Song of the Day (Shocktober): Bauhaus “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”

Bauhaus

Song of the Day (Shocktober): Bauhaus “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”

It really wouldn’t be Halloween in my household with at least one spin of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. English post-punk pioneers Bauhaus were really onto something when they cut this dub-inflected proto-goth anthem in 1979. The group’s tribute to the sadly departed ghoulish Hungarian actor, Bela Lugosi (who famously played Dracula with such searing aplomb in Todd Browning‘s 1931 film¬†adaption of the Bram Stoker novel that his performance remains the template for the character) certainly sounded like nothing else either on the radio or going on in the punk scene at the time.

The song combines an almost vampiric, baritone vocal delivery from singer Peter Murphy along with dub inflected drums and bass and a skittering, sanity-shattering treated guitar line from Daniel Ash. The guitar on the track is so weird, so bent and so otherworldly that in ends up making the whole song sound like it was transmitted from some H.P. Lovecraft horror realm. The song was a clear influence on the foundation of the nascent Goth movement and remains a truly great post-punk song. It is incredible that this was recorded in a single take, effectively played live in-studio without a single overdub. The group deliver the song like they are possessed by an otherworldly force.

After all these years, the song has lost none of its ability to disquiet. And those lyrics:

White on white translucent black capes
Back on the rack
Bela Lugosi’s dead
The bats have left the bell tower
The victims have been bled
Red velvet lines the black box

Bela Lugosi’s dead
Bela Lugosi’s dead
Undead undead undead
Undead undead undead

The virginal brides file past his tomb
Strewn with time’s dead flowers
Bereft in deathly bloom
Alone in a darkened room
The count

Bela Lugosi’s dead
Bela Lugosi’s dead
Bela Lugosi’s dead
Undead undead undead
Undead undead undead
Undead

Oh Bela
Bela’s undead
Oh Bela
Bela’s undead
Bela’s undead
Oh Bela
Bela’s undead
Oh Bela

Undead

Just don’t listen to it with the lights off!

While Bauhaus sadly disbanded in 1983, the various members would work on various solo projects. After a stint with The Jazz Butcher and scoring spoken-word musings by famed comic book author and magician, Alan Moore, Daniel Ash would team back-up with Bauhaus rhythm section Kevin (drums) and David (bass) Haskins to form the indie/ quasi goth group Love and Rockets.

 
Bauhaus