A Decade of Diversion: Ten Years of Vault of Thoughts

In his 1839 novel Hyperion: A Romance, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow has a character quote “a Chinese proverb” that reads “a single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books.” I suppose that likewise applies to a blog. For in the ten years that I have been writing Vault of Thoughts, I wonder if anything I have offered to the world by way of written ruminations approaches the quality of the best of conversations.

For what they’re worth, here are my top ten posts. They are taken from a blog that I am proud to say has logged a little over 300,000 total views during its decade on the web.

Enjoy.

1. VAMPIRES & VICTIMS: WOMEN OF HAMMER HORROR

Ingrid Pitt

Be they vampires, victims or Victor Frankenstein’s most ambitious creation,  actresses that appeared in movies from Britain’s Hammer Studios were unlike any other women in the history of genre films. So many others must feel this way as it continues to top the list of my blog posts ever since it was published in May of 2018. It even attracted an artist from Germany named Kolja Senteur to seek me out to write the English introduction to his illustrated book Heroines of Hammer (click here for cover image, kindly provided by the artist). Click here to read post.

2. GENIUS, GIN AND GLUCOSE: THE DEATH OF E.A. POE

“Constitutionally sensitive,” Edgar Allan Poe arguably suffered from type 2 diabetes. You can see it in his face. I argue as much in this post from early in the blog’s history (April, 2012). And while I am not the first to posit this theory, I may have been among the first to show the progression of the condition in photos. Click here to read post.

3. PRE-CODE HOLLYWOOD: MURDER, PROSTITUTION & WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE GOD

Dorothy Mackaill in Safe in Hell (1931)
Dorothy Mackaill in Safe in Hell (1931)

With sex, violence, and a man who dared defy God, motion pictures of the nineteen-twenties and early nineteen-thirties were not the glory days of wholesome family values. In this post, I examine a number of films that were scandalous in their day, and look at the history of what is now known as “pre-code” cinema. Click here to read post.

4. TATTIE BOGIES, KUEBIKO AND FEATHERTOP: THE SCARECROW OF FOLKLORE AND FICTION

Known as bootzamon to German settlers and Tattie Bogies to the Scots, scarecrows, culturally if not etymologically, have long been tied to the supernatural. This post looks at some scarecrows in fiction, and quotes artist Win Jones, whose painting served as the feature image (it is one of the only feature images on my blog to be kept as color to maintain its integrity). Click here to read post.

5. UNMASKING THE PHANTOM: ROMANTICIZING THE FACE OF HORROR

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Why do fans of Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, The Phantom of the Opera — and its many adaptations from stage to screen — romanticize the sinister? Apparently, more than a few people were interested in my answer in this post that ended up as 5th most popular on my blog over the past ten years. Click here to read post.

6. MURDEROUS FROGS AND DEAD BIRDS: TWO ODD VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS CARDS

I tend to always write a post at Christmas. And this entry from 2016 was one of the most popular. Check out these Victorian Christmas cards that just SCREAM Merry Christmas! Click here to read post.

7. VAMPING IT UP: RUDYARD KIPLING, THEDA BARA & THE 20TH CENTURY FEMME FATALE

Theda Bara

One of my personal favorites that made it to the top ten taps into something quite visceral: the femme fatale — who will always have a place in popular culture. As does the vamp. In this post, I trace a bit of the history of both. Click here to read post.

8. BAD THINGS COME IN THREES: THE WEIRD SISTERS OF DRACULA

Call them sisters, daughter, wives or brides, there are three vampire women in Bram Stoker’s DRACULA. Is the number significant? I think so. Click here to read post.

9. SINISTER CLAUS: A TRADITION OF TERROR AT CHRISTMAS

The second of my Christmas-themed posts to make the top ten,  this post explores how the Santa Claus of popular imagination can be downright scary. Click here to read post.

10. BRIDES AND DAUGHTERS: WOMEN OF UNIVERSAL MONSTER MOVIES

Dracula's Daughter

A companion piece to the post dedicated to the women of Hammer horror, this tenth most popular entry acknowledges that while Karloff and Lugosi made for Universal’s better known monsters, the studio created some equally memorable female characters. Click here to read post.


There you have it. Ten years, and the ten most popular posts from The Vault of Thoughts. If you’ve been with me since the beginning, you have my sincere thanks. And if you are new to this blog, start with one of the posts mentioned here. They account for 37% of my site’s traffic. It is my hope that you will find at least one you like.

Exquisite Corpse: Another Resurrection of Bauhaus

1982’s The Sky’s Gone Out ended with Bauhaus’ first “Exquisite Corpse.”

As their first new music since 2008, Bauhaus — the seminal early eigthies Goth band that blessed the world (or cursed it, depending on your point-of-view) with the immortal “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” — have returned to a method of songwriting not seen since the last track on their third album, 1982’s The Sky’s Gone Out. That song, “Exquisite Corpse,” takes its name, and method of composition, from a word (and illustration) game played in or around 1925 by dadaists (cum surrealists) André Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Prévert and Yves Tanguy. It’s now 2022, and — using that same cadavre exquis style of writing Bauhaus has released “Drink the New Wine.”

The  song’s title refers to that very first exquisite corpse endeavor by Breton and company that, when collected, included the phrase: “Le cadavre exquis boiara le vin nouveau” (“The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine”). True to its inspiration (and form), Bauhaus’ “Drink the New Wine” is a set of pieces each separately created by the band’s four members  — frontman Peter Murphy, guitarist Daniel Ash, and bassist David J, backed by his brother Kevin Haskins on drums. With their parts remotely recorded during the pandemic, none had heard what the others had done initially. Not until the song finally came together.

From a press release comes more details: “For the recording, the four musicians each had one minute and eight tracks at their disposal plus a shared sixty seconds plus four tracks for a composite at the end.” It continues to note that “the only common link being a prerecorded beat courtesy of Kevin.”

By no means a toe-tapper, “Drink the New Wine” is a tough tune to like upon first listen. Disjointed by design — but bound in (non)sense by our very need to make meaning out of words strung together — the song’s distinct sections would seem to reflect (as they should) the personalities of each band member. Daniel Ash’s semi-psychedlic Marc Bolan-esque playfulness starts the track. “Off to the funny farm,” he sings, strumming a twelve-string guitar. Then Peter Murphy’s commanding baritone breaks that melody with a rather stark repetition of “dreaming of a perfect world” (reminiscent of “life is but a dream” from “Exquisite corpse, forty years earlier). Next up is David J’s wistful acoustic hum, a refrain of “the roulettista rolls the dice” (a reference most likely to modern illusionist Derek DelGaudio’s act where a man gets rich playing a sort of Russian Roulette until, one day, he is ironically shot by a burglar). That section of the song ends with what sounds very much like a muffled gun shot.

All is underscroed by Kevin Haskins’ steady beat of backmasking and reverb-ladden fills. Then parts comes together, with a return to the center that is Peter Murphy — whose beautiful “you’re the cooling shadow of my cloud” — leads once again to the stuff of dreams (“we talk in dreams”) as he and his bandmates alternate among the musical and lyrical themes from all parts of the song.

The final minute suggests what this cadavre exquis ends up, in effect, becoming: “not building a wall, but making a brick.” These pieces do not divide and confine. Instead, they come together, and make something out of what otherwise would be fragements. Musicians very familiar with being apart, then coming together.

Peter Murphy, back in true form, during a one-off gig in 2019. 2022 will see Bauhaus on the road for an extended tour. (Photo credit: Rolling Stone)

First famously reunited for a short “Resurrection Tour” in 1998, Bauhaus has come together one other time since their initial split in 1983. That reunion (from 2005 to 2008) led to their last official studio album, Go Away White — a solid outing that contains the standout Too Much 21st Century. A one-off show in 2019 would follow. But 2022 and 2023 promises an extensive tour.

Still, no album is planned. Unlike Sky’s Gone Out, no theatrically grand “Spirit, creeping rock of “Silent Hedges,” or manic fun of a cover of Brian Eno’s “Third Unlce” may come to accompany this single exquisite corpse. And that’s a shame. Because Bauhaus are capable of great theatricality and pulse-pounding rock.

In advance of the upcoming shows, what we are left with to judge this particular return is only “Drink the New Wine.”

Is it pop? No. Is it rock? Probably not. Is it art? That’s in the eye, or ear, of the beholder.

But it’s certainly got my attention.

And that’s why the song — as divisive as it may be among old fans and new — is more of an annoucement of resurrection of Bauhaus — one of Goth rock’s most theatrical acts ever — than it is a song you or I will be blaring on the car stereo. It’s a call to attention that this band is back from the (un)dead.

And that there’s never been anyone quite like them.

By Christopher Michael Davis