price alone. Topping the indie charts and eventually scraping up a place in the official Top 75, weaker moments of gothic grandeur (`Small Talk Stinks’ and `Dive’) were cast into the ether as the claustrophobic `The Spy In The Cab’, `Stigmata Martyr’ and the death-defying `Nerves’ lept from the vinyl grooves like an awoken Nosferatu.
Swapping goth for glam, BAUHAUS signed off from 4 a.d. with an exclusive re-vamped 7-inch of the T. REX classic, `Telegram Sam’ – very much on the other side of the spectrum. Choosing Beggars Banquet Records, the alt-rock act funked up the doom and gloom and secured two minor hits through `Kick In The Eye’ and `The Passion Of Lovers’, in which their label obviously insisted on including on their infectious sophomore Top 30 LP, MASK (1981) {*8}. An accessible set that could be early BOWIE one minute, by way of the dry and narrative `Of Lillies And Remains’, or flash ‘Arry the next, as led out by the shimmering `Hair Of The Dog’, BAUHAUS stretched themselves to weird and wicked horizons. The bouncing and sax-driven `Dancing’ (topped by `In Fear Of Fear’), the JOY DIVISION-esque fairy-tale `Hollow Hills’ and the concluding title track (with acoustic guitar interlude), trudged toward near perfection.
1982 began in much the same way as the previous year, `Kick In The Eye’ – a maxi-single/EP now – entering the lower reaches of the charts, pursued by their first fresh single, `Spirit’, and an exclusive Top 20 cover of BOWIE’s `Ziggy Stardust’. But now their underground cred was called into question after Murphy appeared in a TV ad for Maxell Tapes later that year, aired around the time of album three, THE SKY’S GONE OUT (1982) {*7}. Opening with a karaoke re-tread of ENO’s `Third Uncle’, goth-to-glam sell-out accusations landed on the Top 5 set’s doorstep, but in the blood-letting follow-on piece `Silent Hedges’, BAUHAUS had risen from their crypt; they’d also backed up their most recent B-side with a cover of The VELVET UNDERGROUND’s `I’m Waiting For The Man’ – featuring NICO! In the beat-en mould of `Double Dare’, `In The Night’ menaced until the goth group were ready to `Swing The Heartache’. Coming after the aforesaid and extended `Spirit’ highlight, a glint of daylight was afforded the numbered parts of `The Three Shadows’, while self-indulgence rested upon the tombstone-kicking `Exquisite Corpse’. If one had missed initial copies, the freebie LP PRESS THE EJECT AND GIVE ME THE TAPE {*6} – recorded live at The Old Vic, London and Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool – was given an official limited run around Xmas.
More apt, perhaps, was the band’s performance of `Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ for 1983’s horror/vampire flick, The Hunger, starring their boyhood hero BOWIE. By the time of the film’s premier in April ’83, exclusive minor hit `Lagartija Nick’ was surpassed by the droning affections of Top 30 tempter, `She’s In Parties’, and it remains one of their most recognisable pieces. In effect their swansong fourth set, the Top 20 BURNING FROM THE INSIDE (1983) {*6} saw a sprawling BAUHAUS signing off on an unsettling, if creatively high point; the reason was that Murphy had been gravely unwell to the point he couldn’t contribute and perform on much of the record. A penultimate title track that snaked its way to an exhausting but dull 9 minutes without a funky fuss, only `Antonin Artaud’, `Honeymoon Croon’ and bona fide finale `Hope’ let BAUHAUS rest in peace – for now!
Already side-tracked by moonlighting project TONES ON TAILS (alongside BAUHAUS roadie Glen Campling on bass/vocals), Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins prised brother David away from a solo sojourn and time with The JAZZ BUTCHER, to instigate LOVE AND ROCKETS; unable to re-kick-start BAUHAUS, the three formed in 1984 and took America by storm five years on when `So Alive’ clawed its way into the Top 3.
MURPHY, meanwhile, subsequently surfaced with DALIS CAR, a duo that also complemented the frenetic frets of ex-JAPAN bassist/composer Mick Karn (plus the rhythms of Paul Vincent Lawford), although only one album, 1984’s `The Waking Hour’, was unveiled. The singer/lyricist went on to release a string of albums, surprising many in Britain when he duly had a near US Top 50 miss with the not-so-dark entry, `Cuts You Up’.
With concurrent off-shoots failing to sparkle during the latter half of the 90s, BAUHAUS decided to officially re-form in mid-1998 for two Big Apple concerts, which enabled their record label to cash-in on an accompanying best-of collection, “Crackle”. Better still was the belatedly-issued concert double-set from NY’s Hammerstein Ballroom nights that September 9-10: GOTHAM (1999) {*8}. A wonderful re-birth of sorts, it tracked the goth quartet’s best bits and a cover of DEAD CAN DANCE’s `Severance’.
Inevitably, BAUHAUS could not resist rising from their goth-rock grave by way of 2008’s GO AWAY WHITE {*6}. Planned since they’d performed a second reunion in 2005, the decadent dramatics of their halcyon days let rip on the cathartic `Too Much 21st Century’, but it was in the blood-curdling `Adrenalin’, `Undone’, `Endless Summer Of The Damned’ and the austere `Saved’ that fans recalled the spirit of BAUHAUS had risen again. Sadly, British audiences were no longer interested, while in America – where it was recorded – the set bubbled under the Top 100 – “Bauhaus Lugosi was dead”. R.I.P.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD-MCS // rev-up MCS Jul2015

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