Bauhaus “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”
The Dirtbombs “Kung Fu”
by Mark Cappelletty
It’s Halloween time and that means can only mean one thing anymore: Goths. Especially out here in Southern California, skinny high-school kids with eye makeup and jet-black hair can strut their stuff and not fear wedgies, swirlies or the occasional purple nurple. The Goth song of choice is, natch, Bauhaus’ 1979 single “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” a drony and repetitive song with lyrics that would give even Anne Rice pause (“The virginal brides file past his tomb/Strewn with time’s dead flowers/Bereft in deathly bloom”). But man oh man, does it work. Most Halloween-oriented songs are either novelty hits or are scary only in context. With Peter Murphy’s deep, affected vocals shambling forth like a ghoul (and, with his Skeletor face, looking very much the part) and the simplest, eeriest bassline ever, this one is unsettling on its own any time of the year.
Even scarier is the use of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” in the glossy 1983 Tony Scott pansexual vampire thriller/’80’s-era perfume commercial The Hunger, which juxtaposes Bauhaus singing this in some weird club (behind the same kind of fencing that saved Jake & Elwood Blues during their “country AND western” bar set) while David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve pick up a pair of hapless club-kid victims, one of whom turns out to be Ann “The Power Of Pussy” Magnuson. Bad stuff ensues. The Hunger isn’t particularly great, but Bowie is genuinely creepy, particularly in how Dick Smith’s early-stage old-age make-up almost perfectly mirrors how he looks today, and the movie has atmosphere in spades. And did I mention the smoking hot — and, for once, not thoroughly gratuitous — lesbian sequence between Deneuve and Susan Sarandon?
If Bauhaus is a bit too Goth for you, check out Detroit’s Dirtbombs, who take Kevin Haskins’ drum-beat and Daniel Ash’s guitar distortion and sample them for “Kung Fu,” off 2001’s Ultraglide In Black. Never thought you could shake your tail-feather at Bauhaus before? Well, now you can. Just mind bumping into the kid in the Skinny Puppy shirt. That black eye-liner is hell to wash out of your clothes.