The Sky's Gone Out
It's 1982. The Falklands war begins. Bruce Springsteen, Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor play to 750,000 fans at an anti-nuclear rally in New York's Central Park. Hong Kong makes health warnings on cigarette packets statutory. Time magazine names the computer the 'man' of the year. And Bauhaus, a goth-rock band from Northampton, England, release their most successful album, The Sky's Gone Out.
With big, elaborately coiffed hair, bold make-up and sinewy limbs, the fathers of Britain's goth-rock movement, led by Peter Murphy, were striking not only for their arty aesthetic, but also for their dark, foreboding rock, a bracing jolt from the more poppy and danceable New Wave material that had dominated the British charts in the late 1970s.
Here was a band that turned inward, digging out moody melodies with crude instrumentation and single-finger bass-lines. They called themselves Bauhaus (originally Bauhaus 1919) after the German art movement that would also come to define a distinct style of architecture. In their artwork, the band employed the same font used on the Bauhaus college building in Dessau, Germany.
In 1979, the four-piece - with Murphy on vocals, Daniel Ash on guitar, Kevin Haskins on drums, and David J on bass - had a sleeper indie hit with Bela Lugosi's Dead, their first single, which, even at nine minutes long, stayed on the independent charts for two years. They signed to 4AD soon after and then to parent label Beggars Banquet, but their first two albums, In the Flat Field (1980) and Mask (1981), didn't make a significant impact on the charts.
In 1982, Bauhaus covered David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, adding a grinding element to an otherwise not-much-different rendition of the popular song, to great effect. The cover got to No15 in the charts, the band's biggest success, and won them a spot on Top of the Pops. Even though the hit didn't appear on the album, it drove The Sky's Gone Out up the charts later that year, topping out at No4. By this time, British audiences were starting to fully get behind the emerging goth genre, just as The Cure were about to turn it into a major commercial enterprise.
Some critics would gripe that The Sky's Gone Out, which experimented with new sonic directions while also reviving and re-recording old numbers, such as Spirit and In the Night, came off as more of a compilation than a cohesive body of work, a point reinforced by the decision to make Third Uncle, a cover of a Brian Eno song, the first track. But fans remember it fondly for its abstract lyricism (Silent Hedges), atmospheric experimentalism (The Three Shadows trilogy), and longing melancholy (All We Ever Wanted Was Everything).
Bauhaus would go on to record only one more album, 1983's Burning From the Inside, before splitting up - for the first time. They reformed again in 1998 and again in 2005, before recording their final record, Go Away White, in 2008. Despite positive reviews, the fractious quartet couldn't hold the band together and again went their separate ways, perhaps ready, finally, to just enjoy retirement.