Peter Murphy: "Bauhaus Was the Seminal Moment in That Time; Joy Division Was Not"

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As Peter Murphy prepares for a solo tour featuring only songs from his career as Bauhaus' frontman, he seems compelled to contemplate the late-'70s U.K. postpunk scene.

Speaking via phone, riding a bus headed to the first night of his Mr. Moonlight Tour, the 55-year-old Murphy and Crossfade discuss the diverse and exciting (if sometimes confusing) music scene that sprang up when punk rock quickly flamed out.

At the time, despite pulling from influences as diverse as ambient music, Krautrock, prog, and glam rock, Bauhaus was lumped in with all the other DIY music culture out of England: punk rock.

See also:
-Peter Murphy Talks Meth Arrest and 35 Years of Bauhaus: "I Was Never a Punk"
-Review: Peter Murphy and the Music of Bauhaus in Miami, April 30

However, Murphy feels being labeled as punk was the result of rash, shallow interpretations of the group and its work.

"It was not kicking against anything," Murphy says of Bauhaus' music. "It was being magnificent. That was beyond cool then, in terms of the adolescent thing of punk, where, after a year, they ran out of things to be angry at. We were the dawn of something."

He will admit Bauhaus had one thing in common with punk: lashing out against the status quo. "So the inspirations were narcissistic," Murphy says. "The inspirations were also to escape the working-class crap, Dante's Inferno of what you might call a class system. Not that it was more important or less important, but that was something we had to resist.

"Punks may have done it. Postpunks were part of that wave, part of the impulse, or at least I was. I was not a person looking to be famous, looking to be important, looking to be in a band. I just knew that I was a creator."

Soon after Bauhaus' arrival on the scene, Murphy and his band mates were compared to Joy Division, the group out of Manchester that would become New Order after the band's frontman, Ian Curtis, hanged himself in 1980.

"We were not like Joy Division," notes Murphy. "We were and are the seminal moment in that time. Joy Division is not that. It's OK, but it's actually really trashy. It's not that well-done. It's all right, good songs."

Lest he be accused of sacrilege for calling out Joy Division's flaws, Murphy continues, "There's all this myth: the sacrosanct Joy Division. Why? Because he killed himself. He was our friend. Of course, it's good music. I'm just saying we were nothing like them. We were nothing like anybody. That was a very British thing at the time. Joy Division didn't want to identify with anybody else either. Neither did the early Human League."

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9 comments
zackspaulding
zackspaulding

Have to say though...Bauhaus WERE more seminal than J-Divison, but at the end of the day folks, it's ALL down to personal taste. 

texastreecare
texastreecare

So here is the review I posted on PM's FB page last night that did not last a hour before it was deleted:

So you are receiving this little review because I happened to go to your  supposed Bauhaus celebration show in Austin recently. It's no secret that your a good showman and your band did a fine job with the songs other than things sounding a bit muffled. So everything was going along just fine and fun until........ you kinda started to ruin your show when you introduced your band and said,  I quote: "This is not a replacement band it's a better band!" Audible boos, hisses and groans were heard from the crowd but were quickly forgiven with applause as the next song kicked in.  You'd think it would have stopped there, but nope it did not, between every few songs or so there was a new one, and here I do paraphrase: 'This is the real Bauhaus, my Bauhaus/ this is how these songs were supposed to sound in the beginning/ blah blah blah". Same displeasure from the crowd each time but less so each time as they began to get used to it. When you ended your set there was absolutely no call for an encore and none was given.  So guess what! Yes there is more, the fun did not end with the show! I was standing at the merch table chatting with one of the fellows from the opening band ("My Jerusalem", good act, great pick!) , no one else is around the table and guess who sits down across from me? Yup, you did, the pumpkin eater himself! So here is the very short conversation that followed (And you may have a slightly different version, but I'll stick to my side of the story.): 

Me: (extending hand) "Oh hello, I'm........"
PM: (fidgiting) "Please! Just a MINUTE, PLEASE!"
Me: "Okay." (returning to other conversation)
PM: (4 seconds later & positioning nose to gaze across) "Well what is it then, what do you want?!" (what I heard: 'I'm the Queen of England, why are you standing on my cloak?') 
Me: "Nothing, thanks for a good show."
PM: "Yes it was wasn't it!" (What I heard: 'Yes my foie gras has won the national championship for 3 decades, hasn't it!) 
Me: "I also had the treat of seeing David play here in town this weekend."
PM:  "David, David who? I don't know any Davids." (what I heard: 'How could you and I possibly be on a first name bases with ANY of the same people?) 
Me: "Um, David J."
PM: "OH, was he playing with a band?"
Me: "Yes, The Wounds, a really good show!"
PM: "OH, How pitiful! The man has always wanted to be me!"
Me: "Oh, wow, well see ya later." (figure of speech)
PM: "I DON'T THINK SO!" (Shoves a t-shirt and poster, that I neither asked for or paid for across the table and storms off)
It took me three tries to give the shirt and poster away. Something I never really thought about before but which now intrigues me, is that it is actually possible for a person who is sitting to look down their nose at a person who is standing. It must be magical and take lots of practice because I've been trying to recreate it in my interactions with my p.a., Larissa for over a week, as yet to no avail. While  you should not consider me a giant fan I do like a lot of your music and try to pick up your records when they come out, the next time around if I even bother, I'll be tempted just to steal it off of the internet for the first time in my life. It's all fun and games until someone acts like a fool.... and then it's HILARIOUS! Anyway don't get to thinking I'm out to insult you , it was just a little over the top and I happened to be there. Also I just read a interview from a few days ago from Miami concerning your view of your self in relation to Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop, David Bowie and Joy Division. While I might be convinced, from a certain point of view to stand with you on the Joy Division point, It would be so much easier for me to continue to listen to  your music in the future if I thought you had repented from being so god damn full of your self. Just a thought, good luck to you Sir.

luxlamf
luxlamf

Perhaps this is why I have 20+ Joy Division songs on my iPod this many years later and 1 Bauhaus song on it and its a TRex cover.

luxlamf
luxlamf

Perhaps this is why I have 20+ Joy Division songs on my iPod this many years later and 1 Bauhaus song on it and its a TRex cover.

luxlamf
luxlamf

Perhaps this is why I have 20+ Joy Division songs on my iPod this many years later and 1 Bauhaus song on it and its a TRex cover.

happygerbil
happygerbil

Oh Dear. Mr. Middle Age Murphy...... rearrange these two words into a cohesive self-descriptive couplet. Ready ? Ok - "Head Dick".

Jose Martinez
Jose Martinez

Let's not stir up any beef with the dead, Peter.

Sean Levisman
Sean Levisman

What a pompous ass. I love Bauhaus, but he's on crack if he thinks they were more seminal than Joy Division. Keep snorting that meth, Peter.

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