Bela Lugosi's Dead

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"Bela Lugosi's Dead"
Single by Bauhaus
Released6 August 1979
Recorded26 January 1979
StudioBeck Studios, Wellingborough
LabelSmall Wonder
Bauhaus singles chronology
"Bela Lugosi's Dead"
"Dark Entries"

"Bela Lugosi's Dead" is the debut single by the English post-punk band Bauhaus, released on 6 August 1979 on the Small Wonder label.[4] It is often considered the first gothic rock record.[5]


"Bela Lugosi's Dead" was recorded "live in the studio" in a single take during a six-hour session at Beck Studios in Wellingborough on 26 January 1979. It was the first work they recorded together, six weeks after the band had formed.[6] All four band members are credited as writers of the song: vocalist Peter Murphy, guitarist Daniel Ash, drummer Kevin Haskins and bassist David J (as David Haskins). David J has claimed that he wrote the lyrics.[5] Alternate versions of "Bela Lugosi's Dead" also included a portion of the early demo recording of their next single, "Dark Entries".

Four additional songs were also recorded during the same session: "Boys"; "Bite My Hip"; "Some Faces" and the ska-reggae tune "Harry", which was about Deborah Harry, the lead singer of Blondie.[7][8] Regarding this session, Kevin Haskins said, "There's power pop in there, and ska too. We were trying to find our voice."[9]

Of the songs recorded during that session (aside from "Bela Lugosi's Dead") only "Harry" found an official release; in 1982 as a B-side to the single "Kick in the Eye." A version of "Boys" recorded at Beck Studios later in 1979 was used as a B-side to the original release of the "Bela Lugosi's Dead" single.[10] The remaining tracks, including the original recording of "Boys", remained unreleased until 2018 when The Bela Session was released on vinyl and CD, and made available for digital download by the band.[11] Of the additional tracks, Classic Rock magazine wrote that, "The rest of the material finds a band fumbling for direction, even touching on ska."[12]


"We were very influenced by reggae, especially dub. I mean, basically Bela was our interpretation of dub."

David J[13]

The song is over nine minutes long; the vocals start (in the studio version) almost three minutes into the track. The dub-influenced guitar sound was achieved by using partial barre chords and leaving the top E and B strings open.[14][15][16]

The song takes its name from the horror film star Bela Lugosi, who is known for his role as the title character in the 1931 film Dracula. After a career decline in his later years, Lugosi died in 1956 at the age of 73.

The sleeve cover art was taken from the 1926 film The Sorrows of Satan, directed by D. W. Griffith.[17]


"Bela Lugosi's Dead" was released in August 1979, but did not enter the UK charts. The original 12" release was on white vinyl and limited to 5,000 copies. Various other releases are included in the following:

  • Black vinyl with black-on-white sleeve (up to five versions exist, based on comparisons of runout matrices on each of the releases and sleeve format)
  • Blue vinyl with blue-on-white sleeve
  • Clear vinyl with brown-on-white sleeve
  • Green transparent vinyl with green-on-white sleeve
  • Pink vinyl with pink-on-white sleeve
  • Purple transparent vinyl with purple-on-white sleeve
  • Glow-in-the-dark vinyl picture disc with clear plastic sleeve

It had a few releases on CD single:

  • Small Wonder, 1988 (black-on-white cover in J-case; without "Dark Entries (Demo)")
  • Bauhausmusik, 1998 (cover image with black border and red band logo and title on cardboard sleeve)
  • Self-released, 2005 (cover image imposed on moon photo with black background and white band logo on cardboard sleeve; without "Dark Entries (Demo)", but adding "The Dog's a Vapour")

The song was included on the 1998 Bauhaus compilation album Crackle. In 2018, the track was released again on vinyl, CD and digital download as part of The Bela Session, along with four other recordings made during the same session in early 1979, three of which were unreleased up to that point.[18]

Other releases[edit]

In the 1983 erotic horror film The Hunger, Bauhaus performed the song during the opening credits and introduction. A 7″ promotional record featuring an edited version of the song was released to theaters playing the film.[19][20] A live version of the track, released in 1982 and recorded on 24 February 1982 at The Old Vic, London, is found on Press the Eject and Give Me the Tape, and the same version is also found on the band's compilation album Bauhaus 1979–1983. For the 1998 greatest-hits collection Crackle, Beggars Banquet stitched together the "Tomb Raider Version" from outtakes and live recordings. The band never approved it and refers to it instead as the "Frankenstein version".[21]


"Bela Lugosi's Dead" is roundly established by goth historians as the first true record in the genre. For comparison's sake, goth icons the Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees were certainly releasing records at the same time that Bauhaus delivered its premiere single, but the aforementioned bands didn't go full-on goth until 1980–81. The song also precedes all the early recognized alt-rock masterworks.

–"Bela Lugosi's Dead": 30 Years of Goth, Gloom, and Post-Post-Punk, PopMatters, October 2009.[22]

"Bela Lugosi's Dead" is considered the harbinger of gothic rock music and has been immensely influential on contemporary goth culture.[23] In an article by The Guardian titled "Bauhaus invent goth", the newspaper ranked the song number 19 on their list of the 50 key events in indie music history, stating:

"Bela Lugosi's Dead" would have been just another piece of post-punk experimentation had it not been for the lyrics, which depicted the funeral of the Dracula star, with bats swooping and virgin brides marching past his coffin. The effect was so irresistibly theatrical that dozens of bands formed in its wake. So many, in fact, that goth quickly became a very codified musical genre.[24]

The song was ranked #60 in Rolling Stone's "The 100 Greatest Debut Singles of All Time".[25]

Other versions[edit]

"Bela Lugosi's Dead (Undead Is Forever)"[edit]

  • Bauhaus bassist David J, in collaboration with Jill Tracy, released "Bela Lugosi's Dead (Undead Is Forever)" on 31 October 2013.[26][27]

Cover versions[edit]

Track listing[edit]

12" single

Side A
1."Bela Lugosi's Dead"9:36
Total length:9:36
Side B
3."Dark Entries (Demo)"1:23
Total length:4:29

The Hunger Mix[20]

1."Bela Lugosi Is Dead (The Hunger Mix)"6:53

The Bela Session EP[18]

1."Bela Lugosi's Dead (Official Version)"9:36
2."Some Faces"2:22
3."Bite My Hip"2:51
5."Boys (Original Version)"3:03




  1. ^ "Release The Bats – It's The 20 Greatest Goth Tracks – NME". NME. 5 March 2009.
  2. ^ Sande, Kiran (2 November 2010). "20 best: Goth records ever made". Fact. p. 1. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  3. ^ Andi Harrima (2022-10-31). "The 50 Best Goth Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2022-11-05.
  4. ^ "Bauhaus: Bela Lugosi's Dead". iTunes Music. Apple. Archived from the original on 15 September 2014.
  5. ^ a b Carpenter, Alexander (2012). "The 'Ground Zero' of Goth: Bauhaus, 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' and the Origins of Gothic Rock". Popular Music and Society. 35 (1). Abingdon, England: Routledge: 25–52. doi:10.1080/03007766.2010.537928. ISSN 1740-1712. S2CID 191488666.
  6. ^ “Bauhaus - The Bela Session - “bela Lugosi's Dead" Official Reissue By Leaving Records”. Retrieved 2 November 2019
  7. ^ "Daniel Ash returns! exclusive interview with former Bauhaus guitarist". Louder Than War. 29 November 2014.
  8. ^ "Bauhaus before Bauhaus - an in depth look on the bands that led to the formation of the iconic band". Louder Than War. 3 September 2017.
  9. ^ "Big Ups: Bauhaus' Kevin Haskins Dompe and David J Haskins Pick Their Bandcamp Favorites". Retrieved 2 November 2019
  10. ^ "Bauhaus Archives - Page 4 of 6 - Indigo Eyes: A Peter Murphy Fan Site". Indigo Eyes: A Peter Murphy Fan Site. Archived from the original on 2022-10-14. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  11. ^ "The Bela Session, by Bauhaus". Bandcamp. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
  12. ^ "The Bela Session". Classic Rock Magazine: 93. December 2018.
  13. ^ "40 Years of Bauhaus - An Interview with David J". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-13. Retrieved 12 January 2021. David J: "We were very influenced by reggae, especially dub. I mean, basically Bela was our interpretation of dub."
  14. ^ "Bauhaus invent goth | Music". The Guardian. 2014-03-13. Retrieved 2016-10-14.
  15. ^ Thompson, Dave. "Review of "Bela Lugosi's Dead"". AllMusic. San Francisco: All Media Guide. Archived from the original on 26 November 2012. From those basics, 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' crackles in on percussion alone, a tapping, rattling rhythm into which a three-note bass line only gradually intrudes itself before Ash's treated guitar slides in, echoed and echoing the most atmospheric dub.
  16. ^ Perpetua, Matthew (June 24, 2011). "The 15 Greatest Songs About Vampires". Rolling Stone. New York City: Wenner Media LLC. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  17. ^ "BAUHAUS Exhumed—An Interview with Kevin Haskins". Post 16 March 2018. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  18. ^ a b "The Bela Session, by Bauhaus". Bandcamp. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
  19. ^ "Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead". Discogs. 1983. Retrieved 2020-05-10.
  20. ^ a b "Bela Lugosi Is Dead (The Hunger Mix) - Single by Bauhaus". Apple Music. Retrieved 2020-05-10.
  21. ^ "Bauhaus: The Bela Session". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2020-11-15.
  22. ^ ""Bela Lugosi's Dead": 30 Years of Goth, Gloom, and Post-Post-Punk". PopMatters. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  23. ^ Park, Jennifer (2008). "Melancholy and the Macabre: Gothic Rock and Fashion". In Steele, Valerie; Park, Jennifer (eds.). Gothic: Dark Glamour. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-300-13694-4. LCCN 2008024961. OCLC 216936076. OL 891133W.
  24. ^ "Bauhaus invent goth". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  25. ^ "The 100 Greatest Debut Singles of All Time". Rolling Stone. Penske Business Media, LLC. May 19, 2020. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  26. ^ David J (31 October 2013). "Bela Lugosi's Dead (Undead is Forever) : David J (official)". BandCamp. Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  27. ^ David J (30 October 2013). "Bela Lugosi's Dead (Undead is Forever)". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-13. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  28. ^ "Chris Cornell - 17) Bela Lugosi's dead (Argentina 2007)". Youtube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-13. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  29. ^ Kreps, Daniel (August 27, 2009). "Nine Inch Nails Wave Goodbye to New York With Bauhaus' Murphy". Rolling Stone. New York City: Wenner Media LLC. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  30. ^ "Peter Murphy announces world tour; will only play Bauhaus material". Fact. London, England: The Vinyl Factory. 7 March 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  31. ^ Solarski, Matthew (September 29, 2013). "Live Review: Massive Attack V Adam Curtis at New York's Park Avenue". Consequence of Sound. Chicago, Illinois: Consequence Holdings, LLC. Retrieved April 25, 2014. They played a wide range of covers that tied in to varying degrees with the agitprop documentary taking place onscreen. Some, like The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey" and Bauhaus' "Bela Lugosi's Dead", seemed chosen more for mood.
  32. ^ “Massive Attack are Now Covering Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosi’s Dead on Their Mezzanine Tour”. Post Retrieved 2 November 2019
  33. ^ "Dead Cross". 20 August 2017.
  34. ^ John Gentile (October 29, 2019). "Damned cover Bauhaus, Dave Vanian dresses as Nosferatu at 'Gathering of the Vampires'". Retrieved 30 October 2019. Last night the The[sic] Damned played the "Gathering of the Vampires," where they tried to host the largest vampire event ever. During the show, the band covered Bauhaus' "Bela Lugosi's dead." Also, singer Dave Vanian was in a dead ringer Nosferatu costume.