Bela Lugosi’s Dead 45
August 1979 – Small Wonder Records
Peter Murphy – Vocals
Daniel Ash – Guitar
David J – Bass
Kevin Haskins – Drums
1 – Bela Lugosi’s Dead
2 – Boys
I first heard about the Bauhaus in 1981. The Los Angeles punk scene was splitting up around this time, sort of splitting into separate genres. Basic punk was bands like Mau Mau’s, and a couple of the groups from the first Decline movie, then you had Hardcore where you had most of my favorite bands like Bad Religion, Black Flag and dozens of others. After that a death-rock scene started, we didn’t call it Goth back then, the deathrock scene in L.A. started around the time T.S.O.L. put out Dance With Me (some of you may dispute this, but this is how I remember it), and the scene suddenly had a truckload of groups, such as Christian Death, 45 Grave, Castration Squad, and a few more. And then around the same time, psychedelic punk started with Redd Kross, Salvation Army (later 3 O’ Clock), The Bangs (later the Bangles), and a few others. It was around this time that a girl (Stephanie Chatterton) from school told me about the Bauhaus. I was a huge TSOL fan, and she was telling me that a lot of these death-rock bands were biting stuff from The Damned, and Bauhaus, so when I put some money together from my McDonalds job I picked up the only vinyl of theirs I could find at Moby Disc.
On the first play, I thought something was wrong with the single, I’m waiting two to three minutes before the guy starts singing, and then they go on for about nine minutes. I was used to songs that ended at the two-minute mark. But the craziest thing happened, after the second listening, the song is embedded in your brain.
Every few years or so, I still put it on. While I still treasure the Dance with me album more, Bauhaus were a pretty good band. Their version of Ziggy Stardust is a damn good cover.
The song was written as if Bela Lugosi’s was a vampire. Lugosi was, in fact, buried in his Dracula cape, an event shown in the film Ed Wood:
More than thirteen different bands including The Buzzcocks, Godhead, and Poison Idea have covered Bela Lugosi’s Dead.
Bauhaus originally called Bauhaus 1919 after the German art movement; by 1979, they had dropped 1919 from their name, formed in 1978 in Northampton, England. Guitarist/vocalist Daniel Ash, bassist/vocalist David J, and drummer Kevin Haskins had played together in a band called the Craze, before forming Bauhaus with vocalist Peter Murphy.
In August of 1979, they released their debut single, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” on the independent label Small Wonder. Three months later, the group signed with Beggars Banquet’s subsidiary label, 4AD. The group’s second single, “Dark Entries,” was released in January 1980. Following their first European tour, they released their third single, “Terror Couple Kill Colonel,” which became a hit on the indie charts.
After their first American tour in September 1980, the group released a cover of T. Rex’s Telegram Sam. A month later they released their debut album, In the Flat Field, which reached number one on the independent charts, and number 72 on the pop charts.
The success of In the Flat Field led to their first hits on the pop charts; both “Kick in the Eye” and “The Passion of Lovers” made the U.K. Top 60 in 1981. In October, they released their second album, Mask, which revealed a more ambitious musical direction, which featured elements of metal, and electronic, that made the music more accessible, without abandoning the dark core of their music. Mask was a commercial success, peaking at number 30 on the U.K. charts.
In March 1982, Bauhaus released the EP Searching for Satori, which reached number 45 on the UK charts; another successful single, Spirit, followed in the summer. That fall, the group had a number 15 hit with their version of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. The success of the single propelled their third album, The Sky’s Gone Out, to number four on the album charts.
Murphy contracted pneumonia at the beginning of 1983, which prevented him from participating in the recording sessions for Bauhaus’ fourth album, Burning from the Inside. The album featured substantial contributions from Ash and J, who both pursued more personal directions. After Murphy recovered, the band toured Japan, and then returned to the U.K. to promote the summer release of Burning from the Inside. The album was another hit for them, hitting at number 13.
If you haven’t already heard this song a million times, give it a listen!
Rating: ** * two out of three stars
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