Bauhaus was a goth band from Northampton, England. They are, by anybody’s estimation, the Godfathers of Goth. They emerged from the English post-punk scene, which Joy Division single-handedly transformed into the new wave scene. Instead of heading down that path, they did something much different. Much darker. Much more mysterious.
Originally called “Bauhaus 1919”, the band was named for the Bauhaus College and school of design in Germany. The band employed the use of the “Bauhaus Bold” typesetting, which is a mid-1970s variant of Herbert Bayer’s 1925 “Universal” typesetting. While “Universal” is an all lowercase typesetting, “Bauhaus” incorporates uppercase as well. It’s known for its roundness, its smoothness. In contrast to the Bauhaus typesetting, the style of architecture named for the school is known for its sharpness and its right angles. Bauhaus (the band) used a logo that was quite reminiscent of Bauhaus architecture. In fact, it was designed in 1922 for use by the school. And there’s your bit of indie rock/history trivia for the night.
The band formed in 1978, and they released a bunch of singles, a couple of EPs, four proper albums and one amazing live album before splitting up in 1983. Frontman Peter Murphy launched a solo career which is still going. Bassist David J (Haskins), guitarist Daniel Ash and drummer Kevin Haskins all went on to form Love and Rockets in 1985. Ash and Haskins were also in Tones on Tail (which started off as a solo project for Ash) in the space between Bauhaus and Love and Rockets.
After the band had only been together for a few weeks, they recorded what is probably their most well-known song — “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. They recorded and released it themselves, and somehow managed to get it into radio stations. Despite its staggering running time of more than nine and a half minutes, it got a lot of radio play and they began a meteoric rise.
In 1980, they released their debut album In The Flat Field, which I think is their best. Today’s song is from that album:
“Double Dare” by Bauhaus
The sonar tracking beeps, the creepy, spider-like guitar, the super-thick bass. That’s all good and well, but the song really takes off at 0:36 when those drums come thundering down. And then at 1:05, when Peter Murphy starts singing. It’s chilling.
It’s a dark, dark setting, but the song is about being who you are.
I dare you, to be real
To touch a flickering flame
The pangs of dark delight
Don’t cower in night fright
Don’t back away just yet
From destinations set
I dare you to be proud
To dare to shout aloud
For convictions that you feel
Like sound from bells to peal
I dare you to speak of your despise
For bureaucracy, hypocracy- all liars
By the time it gets to that line around the 3:08 mark, Murphy is just screaming. It’s pretty scary, actually. Just based on the sonic experience, you might think it’s about bludgeoning someone with a gardening tool, but it’s really just about standing up for your beliefs.
Kevin Haskins’ drumming here is ferocious. There’s a lot of mount tom here, and you know how much I like that kind of thing. Everything is so heavy, and he’s so expressive with the cymbals. As hard as he’s hitting them starting at about 3:22, it’s hard to imagine that there’s not a second drummer, beating the hell out of a crash cymbal from a standing position. But we all know that there’s not.
This is a really intense song, and there’s only one way to listen to it. As loud as you can possibly make it. Turn off all the lights. Light some smoke bombs, and turn this way, way up. And then turn it up some more.
As I said, In the Flat Field is my favorite album of theirs. It was, though, their poorest performing. Each of the next two albums performed better in the UK charts, but none performed at all in the US charts.
At some point in 1982, Peter Murphy started thinking he was Mr. Big Shot. He did an ad for Maxell. That’s him in the UK version of their iconic logo. He also appeared in that really weird vampire movie “The Hunger” with David Bowie and a very steamy Catherine Deneuve. I’m sure Bowie and Murphy spent hours behind the scenes talking about how brilliant Bauhaus’ cover of “Ziggy Stardust” was.
Anyway, the rest of the band was starting to get irritated with Murphy, and it was kind of convenient that Murphy got sick before they were to record what would be their last album of the original run. The rest of the band basically did it without him. While they were touring in advance of the release of that album (Burning From The Inside), they called it quits and went their separate ways.
The band reunited in 1998 for a tour, but no new album.
In 2005, they reunited for real. They stayed together for three years, toured a bit, and released one poorly-received album (which I’ve never even bothered listening to). They didn’t tour in support of that album, and they decided to part ways for good.
Sadly, I never got to see Bauhaus. I would have been a little too young when they were around the first time, and I didn’t learn about them until 1987 anyway. When they got together and toured in 1998, I don’t remember it coming anywhere near me. When they toured in 1995 with TV On The Radio and Nine Inch Nails, it was a weird outdoor festival-type show in the middle of the summer, and Bauhaus was scheduled for something silly like 5pm. I didn’t have a whole lot of interest in paying a ton of money to see them play a short set in broad daylight.
Anyway, you can get today’s song on a number of different Bauhaus releases.