There were also three million unemployed, the silver space age future car from DeLorean had gone bust, Maggie was lauding it in the Falklands and Channel Four was launched to give us FOUR, yes, count ‘em, four whole British TV stations to enjoy – and a brand new lift tower to rival that one in Paris (nearly).
But, did I mention there was also an exotic new sixth form art student with porcelain white skin, blood red lip stick, crimped coal black hair, cropped black leather jacket, tight black jeans, black buckled boots and a full set of designer Rotring pens and letraset? Well there was and she eschewed blue jeans, prog rock and anything beige. She also avidly followed and adored the little known local band called Bauhaus and because she did, I did too. Purely in the interest of curiosity, art and high minded research.
This meant instantly banishing my blue jeans and wriggling into tight black drain pipes and rescuing from the back of my cupboard the garish, blood red jumper that my mum had knitted me for Christmas. She was pleased to see me wearing it again – and so was Sarah. I also splashed out for the first album by Bauhaus ‘In the flat field’ which was a very long way from The house of fun and the cheery cockney nutty boy sound of Madness. I also made a trip to Foot the bill, shop to the fashion conscious youth of Northampton. Here I said ‘goodbye’ to sensible footwear and ‘hello’ (ouch they pinch) to a seriously pointy, completely impractical pair of black leather, size eleven, silver double buckled winkle pickers that were loyally worn to the very first Bauhaus concert I could get to at the Adelphi Theatre in London, midweek and late night return for bed and sixth form lessons again at 9am.
And what was it that I found so fabulous and captivating about Bauhaus then and now? Well first and last what impressed me most is that they had made it and left Northampton behind. It seemed to me that every sixth former, about to go to college, wants that – to leave home and make a success of themselves. They had done just that and with dry ice, guitars and a blinding bright white light show.
Together the band wore a heck of a lot of black, sang the strangest lyrics, wore black mascara and eyeliner and roared through their set with the most dazzling light show from above and below – together with razor sharp, sidelong spotlights that brilliantly cut through the theatrical darkness and swirling clouds of dry ice to reveal in stroboscopic, flashing black and white light, the plaintive stare and captivating, unbroken, searching gaze of the lead singer and animated front man, Peter Murphy. How he pouted into the long white strip light, perilously peered over the edge of the stage and leaned (sometimes leaped) into danger, another dark, musical dimension and his feverish, loyal, audience.
This was brilliant, Bauhaus – see him skitter across the stage, backwards!
This was brilliant, Bauhaus – see him climb the towering stack of speakers!
This was brilliant, Bauhaus – see him jump, kick, writhe and fill the stage with his fellow artists David J on bass, Danny Ash on lead guitar and stickman, Kevin Haskins.
This was brilliant, Bauhaus – thunderous, hypnotic drum beats, floor quaking bass guitar and swirling, mesmeric licks of exquisitely plucked notes from lead guitarist Daniel Ash.
This was brilliant, Bauhaus – theatre, bright lights, camp vampires and the combination of music, theatre and a splenetic, heart racing NRG.
Sometimes I’d watch Murphy, spot lit and alone singing and then kneeling still, quiet and staring imperiously, inexplicably peering into the phosphorescent powder white light as if he, and by extension we his audience, could see the deepest and most profoundest truths amidst the absurd, stark black and white musical melodrama of it all.
With so many great tracks, including The passion of lovers, Spirit, Kick in the eye, King Volcano and the band’s bold, over ten minute long debut track, Bela Lugosi’s dead, they never failed to shake everyone to the core with their audacious breadth of ambition, theatrical excess and musical playfulness.
I was always beautifully bludgeoned by their sound, great spectacle and musical ambition, fulfilled. This was and still is, for me, the sound of adventure, imaginative leaps and daring ideas realised against the backdrop of closing down shoe factories, the People’s March for Jobs and an emerging, entirely understandable new romantic playfulness with an escapist attitude to joblessness by kicking out, raiding the dressing up box, mum’s make up and guitars for some music and fun with doctor theatre in the wings.
They had attitude, ambition, came from my home town and made it. How could I not have loved them? Like they said and sang ‘we love our audience’ and Sarah and I loved them in all of their manic, monochromatic musical mayhem too.