Bauhaus - Biography
Formed in 1978 as a dark reaction to the death of punk and the rise New Wave, Bauhaus solidified their legacy as the originators of goth rock with their first single, “Bela Lugosi's Dead” on Small Wonder Records in 1979. Four landmark goth LPs, In The Flat Field (1980 4AD), Mask (1981 Beggars Banquet), The Sky's Gone Out (1982 Beggars Banquet) and Burning From the Inside (1983 Beggars Banquet) quickly followed, topping British music charts. The impulsive, emotional band broke up as abruptly as they had emerged, owing to members’ stark creative differences. The brothers, David J and Kevin Haskins, continued with Daniel Ash in Love and Rockets. Peter Murphy had a solo career. The four reunited to tour in the late '90s and again in 2005, before releasing their final album, Go Away White (2008 Bauhaus Music). The band survives among the acknowledged influences of hundreds of contemporary bands, as well as dozens of gothic rock compilations.
Peter Murphy (born July 11, 1957), Daniel Ash (born July 31, 1957), Kevin Haskins (born July 19, 1960) and older brother David J. Haskins (born April 24, 1957) grew up amid the famed Gothic church ruins of the ancient city of Northampton as well as the wreckage of the Sex Pistols craze. Northampton was but a province of 150,000 people in the 1970s, more known for its Church of the Holy Sepulchre (built in 1100 AD after the First Crusade) than its multitudinous cover bands.
The brothers Haskins met Ash in kindergarten and they played together in numerous bands since childhood. Kevin banged on everything he could hit until he got a set of drums. He saw a Sex Pistols gig as a teenager, inspiring him to form a band with his brother called Submerged Tenth. Ash was also influenced by concerts he saw as a teenager and he decided to pursue a career on stage despite being too lazy to learn guitar. The three went on to form the Craze, Jack Plus and The Sockettes before breaking up.
Murphy was from the outskirts of town and was model-thin with prominent cheekbones, attributes that would later get him modeling work for Maxell. He was a misfit with a penchant for glam rock and vampires. He shared a love of The Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Oscar Wilde, dub, punk, and German Expressionist cinema with Ash and they became friends in high school. Afterward, Ash went to art school while Murphy worked in a printing factory. The two re-united five years later, when Ash convinced Murphy to join a band with him because of Murphy's looks and attitude—despite having never written lyrics nor sung. The two co-wrote most of “In the Flat Field” before Ash called in former bandmate Kevin Haskins, while making a point of not inviting David J due to the control he’d exerted over previous bands
Murphy and Ash wrote prolifically, embracing spontaneity and accidents as part of the process while churning out the skeletons of “Dark Entries,” “In the Light,” “Boys” and “Harry” in a single weekend. Within four weeks the band had gone from singing the text of newspaper articles to forming Bauhaus 1919 and writing their miraculous, dub-inflected, debut single “Bela Lugosi's Dead”; written by David J after they changed their minds about his exclusion. Haskins states he suggested the band name in reference to the German art school and its minimalist aesthetic.
Recorded in one take for under $100, the nine-minute “Bela Lugosi's Dead” combined Kevin Haskins' sparse drumming, with a punk-simple bassline by David J, Ash's signature otherworldly guitar effects and Murphy's monotone, gravedigger delivery. Its lack of standard song structure allied it with more experimental, underground acts, but its unforgettable chorus and title found favor with DJs and critics. BBC Radio 1 DJ and tastemaker John Peel spun their single and invited Bauhaus (who had dropped “1919”) to record for a session on January 3, 1980; before their first LP had even been released.
Bauhaus followed up their hit single with “Dark Entries,” “Terror Couple Kill Colonel” and “Telegram Sam” before releasing their debut LP, In the Flat Field (1980 4AD). The self-produced album charted thanks to standout tracks “Double Dare,” “St. Vitus Dance,” and “Stigmata Martyr” which drew upon Murphy's Catholic upbringing. The album's success was backed by the band's startling, aggressive, intimidating live shows that took punk's snarl and drained it bone-white. The band only used white stage lights and refused any type of rapprochement with its audience, preferring to scare them.
Spontaneity reigned in early Bauhaus, so follow up single “The Passion of Lovers” was written and recorded in a day. Some fans felt alienated by Bauhaus’ jump to larger label Beggars Banquet and then by their reaching number 30 on the UK charts with their second album, Mask (1981 Beggars Banquet). Again produced by Bauhaus, the band employed keyboards and more danceable beats; lifting some of the gloom and reaching a wider audience. Following on the heels of Adam and the Ants' commercial turn, some fans took umbrage at the band’s direction as well as at Murphy's modeling in ads for the cassette tape manufacturer Maxell.
By 1982, Bauhaus increased their exposure with a standout version of David Bowie's “Ziggy Stardust,” recorded during a BBC session. It reached #15 on the UK charts and earned the band a spot on the TV show Top of the Pops. The album that followed, The Sky's Gone Out (1982 Beggars Banquet), entered the charts at #4. Bauhaus made an appearance in David Bowie vehicle The Hunger playing “Bela Lugosi's Dead” as the opening number with Murphy drinking up almost all the screen time of the scene. Their hectic life of touring and appearances took its toll, and Murphy came down with pneumonia prior to the recording of their fourth album, Burning from the Inside (1983 Beggars Banquet). Ash led the Murphy-less trio into the studio producing the standout tracks “She's in Parties,” “Kingdom's Coming” and “Burning from the Inside.”
By the time Murphy had recovered, his opportunities for contribution were limited. TV spots and an international tour with dates in Europe and the East Asia followed. Then, in a move as impulsive as that of their formation, the band decided to quit the night before they were scheduled to perform two shows at the Hammersmith Palais in London. After a lengthy set with a six-song encore of early material, David J Haskins exited the stage July 5, 1983 with the words “rest in peace.” Burning from the Inside came out a week later, garnered positive reviews and hit #13 on the UK charts. Intensely private and loathe to talk to press, the band didn’t really make clear what catalyzed the break-up although David J has said that Murphy was frustrated by Ash's lack of self-confidence.
Despite David J's epitaph, the members of Bauhaus would not rest in peace. After Bauhaus, Murphy would form Dali's Car with Japan’s Mick Karn and go on to pursue a solo career. Ash resuscitated his project begun in 1981, Tones on Tail before, which ended again in 1984. The old Northampton trio of both Haskinses and Ash formed Love and Rockets in 1985 who went head-to-head in the charts with against Murphy's single “Cuts You Up” from his album Deep (1990 Beggars Banquet).
In 1986, Beggars Banquet released Bauhaus 1979-1983 Volume One (1986 Beggars Banquet) which included standout tracks “God In An Alcove,” T.Rex cover “Telegram Sam,” “A Spy in the Cab” and “Hair of the Dog.”
In 1990, the Irish-Catholic Murphy converted to Islam and moved to Turkey with his wife, where he was inspired by Sufi mysticism. After numerous side projects, Murphy's work ended up on the same label Red Ant as his former bandmates in Love and Rockets. This presaged a full-scale Bauhaus reunion in 1998 for the Resurrection Tour. Murphy now refused to sing “Stigmata Martyr” and “St. Vitus Dance” because he considers the religious overtones objectionable.
In 2000, Murphy launched the “Just for Love” tour backed by just two musicians, and played a low-key acoustic set at the Convergence Festival in Seattle. Murphy kept releasing solo projects and touring until, in 2005, Bauhaus reunited again to play the Coachella Valley Music Festival in Indio, California. At the opening of their set, Murphy was lowered onto the stage upside down singing “Bela Lugosi's Dead.” Bauhaus then launched a tour before supporting Nine Inch Nails.
In 2008, the band released what they say is their final record, Go Away White (2008 Bauhaus Music), once again produced by Bauhaus. Yet again, Ash and Murphy reportedly couldn't get along and the group split.
Influenced by the Gothic architecture of their hometown and well as the Sex Pistols, glam rock, and German Expressionism; Bauhaus was a potent, early '80s cocktail whose ingredients reacted violently with one another. That volatile reaction fueled four self-produced, highly original records between 1980 and 1983, almost singlehandedly crystallizing what the term “goth rock” would later mean. Ultimately, the cocktail exploded and its after-effects intoxicated and greatly influenced the next two generations of musicians and fans in a wide variety of genres. The small size of the band's oeuvre belies their massive cultural impact, hinted at by the dozens of compilations on which the band has appeared, with evocative, funny and accurate titles like The Black Bible, Gothic Club Classics, Vampire Themes, and The Suicide Girls: Black Heart Retrospective. Minimalistic and doomy, the band functioned as glam rock's doppelganger, hunting and feeding on the vital fluids of punk and electronica, and turning them into something to suit their own dark purposes.