Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead

3rd December 2022 · 1970s, 1979, Music

In that early post-punk universe of new sounds and new ideas, Bela Lugosi’s Dead was an important landmark. The nine-minute single was the first recording Bauhaus ever made – as a demo – just six weeks after forming in Northampton in 1978.

It’s nearly three minutes Pete Murphy’s gothic baritone sliced through the bleak, brooding atmosphere created by the bass and drums, recorded with masses of dub-like echo and delay.

It established their minimalistic and miserabilistic signature sound of gloomy basslines shattered by jagged guitar chords while synths shimmer ominously in the distance.

The group – Daniel Ash (guitar, sax), Peter Murphy (vocals), Kevin Haskins (drums) and David J (bass) – originally took the name Bauhaus 1919 after the year the German art school began.

They had shortened it by the time Bela Lugosi’s Dead became their debut single on the indie label Small Wonder in August 1979.

Three months later they signed with Beggars Banquet’s subsidiary label, 4AD and released their second single, Dark Entries, in January 1980.

The following summer, influenced by their first European tour, they put out their third single – and my favourite – Terror Couple Kill Colonel.

Bauhaus seem to be in that category of bands that acquired far more fans and influence after they broke up and reformed than they ever did in their heyday, and certainly fill bigger arenas today than they ever did in the early Eighties.

Not everyone saw the talent of Bauhaus. Here is the odious Radio 1 DJ Steve Wright introducing them on Top of the Pops thus: “Stay with us… this takes a while to get going. the song is a bit light on vocals – and when they do arrive they sound a bit like a station announcement.” And if you are Bauhaus and you’re looking at this… look away now.” Dickhead.