Across the thirty-five years that have elapse since Bauhaus first click, clack and grimly glam-rocked their way out of Britain’s post-punk miasma, they have been responsible for a lot of crimes. Few of which they could ever have envisioned themselves, and some of which could as easily be blamed on Siouxsie and the Banshees as well.
But any reasonable history of Gothic Rock must begin with Bauhaus... must begin with their “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” too, and so bassist David J Haskins’s autobiography, via an opening chapter on teenage scene setting, does likewise. And in so doing, he reveals the entire thing, actually, to be Gary Glitter’s fault. It was his “Rock an Roll” riff that was the musical groundsheet that “Bela” was built on, and sitting down now with J himself, to discuss Who Killed Mister Moonlight?, as his book is called, he treats you immediately to a flash of the dry wit that permeates every page.
“When we do the second edition, there is one very big error that we have to fix. I describe ‘Bela’ as a descending bass line, but of course its an ascending one, too.”
The Bauhaus story is, to some extent, a familiar one to everyone who has dipped toes into Gothic Rock over the decades, whether they want to keep them there or not. Certainly the band had little interest in the scene, beyond wondering how a vision that they thought was rooted in an expressionist cinematic warp of favorite Bowie and Bolan bits was in fact interpreted as a pile of obscure Mrs Radcliffe-isms, being cheaply remade by the Hammer film studios.
They sang about Lugosi, but they also paeaned the Red Brigade, hung with Throbbing Gristle, toured with Z’ev and covered Brian Eno. Their name was borrowed from a Weimar art faction and, when they broke up in 1984, it was so three of them could go off and become Love and Rockets. Who were about as Gothic as a basement full of much-played Parliament and Funkadelic albums.
Actually, that’s not why they broke up at all. They broke up because factions in the band couldn’t stand to be around one another any longer, and when they reformed for fresh Bauhaus tours in the late 1990s and the mid-2000s, it was to discover that the same factions... and indeed the same stupid jealousies, insecurities and egos... were still firing then as well.
Haskins is adamant, and absolutely so, that there will never be another Bauhaus reunion; that their career as documented in this wonderful book is the whole sorry story from beginning to end. Indeed, so adamant is he on detailing that decline that he purposefully eschews any in-depth discussion of either his solo or other-band work, except where it directly relates to the Bauhaus story.
As for whether or not it is really finished... well, the ban members are all in their fifties now, and a lot is likely to change before any of them hangs up their instrument for the final time. Look at some of the other reunions that have stunned over over the last couple of decades, and you will never say never again.
But somehow, Haskins seems sincere, and reading this book, it’s difficult to disagree with him. Particularly when you reach page 287... that is, less than thirty pages from the end.... and we discover our heroes arguing about an interview David gave in 1984. Which is still causing offense to one of his bandmates in 2005.
Guess which one? And then wonder which of them was excluded from the mailing list, when David sent copies of the book out to family and friends. Ever the diplomat, he would not reveal that particular identity. But throughout the book, and our conversation too, it's probably the only secret he did withhold.
The title of the book is wry. Who Killed Mister Moonlight? was a Bauhaus song, of course, but it turns into a murder not-such-a-mystery as the autobiography reels along. But former Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy’s latest live release, and most recent American tour as well, were also called Mr Moonlight - which would suggest that maybe he wasn’t killed after all.
Hmm. Read one, listen to the other, and then make up your own mind. And then we can all sit back and await the upcoming 180 gram vinyl reissue of that sensational first Love and Rockets LP. According to David, it sounds better than even the original wax was able to.
See you back here when it reaches us.