I am in a coffee shop, and Bauhaus’s “Bela Lugosi is Dead” is playing on the place’s audio system. This immediately makes me think of the 1983 film “The Hunger.”
I bought the book back then, and the cover was a movie tie in, with Catherine Deneuve on the cover. It was a big deal at the time, because David Bowie was in it as well.
I went to the bookstore in which I bought the book as part of the first date I ever went out on. We saw the film “The Killing of Angel Street,” and then went across the street and saw “The Year of Living Dangerously.” I will not include the name of the person, as I do not wish to embarrass her.
I didn’t read much in the way of long works back then. Having a decidedly lacking attention span, stories of even five pages scared me away (perhaps this is why virtually all of the things that I write are fewer than 1000 words, and why most of them are fewer than 500). Yet there was something about Whitney Strieber’s take on the vampire myth that captivated me, and I couldn’t put it down.
Whoever put this coffee shop mix together is either my age, or feels an affinity for the time during which I spent my teens and twenties. In addition to Bauhaus, there have been tunes by The Smiths, XTC, The Cure, New Order, Kraftwerk…all the usual suspects.
I always wonder, when I hear this music now, if I’m just the target of marketing. I am, after all, the perfect audience for this music, which may suggest why The Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man” made it into a Citibank commercial, and why Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life” made it into another commercial for a product I no longer remember. A car, I think, or some sort of travel website.
These uses of these songs broke my heart a little.
My mind turns back to “The Hunger,” and how it probably says something about me that the main appeal of it wasn’t the chance to see a great deal of Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. No, the real appeal for me was Dick Smith’s amazing makeup, which aged David Bowie from the 36 year-old he was at the time to over two-hundred. I was mesmerized by makeup back then, and can still recite the names of those whose work I remember to this day…Tom Savini, Rob Bottin, and Rick Baker in particular.
From Bauhaus to “The Hunger” to Dick Smith to Rick Baker, my mind drifts to the first time I saw “An American Werewolf in London” in 1981. It was a sneak preview, and the film it played with was the absolutely awful “Endless Love,” a wretched work based on a great book by Scott Spencer. I still remember that transformation scene (in “An American Werewolf in London,” not “Endless Love”), the quantum leap beyond the cross dissolves that turned Lon Chaney Jr. in “The Wolf Man.”
Of course Rob Bottin had beaten Rick Baker to the punch by a few months, as “The Howling” came out a bit earlier, but still, even when I finally saw “The Howling,” it just didn’t compare, for me. Bottin’s creations still walked on two legs and remained partially human, while Baker completely transformed David Naughton into a four-legged beast.
And at times, when a song such as Bauhaus’s “Bela Lugosi is Dead” or Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life (which is playing right now)” comes through a stereo system, I suddenly feel a stab of loneliness. Often, I went to films alone, and when I think of that time in my life, I think of many, many Friday and Saturday nights spent alone, watching television.
And now, as Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Lips Like Sugar” plays, I remember the second date with the person with whom I was in that bookshop when I bought “The Hunger.” I can’t remember the film we saw—for some reason, the film adaptation of Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal” comes to mind—but I remember walking her home, reaching to take her hand (I was too shy to try to hold her hand during the film, and this took all the courage I had at the time), and her snatching it away.
I got the picture, and there was no third date.
So I have such mixed feelings when I listen to a mix designed to stir feelings of nostalgia for someone my age. Yes, I was younger then. But I was so very alone most of the time, and consequently, all of this music, no matter how lively, how positive its lyrics and declarations of love, will always make me feel a bit sad.