Often bleak, arty, and pleasingly difficult, Bauhaus delved into various genres of music. With bassist David J’s disjointed funk rhythms colliding with the bad-trip psychedelic guitar of Daniel Ash, Bauhaus’ music often consisted of desolate and haunting soundscapes that sway between the beautiful and the nightmarish. Standing in the midst of the often confrontational sound was vocalist Peter Murphy, an unconventional singer who often spoke as he sang. While comparisons to David Bowie were there from the start, Murphy’s abstract and hallucinogenic lyrics were often much more menacing and otherworldly than those of Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke. In the end, Murphy was probably the real man to fall to Earth.
Taking their name from the German art movement, Bauhaus formed in Northampton, England in 1978. Signing to the tiny independent label Small Wonder, Bauhaus released their first single, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” in 1979. At 1- minutes, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” was unlike anything before it. A sparse and hypnotic drum beat threads through the entire song while a jagged guitar scrapes against the minimalist structure. All the while, Murphy brings to life the once forgotten black-and-white horror films with his voice wavering between comatose and chaotic. As groundbreaking as the song was and continues to be, the song unfortunately had the media pegging Bauhaus as a “goth band,” a term that was unwanted and would often haunt them their entire career despite the band’s pioneering spirit and outright refusal to fall into cliches. Bauhaus was far too intelligent for such petty labels.
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