If you need to convey the dark majesty of goth to a novice in 10 minutes or less, just put the debut single from Bauhaus and relax.
After only six weeks as a band, singer Peter Murphy, guitarist Daniel Ash the Haskins brothers bass player David J and drummer Kevin, entered the studio for the first time. What was supposed to be just a demo session became the hatcher od one of the most iconic songs of all time.
"Bela Lugosi's Dead" was recorded "live in the studio" in a single take during a six-hour session at Beck Studios in Wellingborough on 26 January 1979. All four band members are credited as writers of the song: vocalist Peter Murphy, guitarist Daniel Ash, drummer Kevin Haskins and bassist David J (as David Haskins). David J claims he wrote the lyrics after watching Lugosi’s Dracula.
The song is over nine minutes long; with a long and sparse intro, driven by the haunting bass riff and Haskins’ bossa nova beat over a dub-influenced guitar sound. The vocals start at the point were most of punk songs would have finished: at the 2 minutes 50 seconds mark.
The single was positively reviewed in Sounds, a weekly British newspaper, and received crucial airplay on BBC Radio 1 and John Peel's evening show, staying on the British independent charts for two years. "Bela Lugosi's Dead" has been immensely influential on contemporary goth culture and is considered by many as the harbinger of gothic rock music. British Newspaper The Guardian, in a 2019 article titled ”Bauhaus invent goth”, ranked the song number 19 on their list of the 50 key events in indie music history.
The song was featured in numerous films and TV shows including Smallville, The Curve, Good Luck Chuck, The Collector, Fringe, Supernatural and American Horror Story: Hotel, but nothing as iconic as the opening nightclub scene of Tony Scott’s vampire saga The Hunger.