52 Albums That Changed My Life (and Other Exaggerations), Chapter 24: Bauhaus

A large number of my high school friends and I liked vampires. We played White Wolf’s great Vampire the Masquerade tabletop roleplaying game. Most of us saw Interview with the Vampire in theaters the first or second weekend it was out and we had also read the Anne Rice novels before that. We watched films like Near Dark and The Hunger. We played a vampire collectible card game.

In short, we liked vampires.

And we also liked music.

Which is why Bauhaus became a hit among my circle of friends very quickly. Their music could be poppy but it could also be punky. It could go into dark places but there were other songs that were just bits of fun.

I first became aware of Bauhaus due to a vampire episode of the TVO show, Prisoners of Gravity. In the episode, there was an interview with Anne Rice and she happens to mention that if they were to make a movie out of Interview with the Vampire, Lestat (the most popular character from the book) should be played by Peter Murphy. The show then went to show a brief clip of Peter playing with Bauhaus at the beginning of The Hunger (which would lead me to actually watching that movie a few weeks later). There wasn’t much but you could hear and interesting bass line and guitar sound, enough to pique my curiosity.

A few years later in high school, Bauhaus was featured on Halloween special on Much Music. First, I managed to catch the video for “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” It was definitely done on little to no budget and the band itself looked like they had formed out of two or three very different bands. Peter Murphy and Daniel Ash looked like they came out of the dark end of the glam pool. Like they had liked some of the aesthetic of glam but thought the colors were too bright and went with all black instead. They had weird hair, Ash wore makeup. Murphy had cheekbones that just made him look like… well… a vampire. Contrasting this was bass player David J., wearing a full suit and sunglasses. If you took him away from the rest of the band, his image seemed more befitting a ska band. You couldn’t really make out drummer Kevin Haskins but it sort of appeared he was just wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

But out of this ragtag band of musicians came a sound like nothing I had really ever heard. Murphy had a voice that could cut through anything. It was sharp and different. The bass line was solid and heavily present but the guitars that were paired with it were jangly. The band itself sounded like they had just gotten good. Like they had started with the punk ideal of not needing to know how to play their instruments but somewhere along the line had figured out that maybe if they got to be better players, they could sound different and stand out among their counterparts.

Later, Much put on a spotlight on Bauhaus that featured “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” “She’s in Parties,” and their cover of “Ziggy Stardust.” These guys were great! They had an original sound of their own that borrowed a little from Bowie and Joy Division but still sounded like nothing else out there. Their songs were quoted in our roleplaying books. I had to have something by them.

The first trip to the mall was a bust. For the most part, goth music wasn’t hugely popular in Newmarket and none of the mall’s music stores had any Bauhaus in stock and it was going to cost an arm and a leg if I ordered anything in. So I hit up the trusty BMG Music Club, the short-lived Columbia House competitor. They had two Bauhaus collections.

Which became a big decision moment.

Bauhaus 1979 – 1983 Volume One contained the best of the Bauhaus tunes I had heard, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” Volume Two had “She’s in Parties” and “Ziggy Stardust.” Which way to go? I could only afford one of them at the time. In the end, it was Volume One as the winner.

As I’ve said before, single collections and best of albums can be an interesting collection of songs and can sometimes give you a full view of a band’s entire career and this Bauhaus collection was no exception. You did get the full goth material like “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” (on this collection, it’s a killer live version and “Double Dare” but you also got the almost pop catchy songs like “Telegram Sam” and “St. Vitus Dance”. There were a few songs that captured the fury of punk like “In the Flat Field” and “Dark Entries” but didn’t seem to fit completely in that mold.

I was in.

It would take a year or two but, eventually, I would snag Volume 2 (I think Aaron or Jeremy picked up Volume 2 first which lead to me having a tape copy that would tide me over). I would dive into the music that would spring from Bauhaus’s split in 1983, Love and Rockets and Peter Murphy’s solo career both of which have some very big highlights. It’s interesting how neither act would touch on the sound Bauhaus created. Almost like it was music to sit on the shelf until the four of them would reunite. And reunite they did, first for a tour and then for new music with the criminally underrated Go Away White in 2008.

Bauhaus lead me into the path of goth music a bit more. I would end up learning about Sisters of Mercy through being a fan of Bauhaus (which is weird when you kind of examine it as both bands are “goth” but neither one sound remotely like one another).

Unfortunately, I never got to see the band during any of their reunion gigs. I have very few musical regrets in this world but not seeing Bauhaus is still one one of them and as of this writing it looks like the chances of that happening again are slim to none.

In the meantime, if you are curious about Bauhaus, Bauhaus 1979 – 1983 Volume One is a great place to start.

Brent Chittenden

Brent Chittenden is a freelance writer with a gift for the geek. Currently a writer with A Journal Of Musical Things and a podcaster with True North Nerds, he's also written for Comic Book Daily, Explore Music and a dozen other places. Currently, he is the co-host of the True North Nerds podcast. You can find out more at www.facebook.com/bcchittenden

Let us know what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.