1. Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Bauhaus (1979, Small Wonder Records, Taken from the single)
And so this short stomp around the much maligned Goth genre ends here on Halloween with a record that is by many considered to be the first actual, proper bonafide Goth record. Whether it is or it isn’t that is largely irrelevant because it is fantastic, and you can hear the roots of everything that came after it sprouting out of the song. Yes, the Cure made Goth bearable, yes, the Sisters added the pomp, yes, the Banshees added some flair and a bit glamour, and yes Nick Cave largely turned it mainstream (and sexy) by making Goth records with Kylie Minogue – but it without ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ I very much doubt any of that would have happened.
Where the Wild Roses Grow – Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue (1995, Mute Records, Taken from ‘Murder Ballads’)
The formula is simple and if you follow this across each of the songs in this rundown it fits nearly all of them (apart from the ones that aren’t Goth). The low rumbling bass that descends brilliantly, the guitar with the echo effects turned up to the level that states ‘spooky’, the low deep singing, which is done deliberately to add atmosphere and to make it sound sinister, isolated and at times grim. On ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ it works. It really works, but sadly on other Goth tracks it really doesn’t. But that is the Goth formula or if you want the science:-
Goth = lbx2 + egy3 /sv
Where ‘lbx’ is a low rumbling bass and ‘egy’ is an echo-y guitar effect obviously.
‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ literally cakewalked to the top of this informal rundown of Goth’s greatest moments. It is a tremendous piece of work as well and for the second musical jury inspired countdown in a row, my choice of Number One is the same as the one that was voted at the top. I was for the record the only person who stuck this in their Top Five though.
Found Love in A Graveyard – Veronica Falls (2010, Captured Tracks, Taken from ‘Veronica Falls)
One last thing about Bauhaus, who, for those in the dark, and that is perhaps the best place to be where Bauhaus are concerned, were formed in that rock and roll mecca, Northampton. So whilst Leeds may have been the epicentre of darkness, it was Northampton that roosted the bats, the purple velvet cloaks and the sharpened fang dentists.
‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ was the first song that Bauhaus wrote and recorded together, knocking it off in one sitting just six weeks after they formed. They never really topped it, no matter what people want to argue.
Legend has it that the band turned up at the Radio 1 studio a few weeks after it was released and blagged their way into John Peel’s studio. In an interview a few years later Peter Murphy the singer in Bauhaus said that they turned up at the reception and said
“Hello, we’re Bauhaus and we’re friends of John Peel. We’d like to go up please.”
Apparently this worked, and the band ambled into the studio and stuck the record in front of him. Peel, ever the professional, said
“We’ve got Bauhaus in the studio, they’re from Northampton and they have a new single out called Bela Lugosi’s Dead. It’s nine-and-a-half minutes long and this will probably be the first and last time I’ll play this.”
The rest was history as listeners jammed the switchboard demanding it be played again. Or so the story goes. I’d give John Peel more credit than that, he always did have a knack for picking great songs.
Happy Halloween folks.