Who They Are: Bauhaus are (were?) a rock band formed in 1978 in Northampton, England. Named after the influential early 20th Century German art school and movement, the group includes (included?) vocalist Peter Murphy, guitarist Daniel Ash, bassist David J, and drummer Kevin Haskins. (The latter two are brothers). Their debut single, 1979’s “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” pretty much invented “gothic rock” from out of nothing, in one quick “live in the studio” take, codifying so many of the looks and sounds of the genre instantaneously. The group issued four studio albums and numerous singles and EPs in their original incarnation before fracturing into a variety of solo and group endeavors. Murphy first paired with Mick Karn of Japan (the band) to form Dali’s Car, then embarked on a long solo career. Haskins and Ash formed Tones on Tail with bassist Glenn Campling, while David J joined the Jazz Butcher Conspiracy. A few years later, the instrumental trio at the heart of the group (Ash, J, Haskins) reunited to form Love and Rockets, who scored some pleasantly significant pop chart success in the United States and elsewhere. Love and Rockets eventually fractured, and Ash and J have since had long solo careers. The original quartet reunited for a new studio album in 2008, and have played some live tours since then, though relationships have remained parlous among them, hence my use of “are” and “were” to intro this paragraph; I’m not sure whether they are or ever will be a going concern again. Just before our Anno Virum, Haskins and Ash had reunited in Poptone (with Haskins’ daughter Diva Dompé on bass) and David J was touring as part of Peter Murphy’s live band. So for now, that’s the current (final?) iteration among them.
When I First Heard Them: Two incidents sit strongly in memory, though I am not quite sure which one came first. I went to see Tony Scott’s film The Hunger soon after its 1983 release; it was great, and its opening scene featured Peter Murphy performing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” to thrilling effect. (Check it out. Bowie! Deneuve! Sarandon! Bauhaus!) Of course, in pre-Internet days, it took me ages to figure out what that song was, who had performed it, and where I could score a copy of it. Near that time, I was in the epic Oceans II record store in Annapolis, and a punk-speed version of Brian Eno‘s classic “Third Uncle” was playing on the store’s stereo. It stopped me in my tracks, and when it ended I checked in with the clerk and discovered it was from Bauhaus’ 1982 album The Sky’s Gone Out. I left the store with that record that day, and it remains my favorite in their canon. I spent the remainder of their original run scoring a variety of often-hard-to-find singles, EPs and albums, all of which moved me, in various ways.
Why I Love Them: While I was sorry when I read of Bauhaus’ original break-up fairly soon after I first discovered them, I couldn’t really complain in the years that followed, as the four of them continued to issue a huge variety of great albums in their varying solo and group configurations, some evoking the Bauhaus paradigm, some moving into completely different directions. While I can’t claim to be a “goth,” nor to particularly like a lot of the “gothic rock” that Bauhaus inspired, their original albums are truly great and distinctive and original, and they hold up really well, all these years on. They were dark, dark, dark, which certainly appealed to me at the time; I remember playing The Sky’s Gone Out at some point while at the Naval Academy, and a friend who was in my room studying with me stood up quickly at some point in the proceedings and announced that she had to go elsewhere, as the sounds spilling out of my speakers were evil!! Yeah, they kinda were, I couldn’t really argue with her. All four members of the band were talented and distinctive, and from their original “goth” foundations, they went on to explore a variety of styles, sounds, genres and approaches together and apart, ranging from the accessibly poppy to the deeply deranged, though in pretty much every case, it was still clear that the sounds were recognizably theirs. That breadth of approach and their interwoven discographies and musical family trees have kept me engaged and interested all these years on, and I’ll pretty much be guaranteed to nab and at least try anything that any of the four of them issue, ever. That long and varied approach to music-making means that my Top Ten list below actually contains a relatively small number of Bauhaus songs, since the “related artists” part of their catalog is as interesting (and is much larger than) the original group’s recorded offerings. I note the credited creators of each song accordingly.
#10. “Who Killed Mr. Moonlight,” from Burning From The Inside (1983), credited to Bauhaus
#9. “Hang Up,” from Lion (2014), credited to Peter Murphy
#8. “All We Ever Wanted Was Everything,” from The Sky’s Gone Out (1982), credited to Bauhaus
#7. “Crowds,” from Telegram Sam EP (1980), credited to Bauhaus
#6. “Burning Skies,” from Burning Skies EP (1983), credited to Tones on Tail
#5. “Kick in the Eye,” from Mask (1981), credited to Bauhaus
#4. “The Dog-End of a Day Gone By,” from Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven (1985), credited to Love and Rockets
#3. “Dark Entries,” from “Dark Entries”/”Untitled” single (1980), credited to Bauhaus
#2. “Twist,” from “Christian Says”/”Twist” single (1984), credited to Tones on Tail
#1. “The Three Shadows (Parts One, Two, and Three),” from The Sky’s Gone Out (1982), credited to Bauhaus (Note: Another possible cheat; these are three distinct tracks on the original album, but hey: one song title = one song, yeah?)