In 2020 – which now feels like a decade ago – we covered the history of Bauhaus. With 2021 finally here – and concerts not happening just yet – let’s examine a branch off that Bauhaus family tree and explore Love and Rockets. I even have news about David J and Daniel Ash for you…
Way back when, Bauhaus came along and pioneered the music that would later be labeled goth rock. With “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” they placed themselves in the music history books, and their 1980 album “In the Flat Field” is often considered the original gothic rock album, even if bands of this time prefer to NOT use that label. Created by Daniel Ash (guitar), brothers David J and Kevin Haskins (bass and drums, respectively), and Peter Murphy (vocals), they had success, but also tension, and they split (for the first time) in 1983.
What came out of the split was a project Ash had been working on with Bauhaus roadie Glen Campling. They were joined by one of the Haskins brothers (Kevin) and became Tones on Tail. Their brief stint as a band gave us one full length album and the hit track, “Go.”
From there, a Bauhaus reunion was being discussed, but Peter Murphy declined. The other Haskins (David J) joined up with his brother Kevin and Ash, and Love and Rockets was born.
In an interview with Louder, David J said “If you look at the fact that three of us got together again, you can probably work out where the personality clash lay! It’s not too hard to deduce, is it?”
Ash covered vocal duty and they started into a poppier direction than Bauhaus; a brighter sound that led to alternative rock. In true Bauhaus form though, Love and Rockets made seven studio albums, had a break up, did a reunion tour, and broke up again.
Back to the beginning, Love and Rockets was ready to go right away. They kicked things off with a cover of the Motown classic, “Ball of Confusion.”
BALL of CONFUSION
A definite departure from the dark sounds of “Bela Lugosi,” there was a psychedelic sound that may have had some help. “I didn’t really get into psychedelics until ’85,” David J said. “It was the time of the first Love and Rockets album. In fact, the collage that’s on the inside of the gatefold sleeve — that was finished on LSD, on the day of my first trip. I remember being quite delighted with it! I remember sitting on the floor, looking at Daniel’s antique furniture and thinking how sexy the legs of the furniture were, and remarking on this! The curvature of the furniture, and Daniel just smiling.”
Sexy furniture aside, their first album was completed and released in 1985. “Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven” hit the alt rock/post-punk nail and offered the single “If There’s a Heaven Above” and the sleeper hit, “Haunted When The Minutes Drag.”
HAUNTED WHEN the MINUTES DRAG
They picked up more pop sounds with the next disc, “Express.” In fact, “Yin and Yang (The Flowerpot Man)” is downright danceable.
YIN AND YANG
“This is an announcement for the transcendental run, the train now standing leaves for higher planes. Due to a derailment there will be no other train, so why not hop on this one?“
Love And Rockets
Two songs you surely know were also on the album: “Kundalini Express” and “All in My Mind.”
ALL in MY MIND
Love and Rockets still had their best singles ahead and “Earth, Sun, Moon” provided the first big one, “No New Tale to Tell.” The album continued to remove the band from gloomy sound of Bauhaus and towards the pop/rock direction, which was also making them bigger in the US than Bauhaus had been.
NO NEW TALE TO TELL
The next record gave us the song we still know by heart. The song that played 15 times per day during my summer job at Miller’s Outpost (RIP). Of course I am speaking of “So Alive.”
Also worth rocking out to on “Love and Rockets” are “Motorcycle” and “Bound for Hell,” but “So Alive” was the standout. It helped make their self-titled album their best-selling disc in the US, plus it ended up as Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks song of the year for 1989. The band found themselves wildly successful suddenly, selling out concert venues and adding dates.
If you’ve been reading these ‘80s band articles on OC Music News, you can guess what happens next. In what seems to be a pattern with English bands that find popularity in the US in the ‘80s, they imploded.
In 2018, David J told Louder: “As is typical, we sabotaged it all to a degree and we’d go out and we wouldn’t play the hit!,” recalled David J. “We wouldn’t play a proper set, we’d do a wall of sound like My Bloody Valentine and keep it going for as long as we could to fuck with ‘em. It completely backfired and the record company hated it. We went a bit mad, really.”
They toured. They took a break. They made an electronic album. They got dropped by their record label.
Fortunately, they found a new record label and “Hot Trip to Heaven” was released. The album dove into the world of ambient, acid-house, techno sounds, but, being so different from their previous releases, it did not fare as well with fans.
To be absolutely honest, I had not listened to it until writing this article and I freaking love it. If you are a fan of The Orb, you should enjoy it for sure. But if that’s not enough incentive, Hot Press called it “the sex album of the year.” Check out the 14-minute song “Body and Soul” for yourself.
The band went back to rock for their next release, “Sweet F.A.” The recording process was not without drama. A fire broke out in the building where they were practicing and living, and all of their gear was destroyed. Thankfully no one was killed and an interesting album cover came out of it (a burned up guitar photo). There was a legal battle over insurance and the band was found not responsible for the fire, but they still ended up with a large legal bill and “Sweet F.A.” did not get as much attention as it should have from the press. “Sweet Lover Hangover” got some airplay, but they did not reach the “So Alive” fame of before.
Love and Rockets bounced back to the electronic, ambient musical style for their final album, “Lift” in 1998. With “Resurrection Hex” having samples of Bauhaus tracks “Stigmata Martyr” and “In the Night,” and “resurrection” in the title, rumors of a Bauhaus reunion circulated. The rumors came to fruition and a reunion was announced as “Lift” was released. With the demise of Love and Rockets’ and Peter Murphy’s record label, and the success of the Resurrection Tour, Love and Rockets officially disbanded in 1999.
Love and Rockets was not gone forever though… (Come on, you know the pattern.)
In 2007, they reunited for the Joe Strummer Tribute Concert by performing “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” And you KNOW once you get the band back together…you gotta do Coachella! Yes, after doing Coachella in 2005 as Bauhaus, they returned in 2008 as Love and Rockets (and also popped up at Lollapalooza).
Their renewed popularity also spawned a 2009 tribute album, “New Tales to Tell: A Tribute to Love and Rockets.” The album included performances by The Flaming Lips, Frank Black, Puscifer, Better Than Ezra, The Dandy Warhols, and Monster Magnet. But their time was short this go around. In 2009 when asked about a reunion, Ash said, “No. No. No. I mean, no. That was way back; it’s ancient history to me now. It’s a bit odd doing Coachella and Lollapalooza last year. I wasn’t really into that. Really, it sort of drove it home for me. That was it for me. It’s boring for me to do those songs that are so old.” On more than one occasion, Ash has said he likes to keep moving, so I get that. Repetitive anything gets annoying.
Over the years, statements about “no more reunions” have been made, but then band members work together. For instance just in the past five years, Ash and Kevin formed Poptune (but wouldn’t that also be Tones on Tail?), David J did a Bauhaus music tour with Murphy. As of right now, all four Bauhaus members are back together planning to tour. Well, I think so because apparently that can change in a moment. Earlier this month, Ash was on Baxie’s Musical Podcast and said he was texting with Kevin about previous issues. “I said none of us have changed at all. We’re exactly the same. And that’s pretty much it and we get on, and we don’t get on, and we get on, and we don’t get on. It’s ok. It’s doable because we’re older now. So it’s not a big deal.” He laughed and continued, “It’s funny, I say this now and we might all fall out again in 36 hours.”
Ash has a new band named Ashes and Diamonds with an album coming out soon. In fact, Ash said it should be done by the end of this month. Ashes and Diamonds pairs Ash with drummer Bruce Smith (Public Image Ltd., The Slits) and bassist Paul Denman (Sade). They have spent 18 months working on it, with much of that time sending bits and files to each other due to the pandemic. You can hear more about the album from Ash in this interesting multi-topic interview (his FIRST podcast interview).
David J continues to have projects as well and was nice enough to catch me up. “This on-off lockdown/pandemic period has been highly productive. I have several collaborative musical projects most of which are now finished or are nearing completion. All will be released this year,” he explained. “The first record release is cover of Sonic Youth’s ‘Death Valley 69.’ This is a collaboration with Paul Statham and a talented young singer, Char. It is part of a four-track EP of murder ballads which will be released under the group name, Dark Flowers. Release set for mid-March.” Like many of us, David J was able to use the 2020 downtime to get back to other interests. “I have returned to painting and have completed eight canvases which will be shown later this year. A book of poetry is also set for publication at some point.” I am not sure this guy sleeps!
All three members of Love and Rockets update their social media often, so follow them for news as it happens.
As I mentioned, Bauhaus had plans to tour in 2020, but you know the deal and the dates are being rescheduled for this fall. Not meaning to end a Love and Rockets story with Bauhaus update, but these guys can’t seem to stop getting back together in one form or another. As such, there should be no shortage of music from the heart of Love and Rockets…even if it has a different name on it.