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Bauhaus

Biography

Bauhaus
Corio/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

Resembling a convention of the undead and playing songs distinguished by spare, atmospheric guitars, sonorous, death-rattle vocals, and deliberate tempos, Bauhaus was the progenitor of gothic rock. Its founding members have gone on to pursue various other projects in the realm of underground rock.

In 1978 brothers David and Kevin Haskins formed the Craze with Daniel Ash, an old school friend. With the addition of vocalist Peter Murphy they became Bauhaus 1919, named after the German architectural group whose credo was "Less is more." The "1919" was dropped for their 1979 debut single, "Bela Lugosi's Dead," an eight-minute epic later heard in the 1983 David Bowie film, The Hunger.

An appearance on BBC radio DJ John Peel's show led to a record contract. Bauhaus became an underground success in Britain, and made the U.K. chart with "Kick in the Eye" (#59, 1981) and Mask (#30, 1981). The Sky's Gone Out (1982) was its American debut. That year the band released its biggest U.K. hit, a cover of David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" (#15). Bauhaus' influence was also felt in the Batcave, a popular London club that took its musical and sartorial cues from the band. Burning From the Inside, more a compilation of solo songs than a band project (Murphy was ill and missed most of the sessions), foreshadowed Bauhaus' breakup later that year.

Murphy joined Japan's Mick Karn in the experimental Dali's Car; they recorded one album in 1984. In 1985 he launched a solo career. Collaborating with keyboardist/producer Paul Stratham, Murphy toned down the more excessive, arty elements of Bauhaus and emphasized his Bowie-esque vocals. He had a minor hit with 1990's "Cuts You Up" (#55), from the album Deep (#44, 1990).

Ash, along with Bauhaus roadie Glenn Campling, originally began Tones on Tail as a side project in 1981. When Bauhaus split, Kevin Haskins signed on. They released several U.K. EPs and singles plus an album, all of which have been compiled on several U.S. releases. After a 1984 American tour, Ash and Haskins dissolved the band. David J joined the Jazz Butcher, but left after the 1984 album A Scandal in Bohemia. He also released a string of U.K. solo albums in the early to mid-'80s. With their careers stalled, the members of Bauhaus planned to reunite in 1985. When Murphy demurred at the last minute, the other three decided to re-form as Love and Rockets (the name comes from the underground comic book series by Los Angelenos Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez). A more danceable version of Bauhaus' atmospherics, their initial release, 1985's Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven, went unreleased in the U.S. until 1988, but their U.K. hit cover of the Temptations' "Ball of Confusion" was included in their U.S. debut, Express (#72, 1986); they broke into the mainstream in 1989 with Love and Rockets (#14) and the Top 10 single "So Alive" (#3).

In the early '90s, Ash issued his solo debut and J resumed his solo recording, this time on an American label. Love and Rockets came under the sway of the acid house/techno sound rampant in England and returned to the studio in 1994. This new inspiration is evident on the resultant Hot Trip to Heaven, especially in the 14-minute ambient "Body and Soul" and in "Ugly," featuring Middle Eastern–inflected vocals by Natacha Atlas of Trans-Global Underground. Sweet F.A. and Lift continued to mix contemporary techno with guitar-based gloom. Their careers cooling once more, Murphy, Ash, J, and Haskins resurrected Bauhaus for a successful tour in 1998, by which time goth rock had become the subject of numerous nostalgic theme nights at American dance clubs. Crackle is a best-of that includes several rarities. Gotham is a two-disc live set taped at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom.

This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).

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