Iterations: Bauhaus – “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”

Iterations: Bauhaus – “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”
Bauhaus - "Bela Lugosi's Dead"

It’s quite a thing for a single song to be given credit for creating not just a musical genre, but an entire subculture but these are things that are attributed to Bauhaus’ 1979 debut single, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, aka the song which begat goth.

PopMatters ran a piece on the song’s importance and influence on the occasion of its 30th anniversary back in 2009:

“Bela Lugosi’s Dead”: 30 Years of Goth, Gloom, and Post-Post-Punk @ PopMatters

While Uncut marked the 40th anniversary with a feature interview with all the members of the band on the making of the song:

There was no official video for the song, but its use under the opening titles of the 1983 Catherine Deneuve-David Bowie horror film The Hunger made for a pretty good advert, complete with vampire-voguing Peter Murphy:

Similarly, the production values of their 1982 performance on British TV show Riverside also would have made for a pretty compelling MTV clip:

When the reunited Bauhaus played Coachella 2005, they opened their set with their signature song and Murphy performed the whole thing hanging upside-down, bat-style. Because that’s what you do. He talked to Spin in 2011 about just how one trains for such a feat:

Tough Questions For Peter Murphy @ Spin

Murphy was a guest on Nine Inch Nails’ 2006 With Teeth tour, and at the Washington DC stop, they were joined by TV On The Radio for a run-through of the classic. Kind of a cover, kind of not. But still very goth.

Definitely a cover was Nouvelle Vague’s bossa nova take on the song, appearing on their 2006 second album Bande À Part – not very goth, but quite moody:

And Scottish synth-poppers CHVRCHES recorded a version for the soundtrack of the teen TV show Vampire Academy, which despite their best efforts is not very goth.

And finally, Massive Attack included the song in the setlist of their 2019 Mezzanine XXI tour. Pretty straight, maybe not that goth, but very awesome.

So that’s surprisingly few noteworthy covers of such a seminal song. If you’re of the opinion that the world needs more versions of the song, Anyone Can Play Guitar offered a lesson in how to play it last Hallowe’en; it’s really not hard. Do it hanging upside-down and that’s TikTok gold.

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