“‘I think a face can be used though.’ This is singer Peter Murphy talking now,” the Smash Hits 2 piece continued. “‘You can use that sort of press to open doors. None of us see that as a problem.’ ‘But if because the visual focus all the credit is given to one person,’ chips in bassist David Jay, ‘it can lead to internal frustrations.’ ‘You can subconsciously harbour…’ Peter is probably about to say ‘jealousies’ but his voice is drowned out as the others agree loudly. For all this amicable talk, certain tensions can be detected underneath the Bauhaus surface.” Probably no wonder then that with Murphy’s extra-curricular activity (modelling, acting), Bauhaus were no more within a year of that article. His next band Dali’s car didn’t last long either (“It ended. We didn’t exactly split up, we just called it a day really.” 3) and inevitably he began a solo career.
It got off to a good start. “Is Murphy’s face his only fortune?” the Melody Maker review of Final Solution continued. (Notably, his famously sculpted cheekbones did not appear on the front of the single’s sleeve, although his extraordinary eyes filled much of the space on the reverse.) “On this evidence, certainly not… a record full of darkness and hard edges, fractured wailings and a genuine sense of mounting panic… this is hard rock at the limit.” As well as its well-received singles, his first solo album, Should The World Fail To Fall Apart, attracted good reviews, like the one from Record Mirror 4 which said it was “practically transcendental”: “Now this album is what I’d call proper music! You know, real songs that you can actually sing along to, unusual and well-thought-out arrangements, plus Peter Murphy singing properly for the first time in his career. True, he still has a tendency to sound as if he’s choking on own arty pomposity, but by and large his voice has matured into an immensely listenable one.”
The charge of being “arty-farty” (phrase he used himself in the Smash Hits interview) is one that has never left him. He “spent the 1980s helping the pretension police with their enquiries,” according to the introduction to a Q article about his career during the decade. 5 During the interview, he was “at pains to play down his undisputed title as The World’s Most Pretentious Man… [but] in many respects Peter Murphy is still trapped inside a 1981 NME cover feature.” He responded to this thusly: “I can’t see that we were any more pretentious than say, Killing Joke. I mean, we were anti-rock n’ roll and that might be pretentious but there’s pretence in every aspect of art. It’s all an act. I think what people, the press in particular, didn’t like was that there was an arrogance about us which said, We don’t need you. It was a very self-made band. And we attracted some very negative writing. Really seriously bad things were written about us.” Well, bad things would be written about a band who once recorded a song by going into the studio individually, playing whatever they liked, and then grafting it all together. ”It was a game of musical consequences, someone drew the head then the body and so on. Then we put the four bits of music together to create one disjointed, mutant piece… in that sense we weren’t pretentious because there was no self-editing, no censorship of our work, we let everyone hear what we were doing.”
1 Sweeting, Adam. “Singles”, Melody Maker, IPC Media, 16 November 1985.
2 Rimmer, Dave. “Murphy’s Law”, Smash Hits, EMAP, 28 October – 10 November 1982.
3 Murphy, Kevin. “Is There More To Life?”, Sounds, United Newspapers, 23 November 1985.
4 Culp, Nancy. “Albums”, Record Mirror, United Newspapers, 5 July 1986.
5 Deevoy, Adrian. “The Fairy Godfather of Goth”, Q, EMAP, June 1992.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Nov. 15
Peter MURPHY Final Solution (Beggars Banquet BEG143)