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NO GOTHIC-ROCK RETIREMENT “I could be a real rock icon,” says Peter Murphy, “but that’s a graveyard for me.”
Peter Murphy's ninth solo record, artfully titled Ninth, is worth talking about, since it's his first in seven years and third straight to garner almost across-the-board praise from critics and fans alike. Then there's that little ditty he did with Bauhaus that set in motion the brand of music that is the very reason for this goth issue. There will be more on that later, but right now, Murphy's talking Maxell cassettes, specifically the iconic "Break the sound barrier" UK ad that the singer appeared in as the "Blown Away Guy" in the early '80s — unrecognizable in a suit and skinny tie while Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" blasts from the speakers, causing a great big gust.

"I've always loved the idea of placing myself out of context," Murphy says by phone from London. "And suddenly appearing on people's television screens in a suit, looking totally gorgeous, on this Maxell ad when the subtext could be taken as, 'This is subversive, he's propagating home taping,' which was an issue at that time. I love the idea of people going, 'Wait a minute, what's going on here — who is this person?' "

Oh, it's just the guy who in 1979 gave the world our #1 goth anthem, "Bela Lugosi's Dead," a song that continues to resonate throughout the dark culture with its timeless refrain of "Undead, undead, undead." The fact that it's such a legendary song is impressive considering that Bauhaus were together just over a month when they stepped into the studio to record it.

"When we started writing it, in that moment, it sounded very symphonic and [had] a very beautiful hymn-like progression of chords, and it evoked a sense of the religious almost," Murphy says. "It's very calming, peaceful, and spacious. We followed its lead into making it a very long opus, which was very brave of us, because no one would play a nine-minute song, but that wasn't really a consideration."

But people did play it, and have been ever since. It was Murphy's first-ever vocal performance in a studio, done in one take, and he took his cue from the way he interpreted the priest at church reciting the homily, which was half spoken and half recited as a song. "When we stopped, we all just knew; it was a moment of synchronicity where we all went, 'Oh yeah.' And when I listened to it back — I'd never heard myself being played back — it was like, 'Oh dear, I was right.' It was extremely magical and stimulating to me. It all confirmed my own certainty almost. It was almost like I had a prescient certainty that this was going to happen."

Bauhaus could've existed on the merits of that track alone, but they made it through three more records before a break-up, with reunions that seem to come on a 10-year cycle. The most recent split ended amid acrimony in 2008. There was one heated argument that came to a head when an exasperated Murphy took the rose petals that he throws out during performances, put them in his mouth, and spat them at the rest of the band. It resulted in "I Spit Roses," the first single from Ninth.

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