Bela Lugosi's Dead

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"Bela Lugosi's Dead"
Single by Bauhaus
Released 6 August 1979
Recorded 26 January 1979 at Beck Studios in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England
Genre Gothic rock
Length 9:36
Label Small Wonder
Bauhaus singles chronology
"Bela Lugosi's Dead"
"Dark Entries"

"Bela Lugosi's Dead" is a song by English post-punk band Bauhaus. The song was the band's first single, released on 6 August 1979 by record label Small Wonder,[1] and is often considered the first gothic rock record.[2]:25–28


The single featured the B-side "Boys" and some versions also include a portion of an early demo recording of what would be their next single, "Dark Entries".

The original sleeve art was taken from a still of the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.[3] The writers listed on the single are Kevin Haskins, Peter Murphy, Daniel Ash and the band's bassist, David J (as David Haskins).[4] David J, however, claims that he wrote them.[2]:45

The song is over nine minutes in length and was recorded "live in the studio" in a single take. The vocals do not start (in the studio version) until several minutes into the track. The dub-influenced[5] guitar sound was achieved by using partial barre chords and leaving the top E and B strings open.

The title referenced horror film star Bela Lugosi (1882–1956), who did much to establish the modern vampire image as the title character in the 1931 film Dracula, and who had been dead for over two decades when the song was written and recorded.

The sleeve cover art shown above is from the D. W. Griffith film The Sorrows of Satan (1926).


"Bela Lugosi's Dead" was recorded during a six-hour session at Beck Studios in Wellingborough on 26 January 1979. Four additional songs were also recorded ("Boys", "Harry", "Bite My Hip" and the unreleased "Some Faces") but not used; only "Harry" surfaced in 1982 as a single B-side to "Kick in the Eye". "Boys" was re-recorded at Beck Studios in 1979. "Bite My Hip" was an early version of "Lagartija Nick".


"Bela Lugosi's Dead" was released in August 1979, but did not enter the UK charts.

It was released on CD in 1988, and was compiled on the 1998 Bauhaus compilation album Crackle.

The original 12" release was on white vinyl and limited to 5,000 copies. Various re-releases included 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 picture disk with clear plastic sleeve


"Bela Lugosi's Dead" is considered the harbinger of gothic rock music and has been immensely influential on contemporary goth culture.[3]

In the 1983 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.

The song was used as the intro music for the late 1990s Saturday Night Live skit "Goth Talk", which featured Chris Kattan and Molly Shannon as two goth students.

This song was featured in numerous films and TV shows including Smallville, The Curve, Good Luck Chuck, The Collector, Fringe,[6] Supernatural and American Horror Story: Hotel.[7]

Cover versions[edit]

"Bela Lugosi's Dead" has been covered by numerous artists:

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Bela Lugosi's Dead"
  2. "Boys"
  3. "Dark Entries (Demo)"




  1. ^ "Bauhaus: Bela Lugosi's Dead". iTunes Music. Apple. Archived from the original on 15 September 2014. 
  2. ^ 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 (Routledge) 35 (1): 25–52. doi:10.1080/03007766.2010.537928. ISSN 1740-1712. (subscription required (help)). 
  3. ^ a b Park, Jennifer (2008). "Melancholy and the Macabre: Gothic Rock and Fashion". In Steele, Valerie; Park, Jennifer. Gothic: Dark Glamour. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-300-13694-4. LCCN 2008024961. OCLC 216936076. OL 891133W. 
  4. ^ "Bela Lugosi's Dead" at Discogs.
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ "Fringe recaps: 'Midnight'". Fox. 28 April 2009. Archived from the original on 2 May 2009. 
  7. ^ Woerner, Meredith (8 October 2015). "'American Horror Story' recap: Lady Gaga makes a great turban-wearing immortal". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 8 October 2015. The two troll a goth club dancing to Bauhaus' 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' in search of a meal.