I have spent decades now listening to Peter Murphy. Bauhaus, and his solo material, was the absolute PERFECT soundtrack for a theatre major with gloomy tendencies. I would listen to “The Three Shadows” (from The Sky’s Gone Out) and giggle with the glee that only comes from someone who’s been raised on a steady diet of old horror movies (thanks, Ma). I immediately related to the inherent humor of the Bauhaus catalog, as well as to the aesthetic. And in Peter Murphy I saw nearly every Shakespeare protagonist AND antagonist. He was Richard III, prowling menacingly. He was Puck, mischievous and mincing. I was completely and totally enamored of the whole thing.
I bought a huge Bauhaus poster which was kind of a centerpiece for my dorm room. I still own it; it’s a bit battered but holds a similar place of honor in my band’s practice space. It has amused my bandmates for a while now.
I’ve seen him countless times since 1990. He brings that command every single time. And that voice. My God. Sonorous and deep and unbelievable. I never get tired of it, ever. And so when I learned of his Stripped tour, and the Boston date, I immediately bought tickets. Like, no question. BUT. I also learned that for an extra bit of cash, one could arrange to meet Mr. Murphy, talk to him, have his undivided attention for a bit of time.
I felt a little squicky about paying extra for the “VIP” thing. Part of me thinks it’s sort of pretentious, and part of me just wishes that I could talk to someone like Peter Murphy based on my own achievements. You know, if I’d done something more with music or my writing so I could be a celebrity in my own right or something. Which is also pretentious.
Ultimately I had to ask myself: “If you have both the means and the opportunity, why WOULDN’T you do it?” And I also thought about David Bowie, and how he was now unavailable in human form, and – again – if you are presented with an opportunity to THANK someone for helping you navigate through all manner of problems AND causes for celebration, wouldn’t you do it? I decided I would.
Now, the big problem that faced me once I made that decision was how I was going to hold it together when meeting him. We ALL know about the Howard Jones Fiasco Of 2015 by now (and if you don’t, you can read all about it here). If I erupted into uncontrollable sobbing while meeting Howard Jones, what would possibly transpire while meeting Peter Murphy, a much larger influence? I consulted friends, particularly those who knew me when I was at Peak Freakishness (’88-’92). A sampling of responses:
John W.: You will need valium.
Katie D.: Dude. If you don’t cough up the $$ to look God Himself in the face and touch His splendor, Acid Puppet* will be very disappointed.
I was bound and determined to NOT explode into alternating paroxysms of sobbing and giggling. I was going to try and be my Usual Charming Self™ and hope for the best.
Unless he was mean to me. Would he be mean to me? I’m not as committed a goth as I used to be. I’m 45. I work as a database administrator. I dress in what would probably be described as a fruit salad of vintage, business, and art teacher attire. My complexion is just as pale as ever, though, so there’s that. But would he just eye me up and down and decide I was some sort of old-ass poseur? I fretted and obsessed to the point where Coombsie said, “Peter Murphy poops like everyone else. Also – you’re paying money to meet him. HE’S GOING TO BE NICE TO YOU.”
The show itself was, of course, fantastic. In fact, I think this was the best I’ve seen him. But as it got closer and closer to the end of the show, I started kind of squirming. It didn’t help that there were a couple of Committed Goths™ behind me snarking about how so many people in the audience looked like “they were social workers and shit.” Well, database administrator actually, but I suppose that’s just as dull. And I was going to Peter Murphy shows before you were even born, so…eat my (not black velvet) shorts. I guess. I’m feeling bad enough, ladies.
But in the end, I got to go upstairs with the tour manager, and two other women who paid for VIP passes (Anne and Gwen). Anne very much looked the part of Committed Goth™, and Gwen looked like someone I would work with. The manager instructed us to have a seat in this little…balcony alcove thing, and that Peter would “be with you shortly.”
Peter will be with you. Amen.
I pulled out my vinyl copy of Peter’s first solo album. Gwen’s eyes widened. “Oh my God, where did you get THAT?”
“I, um, bought it. When I was a teenager.”
Anne turned to us. “So let me ask you – how did you know about this? The VIP thing, I mean.”
“Oh, um, well…I saw it on his Facebook page. I actually agonized over whether or not to do it.”
Anne said, “I only found out about it TODAY. And I was like…okay…this is going to sound crazy, but the David Bowie dying thing made me realize – and not that I’m saying Peter’s gonna die soon – that I should do this.”
“Oh, my God, yes….I thought the SAME THING.”
And then there he was. Peter Murphy. “HELLOOOOO. Let me kiss you all!”
What. WHAT. I…
He embraced Anne, kissing both cheeks. Then it was my turn. OH GOD. Then he kissed and hugged Gwen.
Anne gave him some artwork she’d made for him. He seemed pleased. I put my album on the table for him to sign.
He assessed me, my outfit. “LOOK at you, darling! Look at this TWEED! Fantastic!”
From there it was babbling. But good babbling, and a lot of it from him. “How did it sound out there? Oh, this place is wonderful. It sounded wonderful onstage. They’re great here. You’re Irish, aren’t you? My father was Irish. You have an Irish face.” He then began speaking in a fake brogue to me. “Are ye married? Have ye any babbies?”
“AH, well, you’re young still, ye are.”
“I’m in my forties, though.”
“WELL NOW, you could STILL have ‘em. I mean, it would be HARD, but…” he trailed off. It was exactly the sort of weird improvised conversation I would have had with my theatre major friends. It was amazing.
“Your hair, though. I’ve been admiring it. The color. Take off the hat, would you?” I obliged, even though I knew I would have hat hair, because PETER FUCKING MURPHY. “Oh, that’s lovely. I wanted to do just that, you know. The two-tone. But it washed me out, you know? I would have to wear twice as much base because I was so pale.” He patted my head. “Beautiful. Love it. Love your whole look. Now then – pictures! I want a picture with all of you beautiful ladies. I’m married. I live like a monk, you know.”
And then it was nearly over. I gave him a big hug, and said, “Thank you…for everything.”
I DIDN’T CRY. I DIDN’T PEE. I’m terribly proud of myself. It more than made up for the Howard Jones thing.
* – “Acid Puppet” was this weird art puppet thing that my roommate Katie and I bought at the Rattlesnake Festival one year. It was so freaky that we named it, well, Acid Puppet, and whenever I’d go to Katie’s parents’ house in Orlando, I’d bring it along just to torment her little sister: “SUUUUUUUUSSSSANNNN. It’s AAAAACID PUPPET.” I was 20 years old, btdubs.