10/28/2005

Bela Lugosi is Still Dead Apparently

TONIGHT! Bauhaus performs again three nights at The Wiltern
The Dusting Off of Bauhaus: 1998, 2005
by Alexander Laurence


Part of the Bauhaus legend is that they broke up fifteen years ago, and many
of their young fans have never seen them live. Like the Sex Pistols, and even
the Beatles, not many who frequent the Goth clubs in towns everywhere and who
have expressively danced to "She's In Parties," had seen Bauhaus in the flesh.
In America, Bauhaus were never popular when intact. After they called it
quits, in 1983, a weird thing happened: kids in the suburbs saw Edward
Scissorhands, wore black clothes, listened to The Cure and Siouxsie, wanted to join a
surrogate Addams Family. There was the film The Hunger (featuring Bauhaus). All
this dark imagery resonated with young suburban people. Why this caught on who
knows?




By the late 1980s, these underage people, who used to have their parents
drive them to Goth clubs and to Dead Can Dance concerts, or even Dungeons and
Dragons meetings, moved to cities, and the Goth nights in any given city expanded.
Since then, bands have gone up and down, and much Goth music is very old and
dated. Much of it sounds like workout music now. Bauhaus stayed innocent,
preserved, even though Peter Murphy solo records and Love & Rockets tainted the
image. Bauhaus would always stay young, trapped in their early twenties. Goths
want to stay young forever. They could relate. They are really vampires right?
They have seen The Hunger. You get the idea.


So all were shocked when Bauhaus announced that they were going to reform and
play some shows in LA in July 1998. This was news to anyone who knew about
Peter Murphy and his conversion to Islam and move to Turkey. Wasn't he like Cat
Stevens? The Beatles never had to do a reunion tour because they always had
too much money. Why the Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, and a number of other bands
make comebacks could usually be reduced to a few things, like money and
boredom. The greed of promoters has swelled in this age. At least Bauhaus didn't
attempt to record a new record and embarrass everyone. I mean has anyone
actually bought a new record by the Stones or the Cure in the last ten years? Why is
Bauhaus returning now, for the typical twenty-year dust-off period? It's
either now or never.


Peter Murphy states that this "Resurrection" is a chance to clarify some of
the Bauhaus myths. He says in interviews that Bauhaus was never into devil
worship or occultism. They weren't even a true goth band. A number of their songs
have influences ranging from reggae dub, funk music, and glam rock. The whole
uniform and tendencies of goths in the late eighties were formed long after
Bauhaus had broken up. I mean when I listened to Bauhaus as a teenager, I also
listened to Magazine, The Gun Club, The Psychedelic Furs, Wire, PIL, and Gang
of Four, and several other bands that wore no makeup or much black clothing.
This would be heresy among today's goth clientele, who haven't heard of many of
these bands, but that's what people were listening to in 1980, along with
Bauhaus.




It was a surprise that Peter Murphy was even onstage. There had been several
rumors that he had died. I went to the third night at the Hollywood Palladium,
their fourth show. I had talked to people on the internet and there was talk
of technical problems and that the band was nervous and cold. By this third
night, they were getting more creative flow and appearing more natural onstage.
They played the same songs all four nights, following the songs of the recent
Crackle CD. They also played a Dead Can Dance song.


During "Double Dare", singing backstage, Murphy could be seen with his face
projected on a TV screen. The other members were onstage while Murphy's big
face loomed over the audience. There was a lot of smoke and dry ice. Bauhaus are
theatrical. Murphy has a special stage presence like few in rock. There was a
real connection to the crowd this night. Many people were dancing and sweating
in the front row. Bouncers were giving water to the dehydrated throng.
Peter Murphy danced around the stage, with less energy than 1982, and at one
point ripped his pants. He spent much time singing from the drum riser. He
gestured often to the audience, winked, and spoke words to certain people. There
was a greater reaction to each song as they went into the first few chords of
"She's In Parties," "The Passion of Lovers," or "In The Flat Field." These are
songs that we have all heard many times, but few of us could believe that it
wasn't just watching a video. It doesn't seem likely that Bauhaus will play
again in the future (ahem), so it was like we were all dropped into the
post-punk period of 1979-1982 for ninety minutes.


As I drove up to the Hollywood Palladium, I saw the long line wrapping around
the block. The sea of black clothes. The age range was wide. People who were
there in the punk heyday, now getting close to 40, to the kids, barely out of
junior high. I saw some latina chicks from east LA. They look real goth in
their own way. You know, Love & Rockets? I met people who I used to see when I
went to shows more than fifteen years ago. Other people looked very un-goth, and
maybe who couldn't get into the nearby Hanson show the same night at the
Hollywood Bowl.


It seems weird that people would want to be labeled as Goth. People who are
misfits, loners, nerds, black-wearing tendencies, thin, etc. I have talked to
many of these people at a Bauhaus website (www.bauhaus.org). They see
themselves as one big dysfunctional family, much in the same way deadheads, skatepunks,
straight edgers, or alternative college rock people do, I suppose. I don’t
see why people decide that they are just one thing. They decide this early on.
It reminds me of people who only eat at McDonalds. A certain type of music
inspires certain styles and certain ways of living becomes codified, and then
rules and a philosophy emerge. I was there at the beginning but was asleep. I
didn't know that this philosophy came to be represented in a person like Robert
Smith of The Cure: black hair, white makeup, singing depressing love songs, and
feeling trapped and that no one understands them. One thing about Bauhaus I
like is that they didn't put out a lot of boring records. They knew when to
stop. The Goth culture they helped create is not their fault....


PS 2005: Bauhaus are back at it again. After seven years dormant, they have
returned again. Daniel Ash, Kevin Haskins, and David J all live in the LA area.
They are all involved with the local music scene and new bands. I had been
speculating that they would get back together. Back in 1998, they had been
disbanded for fifteen years. Now it’s almost 25 years since their first record.
Even though Love & Rockets and Peter Murphy have been successful, it doesn’t
prevent their older music to speak to a younger generation. For every one person
who hadn’t seen them in 1998, now there are ten more who haven’t seen them in
2005.


It was basically a reunion for the Coachella 2005. This year also had a
reunion of Gang of Four and all the original members. Bauhaus played a secret show
at the Glasshouse a few days before. This was a wild event. The playing was
average but the response was overwhelming. 75% of the crowd was wearing the same
goth fashions as before. None of Bauhaus appeared to be into the fashion.
Peter Murphy had dyed his hair blonde.


The Coachella performance was more of a spectacle. Peter Murphy hung from a
rope upside down and sang “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” It was one of the most
stunning visuals from the festival. They played some different songs. All the members
wore black clothes. Bauhaus followed Weezer and played before Coldplay. It
was an odd lineup indeed. It remained another chance for young people to
appreciate this sort of music. I was reading recently and interview with Nick Cave.
He was talking about the fact that he likes goth people because they are
stubborn and stick to the same imagery. They are very serious.





Bauhaus was a cult band that spread to a larger following. They were very
diverse and futuristic. Songs like “Terror Couple Kill Coronal” sound like they
could be released today. Music is so give and take. There is no adequate
timeline as to what really influence what music. It is difficult really to map out
why this band is really important to the younger generation as it is. Some
people focus on different periods of music. I think that most sensible people
fish around and listen to different stuff and pick out all the best songs. All my
love for Buddy Holly and Del Shannon didn’t inform my musical palate for all
future bands. Those were great guys who had their day before I ever listened
to music. Bauhaus had their time in precisely 1979 to 1983. It’s funny that
kids born after that would admire that time so much while ignoring their own
musical zeitgeist.


I know a lot of music being made today in 2005 looks back to some other age.
Maybe some of it is made in innocence. I don’t think that the music now and
all future music will just be about excavation of the 1970s and 1980s. There are
so many bands now. Perhaps the more interesting ones will work in some area
that is not just a vicious cycle. Bauhaus was originally made out to be glam
rock revivalists. They seemed to take a lot of various musical parts and make
them their own thing. There is something about Bauhaus that makes it like no
other band.




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