The Difficult Second: Mask

Similar to the majority of the songs that would comprise In the Flat Field, much of the material that would be released on its follow-up, Mask, were recorded and played live ahead of the official recording sessions for the album. After Bauhaus had been transitioned to Beggars Banquet in January, the group booked time in Jam Studios to record a slew of new songs including Kick In The Eye, In Fear Of Fear (and its dub counterpart,In Fear Of Dub), and Of Lilies And Remains.

Spring 1981 saw the band tour the East Coast and Canada for their first full US tour and included a brief cable television appearance on the New York Band Stand where they mimed to both Kick In The Eye (the new UK single and their first on Beggars Banquet) and Stigmata Martyr. Following their return to the UK, the group reconvened at Playground Studios, resulting in several new Mask additions over the span of two separate recording sessions. A June UK tour saw them play with Nick Cave’s The Birthday Party (the tour support) before The Passion Of Lovers single was released.

An initial version of Mask was prepared by July 1981, but the band would soon reject this compilation at the eleventh hour, opting to play their first shows in Italy and hold off releasing the new album. This very brief stint of touring resulted in further studio time, recording additional material in September. By the middle of October, Mask was finally released. Often cited by bands as the difficult second, Bauhaus had no such concerns as Mask received high critical acclaim, seen as an even more experimental venture than their debut album. The group would close the year with an ambitious 30 date tour of the UK and Europe in support of it.

The Hunt for a Label: The 4AD Years

Bauhaus next attempted to sign with Rough Trade Records, but were passed over by Geoff Travis to the newly formed Axis Records, a subsidiary label of (and funded by) the much larger Beggars Banquet and headed by Peter Kent and Ivo Watts-Russell. Released in January 1980, Dark Entries would be Axis Records’s third single (of four) before the young, fledgling label changed names to 4AD after discovering there was already an established Axis Records label.

Additional recording sessions during the spring and summer of 1980 resulted in future singles; Terror Couple Kill Colonel, a song taking its name from a newspaper headline, followed in October by an energetically charged cover of the T. Rex classic Telegram Sam (setting a standard for all Bauhaus covers being literal, turbo charged versions of the originals). Throughout these recording sessions and simultaneous touring stints across the UK and Europe, much of the work that would appear on their debut album, In the Flat Field was written and performed live prior to any studio taping. Ahead of their debut release, Bauhaus would embark on a whistle stop US tour in early September 1980. In The Flat Field was released on 4AD at the start of October.

In January 1981, Bauhaus headed back to the home of the BBC, London’s Maida Vale Studios, to record a series of tracks for a radio show hosted by Peter Powell. Included were re-worked versions of In The Flat Field and St. Vitus Dance along with two new songs – In Fear Of Fear and Poison Pen. Ultimately, this session was never actually aired and only came to light during the tape sourcing from the BBC for a Bauhaus radio sessions album released posthumously in 1989 (Swing The Heartache: The BBC Sessions). It was also at this time that Bauhaus’s stint on 4AD was reanalyzed.

Originally, the plan was for bands to join the 4AD label as a nurturing ground. Bands that excelled would in time be promoted up to the parent label, Beggars Banquet, where they could enjoy larger budgets and more promotional resources. Ultimately, only Bauhaus would follow this model as their desire for big rock singles and expansive stage performances put too large a strain on the resources available to 4AD. As such, all future Bauhaus releases would now be channeled via the Beggars Banquet imprint.

Birth of an Anthem: Bela Lugosi’s Dead

By May of ‘79, 1919 was dropped from their moniker; they were now officially registered as Bauhaus. The band attempted, through an acetate of Bela Lugosi’s Dead, to tempt Fiction Records, amongst others, into signing them to a recording deal. This move was ultimately unsuccessful with “interesting but too long” as the usual record company response after hearing Bela. The Fiction rejection, however, inadvertently led the group to Small Wonder Records based in Walthamstow, London. Though the negotiated contract made for this release to be a one-off deal (with a 50/50 split of profits from sales and little advertising and promotion from the label), the nine and a half minute opus would see an official release on August 6, 1979.

A second recording session took place in London at Small Wonder’s request, where a re-recording of Boys had been laid down (for the flip to Bela). The band, at label boss Pete Stennett’s request, also ran through their live set, resulting in early first take recordings of songs like A God In An Alcove, Telegram Sam, NervesKamikaze Dive and Honeymoon Croon being captured. These were played live in one take rather than the usual recording process with overdubs, colors and additives, captured for posterity on cassette by David J (the entire session, dubbed Live In The Studio 1979, was issued as part of 1997’s Bauhaus: Beneath The Mask book by Andrew J. Brooksbank through Nemo Records). Bela Lugosi’s Dead would receive consistent airplay from highly regarded disc jockey John Peel on his nightly radio show (resulting in their first recording session for Radio One, taped in December 1979 and broadcast in early January 1980) and drift in and out of the UK music charts for the next few years, standing as arguably the group’s defining moment.