On January 3, 1979, a relatively unknown post-punk rock group performed their latest composition at the Romany pub in Kingsthorpe, UK for the first time. The band was called Bauhaus 1919 and was named after the Staatliches Bauhaus—a school of architecture based in Weimar, Germany.
The composition that got its initial airing that night was the song ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ and over the following years, ‘Bela’ launched the career of the now shortened ‘Bauhaus’ into the realms of international stardom.
The song itself, probably the only rock and roll anthem ever to have been written whilst riding a bicycle, was composed by the bands’ bass player David J Haskins.
Inspiration for the anthem was initiated by the artist’s love of old black-and-white Gothic and horror films.
Of all the actors that appeared in the early horror B-movies, one of the most notable early stars was Hungarian-American actor Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó (20 October 1882 – 16 August 1956), better known as Bela Lugosi.
The actor rose to stardom mainly through his portrayal of Dracula in the original 1931 film of the same name.
The band Bauhaus are no more and so Haskins has taken the opportunity to reflect upon his musical career in his autobiography Who Killed Mister Moonlight?: Bauhaus Black Magick and Benediction.
He talks about his burgeoning fascination with the occult and magick and speculates on how it might have changed the fortunes of the band as well as impacted in various ways upon his solo musical career.
Haskins’ story begins with a look at his early days as a student at Northampton Art College. He reveals that, as a teenager, his love of the music of Lou Reed, David Bowie and the myriad musical acts that emerged from the New Age and Canvey Island explosions actually determined his life path.
From its initial formation, Haskins describes how the stature of Bauhaus grew rapidly.
The band were soon performing to increasingly larger audiences both in the UK and Europe. This led to an early American mini-tour where Bauhaus came to the attention of Iggy Pop—an artist whose songs the earlier incarnation of the band had covered at live gigs.
Over the following couple of years, Bauhaus continued to enjoy a dramatic rise in popularity with a growing respect for their uniquely compelling Gothic-inspired music. A number of hit singles followed along with albums that received critical acclaim from the music press and fans.
It was through reading an article about Magick, written by Throbbing Gristle and later-on Psychic TV member Genesis P Orridge, that Haskins discovered the magickal system of ‘Sigils’.
At the time, Haskins’ desire was to meet the writer William Burroughs and so he performed a sigil ritual with the desire to bring a meeting to pass.
Six months later, Burroughs turned up in the bands dressing room before a gig and the two of them shared the ultimate accolade between artists: a joint.
As Haskins says in closing part one of his book (Magick),
…the shit works, as they say!
In part two of Who Killed Mister Moonlight?, Haskins really opens up and reveals his personal involvement in the magickal arts.
By this stage, Bauhaus as a musical unit had imploded but from its ashes, Haskins formed the group Love and Rockets.
During this time, he also established contact with another of his art-heroes Alan Moore—an artist who shared his interest in the occult with whom he conducted a magickal ritual designed to invoke the ancient serpent god Glycon.
The result was more effective than they could have hoped!
Magick remained a dominent force in Haskins’ life during the 1990s. As his continuing musical landscape expanded, Love and Rockets grew in popularity.
His skill and experience as a musician and songwriter grew and he used the occult to supply his creative inspiration.
Part three of Who Killed Mister Moonlight? brings the story up to the years 2005 and 2006. By this time, Bauhaus had reformed and played to an expectant fan base—one who had remained loyal throughout the intervening years.
Sadly, the reunion did not last long before the same issues between the group and lead singer Peter Murphy came to the front once again.
Bauhaus played their final gig at the Parades De Coura, Odemeira, Portugal in 2006 after which the band was now, much like Bela Lugosi, completely dead.
Throughout the history of rock and roll, artists have dabbled in the residue of lesser magick. For some, it added to their musical career but for others the mixing of music and the occult initiated a new set of personal problems.
Haskins’ deep occult and musical interests appear to have gone hand in hand through a long and successful musical career. His bands took him to places in the world he would not ordinarily have visited. While the magickal side to his life also undoubtedly aided his professional journey, it also took him into dark places and dangerous territory.
We know all this because of the refreshingly honest and detailed account that Haskins shares in Who Killed Mister Moonlight?.
Many would—and have—shied away from offering such a nakedly raw account of their life.
in the main, most rock stars enjoy the mystique of stardom that accompanies their fame and this is continued in their, often bloated and tedious, autobiographies.
Not so with Haskins’, who is openly prepared to run the risk of confusing and alienating his fans by admitting to his close involvement with both the occult and illicit recreational substances.
This results in a stunningly magnificent set of personal memoirs, which I found increasingly fascinating with every page turn.
Throughout the book, Haskins invites you to embrace every facet of the remarkable Bauhaus story—both its light and dark sides.
It contains a great deal of additional insight and detailed references at the end that add another level of appreciation to just what is involved in playing in a premier rock band; of life spent on the road and the many challenges that present themselves in the recording studio.
Who Killed Mister Moonlight? is an autobiographical chessboard full of darkness and light. The contrast between the two offers the reader an utterly delightful, enchanting and thoroughly memorable reading experience.