Bauhaus in 1980

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.