Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Extended Addam's Family: Peter Murphy

It's time to take a trip to the deep dark roots of the goth family tree with a visit to a certain artist who has often been called "The Godfather of Goth." Grab your torch and start digging...we're going back to the band that started it all.
Peter Murphy was born in 1957 in Northampton England. In 1978 he formed a band along with friends Daniel Ash on guitar, Kevin Haskins on drums and David J Haskins on bass. Daniel Ash had been a musician since childhood, and recorded a number of different songs with David and his younger brother, but their bands usually didn't stay together long. After their longest lived project The Craze broke up, Ash, who thought Peter Murphy "had the right look" for a band persuaded his friend to join in on his musical project. Murphy had been working in a printing factory at the time, and decided to try the idea out even though he had no previous vocal or instrumental experience. For their first gig at the Cromwell Pub on New Year's Eve in 1978, they chose the name Bauhaus because of the 1920's German art movement of the same name. They used the same typesetting as that found on the sign for the Bauhaus school in Dessau Germany as a tribute to the "stylistic implications and associations" of the time.
Bauhaus were well received and continued to work on music for their demo, for which their associate Graham Bentley also recorded a video performance. Many record companies didn't have video equipment to view the group's demo, and thus contracts were slow in the beginning, but after only six weeks together the group recorded the anthem of everything goth is and ever will be  Bela Lugosi's Dead, at Beck Studios in Wellingborough. It was over nine minutes long and featured eerie feedback effects coupled with ballad like lyrics reminiscent of spiritual chanting. This single first aired on DJ John Peel's evening radio show on BBC Radio 1, and Bauhaus was immediately asked to record a session for the show which subsequently exposed the group to a larger range of listeners.  Bela Lugosi's Dead stayed on the British independent music charts for two years.
Bauhaus' first album In the Flat Field was released in 1980 and it topped the independent music charts, and even stayed on British pop charts at 72 for a week. NME described the band's sound as "Gothick-Romantick pseudo-decadence." Bauhaus' second single Kick In The Eye was released under Beggar's Banquet Records as the group had exhausted the resources of their initial smaller label (4AD). It reached number 59 on the charts, and the following single The Passion of Lovers reached number 56. The group's second album Mask was released in October of 1981, and they also released a video accompaniment that was meant as a promotional for the whole group instead of a single song.  Bauhaus' biggest hit was actually a cover of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust. The Bauhaus version of the song reached number 15 on the British charts, carrying it's album with it up to the number 4 spot. In 1982, Bauhaus appeared in the opening of the horror movie The Hunger. The shots featured Peter Murphy almost exclusively, and he began receiving recognition as the poster-boy of the goth movement for his waif-like physique and dramatic makeup/fashion sense. This coupled with several modeling shoots he had been doing for a popular ad focused media attention on Murphy and created some strife within the band. Peter Murphy's appearance was apparently inspiring to many, for instance, Neil Gaiman based his first design for the character Dream from The Sandman comics off of Bauhaus photos. During an international tour of their fourth album Burning From the Inside (The Sky's Gone Out was the third Bauhaus album) the group disbanded the night before they were scheduled for two shows at the Hammersmith Palais in London. They performed their last show at the Hammersmith, with David J's parting words "rest in peace." Dedicated listeners who joined the Bauhaus fan-group received the single Sanity Assassin.
Peter Murphy had a relatively successful solo career after the band's breakup. His first project was the group Dali's Car along with bassist Mick Karn, although they only recorded one album. Murphy's former band members went on to become Tones on Tail (Daniel Ash and Bauhaus roadie Glen Campling) and later Love and Rockets (all four Bauhaus members had decided to get together to reform their band, but when Murphy failed to show up for the scheduled rehearsal, Daniel Ash and the Haskins brothers went ahead and practiced and decided to form Love and Rockets). Murphy recorded under a wide variety of styles, including traditional Turkish music, sometimes drawing on the sound inspired by Bauhaus, as is evident in songs like Cuts You Up (one of my favorite Peter Murphy songs!). In 1998, Bauhaus reformed for the Resurrection tour, but because of his interest in Islam, Murphy refused to sing songs such as Stigma Martyr and St. Vitus' Dance because of their religious overtones. In 2000 Murphy surprised the North American goth scene with an unannounced acoustic set at the Convergence Festival in Seattle. For a few years, Peter Murphy teamed up with Nine Inch Nail's Trent Reznor and they recorded several songs together and also did some tours. In 2010, Murphy made a cameo appearance in New Moon as "The Cold One."

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1 comment:

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