The Cure is a British rock band widely seen as one of the leading pioneers of the British alternative rock and post-punk scenes of the 1980s. A combination of lead singer Robert Smith's iconic wild hair, smudged lipstick, and the frequently gloomy and introspective lyrics have led to the band being considered part of the gothic rock genre. Smith rejects this and other attempts to confine the band to a single genre.
In 1976 Robert Smith, a 17-year-old student, formed The Easy Cure with classmates Michael Dempsey (bass), Laurence "Lol" Tolhurst (drums) and Porl Thompson (guitar) from St. Wilfrid's Catholic Comprehensive School in Crawley, Sussex. They began writing their own songs almost immediately, and quickly amassed both an impressive repertoire of original material and a growing following.
In 1977, The Easy Cure auditioned for Hansa Records and received a recording contract worth £1000. A year later, following disagreements about the direction the group should take, the band, newly named The Cure, were signed as a trio (minus Porl Thompson) on former Polydor records scout Chris Parry's new Fiction label (distributed by Polydor). The B-Side to the single "Boys Don't Cry", "Do the Hansa" has been seen as a humourous slap in the face of Hansa Records by The Cure for not signing them.
The Cure released their first single "Killing an Arab" to both acclaim and controversy: while the single's provocative title led to accusations of racism, the song is actually based on French existentialist Albert Camus' story The Stranger. The single was packaged with a sticker label that denied the racist connotations.
In 1979, The Cure released the album Three Imaginary Boys and embarked on an extensive period of touring, during which they performed with various other iconic bands such as Joy Division and Siouxsie & the Banshees, leading eventually to a side-project collaboration between Smith and Banshees member Steven Severin, released under the name The Glove. One particular tour The Cure and The Banshees embarked upon together saw Smith pulling double duty each night by performing with The Cure and The Banshees (as their guitarist).
The next single "Boys Don't Cry" was a minor hit in the US, and Three Imaginary Boys was repackaged for sale there as Boys Don't Cry. Member Michael Dempsey left the band, and Simon Gallup (bass) and Matthieu Hartley (keyboards) joined.
In 1980 the four-piece Cure released "Seventeen Seconds", produced by Michael Hedges, which reached #20 on the UK charts. A thoroughly unique album that is minimalist and rather acoustic, it was written and recorded with "clarity" by Smith who says it was inspired by romantic difficulty. He said it was also influenced by fatigue from touring and artistically by Bowie's Low. It was a shocking departure from all of the Cure's previous output. One critic dismissed it as a "soundtrack" and critic Adrian Thrills disliked it so much he said he was ashamed that he had been the first critic to write about the band. Other critics were enamored with the Cure and a dashing Smith was featured in very flattering articles, although there was some controversy concerning the Cure's image, or possible "anti-image". As with the early mixed reviews, the record is regarded very highly by some fans and musicians today and overlooked by others. "A Forest" also became the band's first UK hit single. The Cure set out on their first world tour, at the end of which Matthieu Hartley, the synth player, left the band.
In 1981 came the album Faith, which hit #14 on the UK charts, as well as an instrumental soundtrack for the film Carnage Visors (these were packaged together as a long-play cassette called Faith/Carnage Visors). Carnage Visors was used as a "tour support" film for their "Picture Tour". The music from Carnage Visors had a very limited print run and has subsequently become very rare. Faith, unlike Seventeen Seconds, was a very difficult album to produce. Lyrics were written in the studio and his fellow band members became detached from the process, often drinking instead of working. More than one critic said the single Primary and the song Doubt sounded like the rest of the album, only sped-up. It is a hauntingly beautiful record and deserves to be regarded as one of the Cure's best. The most commonly cited song from Faith today is the cryptic and lovely "All Cats Are Grey", although the song received little attention when the record was released. The problems in production didn't injure the finished record, and the Cure sounded so good when performing the album at many tour stops that, if not for the difference in sound quality, a listener would have difficulty distinguishing the live performance from the studio record.
Beginning at twenty-one, Smith "didn't see that there was much point in continuing with life. In the next two years, I genuinely felt that I wasn't going to be alive for much longer, and I tried pretty hard to make this feeling come true" (1). The band members' lives began to be marked by increasing drug use and Smith adopted a theatrical make-up enhanced look, reminiscent of Siouxsie. In 1982 The Cure recorded Pornography, a bleak, nihilistic offering that led to more rumours that Smith was suicidal. In spite, or perhaps because of the rumours, Pornography became the band's first UK Top 10 album, hitting the charts at #9. The release was followed by the "Fourteen Explicit Moments" tour, and by increasing problems among the members. Some members of the music press didn't take Faith and Pornography seriously because of Joy Division's Closer, a record that gained notoriety due to the suicide of the band's singer, Ian Curtis. Pornography received stinging reviews from nearly every critic, a fact that is ironic considering Pornography is, today, possibly the band's most respected record among fans, and has been promoted a great deal by Smith. One contemporary critic, S. Sauer, feels the song "Cold" is the Cure's most brilliant track, lyrically and musically. However, the song that appears to have the most appeal for fans is the aggressive opener, "100 Years". Phil Thornally was chosen by Smith to produce. After an altercation in a club between Smith and Simon Gallup, Gallup left the group and started another one called Fools Dance. Smith says that he "doesn't even remember making a lot of Pornography" (2).
In late 1982, with the Cure disbanded, Smith sought a totally new musicial direction. The Cure, now a "band" that consisted of Smith by himself (Tolhurst would join later after attending art school to play keyboards), released the pop single "Let's Go to Bed". Smith suggests the single was a parody of pop conventions designed to alienate fans, shock critics, and perhaps kill the Cure. It was, perhaps unintentionally, successful. Shortly after, in 1983, two more singles in a similar vein followed, "The Walk" (UK #12), a song critics charged was a New Order plagarization, and the playful "The Lovecats," which became the band's first UK top 10 single at #7. The Walk has the distinction of being, up to that point, the only Cure song Smith's mother liked. The same year, Smith also recorded and toured with Siouxsie & the Banshees, contributing his writing and playing skills on their Hyaena and Nocturne albums, as well as recording the Blue Sunshine album with Steven Severin as The Glove. The Cure released four studio singles and their B-sides as the album Japanese Whispers, designed by Smith for the Japanese market only. Smith has said MTV refused to air the single for the Lovecats because the network thought the band members were gay because they wore make-up. The singles from this period were uncharacteristically upbeat and accessible, although the B-sides "Lament" and "Just One Kiss", probably written before "Let's Go to Bed", were a diluted echo of Pornography and Faith. Smith would soon return to writing harder-edged material.
In 1984 The Cure released The Top, a tonally diverse yet generally psychedelic album. Unlike most of the band's prior output, the album has, at times, an expansive worldly viewpoint, with the anti-war track "The Empty World" with a female protagonist, and the "Wailing Wall", set in Jerusalem. However, the track "Give Me It" exists in a very small and frenetic space. Others, such as the serene "Dressing Up" and the sardonic "Piggy in the Mirror", are introverted. A large number of tracks involve women, including the single "The Caterpillar", a delicate love poem, and the sharp pop "Birdmad Girl". There is even the suggestion of jazz influence with the abstract "Bananafishbones". On some tracks Smith played all the instruments except the drums (played by Andy Anderson) and the saxophone (played by returnee Porl Thompson). He also asserted in Ten Imaginary Years that he purposefully tried to make his singing sound worse. It is definitely unique in the Cure's output, but works well with the material. The Cure then embarked on their "Top Tour" with Thompson, Anderson, and bassist Phil Thornalley on board. The Cure's first live album, Concert consisted of performances from this tour. At the end of the tour, Anderson was fired for destroying a hotel room and replaced by Boris Williams. Thornalley left and was replaced by returnee Simon Gallup. Robert Smith later expressed his satisfaction with the reunited Cure, saying "we're a band again."
In 1985 the new lineup released The Head on the Door which reached #7 in the UK and #59 on the American charts. The record features a pop single, In Between Days, that contrasts a bouyant positive sound with what are, at first, bluntly negative lyrics. The record also features the first Cure song that is predominately a guitar solo, Push. That format would be further streamlined two years later with "The Kiss". The songs "A Night Like This" and "Sinking" are fan favorites. Overall, the album is quite a departure from the psychedelia of The Top and is a more straightforward pop record that uses traditional instruments rather than the electronics of the Japanese Whispers era. Following this release and another world tour, the band released Standing on a Beach, a collection featuring all of The Cure's singles and B-sides. The album's title was taken from the first line of the band's first single, "Killing an Arab." This release was accompanied by a video version called Staring at the Sea and by another tour, as well as a live concert film called The Cure In Orange. Standing on a Beach became the record those new to the Cure usually purchased first and contained enough pop to make it accessible for a wide audience.
In 1987, The Cure released the double album Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, along with their most critically-acclaimed single in America up to that point, Just Like Heaven. The song's video was later chosen as the best alternative video of all time by MTV's 120 Minutes. The intoxicating guitar solo from the opening track, "The Kiss", was used in a Miami Vice episode. Unfortunately, two of the best songs from the period were relegated to B-side status, A "Chain of Flowers", and "Breathe". The band embarked on the "Kissing Tour."
In 1988 the band history Ten Imaginary Years was released, and Lol Tolhurst, though he had not yet officially left the band, was replaced by O'Donnell. In 1989 The Cure released the album Disintegration, which became their highest-charting album to date at #3 and featured four Top 20 singles ("Lullaby", "Fascination Street", "Pictures of You", and "Lovesong"). Disintegration remains the most influential Cure record in America, although Pornography has gained considerable attention in recent years. Pictures of You was shown on MTV in an extended version (not on the album) in addition to the regular version. The opening track, "Plainsong" is often cited as being one of the most beautiful tracks in the Cure's output. Shortly before the release, Tolhurst left permanently, leaving Smith as the only remaining founding member of The Cure. The Cure embarked on the "Prayer" tour. This tour featured some of the band's longest ever shows; their final gig at Wembley Arena (announced by Robert as "probably our last show") lasted over three and a half hours. Because Tolhurst was still on the payroll during the recording of Disintegration, he was credited on that album's liner notes as playing "other instruments," even though he didn't contribute at all to its recording or engineering.
In 1990 The Cure released a collection of remixes called "Mixed Up". It had poor cover art, mediocre remixes, and the name of the record itself was alarmingly lacking in creativity. It was justifiably panned by both critics and fans. Smith has said that he expected this, but decided to release the collection anyway. In May of that year, O'Donnell left the band and Thompson suggested long time guitar tech Perry Bamonte as his replacement. "Mixed Up" was followed in 1992 by the album Wish, which went straight to #1 in the UK and to #2 in the US. The Cure also embarked on the "Wish Tour" with Portsmouth's Cranes (one of Smith's favourite bands) and released the live albums Paris (1992) and Show (1993). As a promotional exercise with the Our Price music chain in the UK, a limited edition EP was released consisting of instrumental outtakes from the Wish sessions. Entitled Lost Wishes, the proceeds from the four track cassette tape went to charity. The EP has since become an extremely sought after item, copies exchanging hands for approaching £100. Porl Thompson (guitar) left the band once more during 1993 to play with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Bamonte took over as lead guitar.
During 1994, Lol Tolhurst sued Robert Smith and Fiction Records over royalties payments, also claiming joint ownership of the name "The Cure" with Smith; after a long legal battle Tolhurst eventually lost. Boris Williams (drums) left the band, and was replaced by Jason Cooper (formerly with My Life Story), and Roger O'Donnell rejoined. The band also contributed a new song, "Burn", to the soundtrack of "The Crow".
In 1996 The Cure released the album Wild Mood Swings, and in 1998 Smith appeared as himself on the animated TV show South Park (Episode 112, Mecha-Streisand). The Cure also contributed to the soundtrack album for The X-Files: Fight the Future as well as the Depeche Mode tribute album For the Masses, with their cover of "World in My Eyes."
The Grammy-nominated album Bloodflowers was released in 2000. This album was widely seen as the third in a trilogy including Pornography and Disintegration. The band also embarked on the nine-month Dream Tour, attended by over one million people worldwide. In 2001 The Cure left Fiction and released their Greatest Hits album and DVD, which featured the music videos for a number of classic Cure songs. The song "Just Like Heaven" featured briefly in the motion picture "Donnie Darko" of the same year.
In 2002 they continued recording, and also headlined twelve major music festivals, in addition to playing several three-hour concerts during which they performed the albums Pornography, Disintegration and Bloodflowers in their entirety over shows on back-to-back nights at the Tempodrome in Berlin. These performances were released as the Trilogy DVD in 2003.
In the spring of 2003, The Cure signed to iam Records. In 2004 The Cure released a new four-disc boxed set on Fiction Records titled Join the Dots: B-Sides and Rarities, 1978-2001 (The Fiction Years). The set includes seventy Cure songs, some previously unreleased, and a 76-page full-colour book of photographs, history and quotes, packaged in a hard cover. This album peaked at #106 on the Billboard 200 album charts.
The Cure released their first eponymous album on iam records on June 28, 2004. To promote this album, the band headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on May 2. They also appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The album The Cure made a top ten debut on both sides of the Atlantic in July 2004 and debuted in the top 30 in Australia. The album also received a generally positive reaction with some critics rating it as the group's best since Disintegration.
The group were awarded MTV Icon for 2004. The ceremony included performances of Cure songs by the groups AFI (Just Like Heaven), Blink 182 (A Letter to Elise), Razorlight (Boys don't Cry) and the Deftones (If Only Tonight We Could Sleep), and was hosted by Marilyn Manson. Smith subsequently included songs by AFI, Blink 182 and the Deftones in his setlist whilst presenting a special John Peel evening session on BBC Radio 1.
Inspired by Rhino Records' series of Elvis Costello reissues, 2004-2005 has seen the reissue of Three Imaginary Boys (December 2 2004), Faith, Seventeen Seconds and Pornography (April 26 2005). Each comes with a second bonus disc of previously unreleased material, including home and studio demos, live performances and out-takes.
Together with Join the Dots, the four-disc set of B-sides, the amount of non-album material the band possesses appears to be rather high.
In May 2005, Smith fired O'Donnell and Bamonte, along with Bamonte's brother Daryl, who had been the band's tour manager for many years. They reportedly were informed of such by a Cure fansite. The band made a few festival and television appearances as a three-piece before, in June 2005, it was announced that Porl Thompson would be returning for the band's 2005 summer shows. The band played the Live 8 show in Paris on July 2, 2005.
In August 2005, according to Gigwise.com, there was a report by Smith saying that he has planned to record their thirteenth studio album in the fall and release it in April 2006, on the day of his birthday (the 21st). Porl Thompson himself stated that he will be staying for the recording of the next album.
- (1979) Three Imaginary Boys - #44 UK
- (1980) Seventeen Seconds - #20 UK
- (1981) Faith - #14 UK
- (1982) Pornography - #8 UK
- (1984) The Top - #10 UK, #180 US
- (1985) The Head on the Door - #7 UK, #60 US
- (1987) Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me - #6 UK, #35 US
- (1989) Disintegration - #3 UK, #12 US
- (1992) Wish - #1 UK, #2 US
- (1996) Wild Mood Swings - #9 UK, #12 US
- (2000) Bloodflowers - #14 UK, #16 US
- (2004) The Cure - #8 UK, #7 US
- (1984) Concert (live) - #26 UK
- (1991) Entreat (songs from Distintegration live) - #10 UK
- (1993) Show (live) - #29 UK, #42 US
- (1993) Paris (live) - #118 US
Compilations, reissues, remix albums
- Boys Don't Cry (a renamed version of Three Imaginary Boys with a slightly different song lineup) (1980)
- Faith/Carnage Visors (1981), a special long-play cassette.
- Happily Ever After (Seventeen Seconds and Faith together U.S.-only release)
- Japanese Whispers (singles/b-sides) (1983) #26 UK, #181 US
- Concert and Curiosity (1984), The Concert live album with unreleased tracks on the b-side. Available only on cassette.
- Standing on a Beach; Staring at the sea (1986, singles compilation) #4 UK, #48 US
- Integration (boxed set)
- Mixed Up (1990, remixes) #8 UK, #14 US
- Galore (1997, compilation of singles 1987-1997) #37 UK, #32 US
- Greatest Hits (2001, compilation of singles 1978-2001/two new tracks) #33 UK, #58 US
- Greatest Hits "Limited edition" 2CD (with acoustic versions of "Greatest Hits")
- Join the Dots: B-Sides and Rarities, 1978-2001 (The Fiction Years) (2004) #106 US
- Three Imaginary Boys (2CD Deluxe edition) (12 July 2004)
- Seventeen seconds (2CD Deluxe edition) (26 April 2005)
- Faith (2CD Deluxe edition) (26 April 2005), including Carnage Visors (previously available only on the 1981 long-play cassette).
- Pornography (2CD Deluxe edition) (27 April 2005)
Singles and EPs
- "Killing an Arab" (b-side: "10:15 Saturday Night") (1978)
- "Boys Don't Cry" (b-side "Plastic Passion") (1979)
- "Jumping Someone Else's Train (b-side "I'm Cold") (1979)
- "A Forest" (b-side "Another Journey By Train") (1980) #31 UK
- "Primary" (b-side: "Descent") (1981)
- "Charlotte Sometimes" (b-side: "Splintered in Her Head") (1981)
- "The Hanging Garden" (1982) #34 UK
- "Let's Go To Bed" (b-side: "Just One Kiss") (1982)
- "The Walk" (b-side: "The Dream") (1983) #12 UK
- "The Lovecats" (b-side "Speak My Language")(1983) #7 UK
- "The Caterpillar" (b-side "Happy The Man)(1984) #14 UK
- "Inbetween Days" (1985) #15 UK, #99 US
- "Close To Me" (1985) #24 UK
- "Boys Don't Cry" (re-issue) (1986) #22 UK
- "Why Can't I Be You?" (b-side: "A Japanese Dream") (1987) #21 UK, #54 US
- "Catch" (b-side: "Breathe") (1987) #27 UK
- "Just Like Heaven" (b-side "Snow In Summer"/"Sugar Girl") (1988) #29 UK, #40 US
- "Hot Hot Hot" (1988) #65 US
- "Lullaby" (b-side: "Babble") (April 1989) #5 UK
- "Fascination Street (b-side "Babble") (April 1989) (US only release)
- "Love Song" (b-side "2late") (August 1989) #18
- "Pictures Of You" (b-side "Last Dance (live)") (March 1990) #24 UK
- "Pictures Of You" (b-side "Prayers For Rain (live)") (March 1990) #24 UK
- "Never Enough" (b-side "Harold And Joe) (September 1990) #13 UK
- "Close to Me (Closet Mix)" (b-side "Just Like Heaven (Dizzy Mix)")(November 1990) #13 UK
- "High" (b-side "This Twilight Garden)(1992) #8 UK
- "Friday I'm in Love" (b-side "Halo")(1992) #6 UK, #18 US
- "A Letter to Elise" (b-side "A Foolish Arrangement")(1992) #28 UK
- "The 13th" (b-side "It Used To Be Me")(1996) #15 UK
- "Mint Car" (b-side "Home") (1996) #31 UK
- "Gone" (b-side "The 13th (Feels Good Mix)") #60 UK
- "Wrong Number" (1997)
- "Cut Here" (b-side "Signal To Noise")(2001)
- "The End of the World" (b-side "Fake")(2004) #25 UK
- "Taking Off" (b-side "Why Can't I Be Me")(2004) #39 UK
- "alt.end" (US only)(2004)
Early Cure song list
- "See The Children" - demo from '77/'78
- "Meathook" - demo from '77/'78
- "Pillbox Tales" - demo from '77/'78
- "I Just Need Myself" - demo from '77/'78
- "I Want To Be Old" - demo from '77/'78
- "Heroin Face" (live)
- "I'm Cold" (demo)
- "Foxy Lady" (Jimi Hendrix cover)
- "Rebel Rebel" (David Bowie cover)
- "Plastic Passion" (demo)
- Staring At The Sea - The Images (VHS)
- The Cure In Orange(VHS) (L.D.) (VCD)
- Picture Show (VHS)
- The Cure Play Out (VHS)
- Show (VHS)
- Galore (VHS)
- Greatest Hits (DVD) (To see the three secret videos ("The Caterpillar"; "Close To Me (Closer Mix)" and "Pictures of You"): In the song selection highlight "The Walk" and press down, right, right. Highlight "Close to me" and press up, up, up. Highlight "Friday I am in love" and press down, down, down)
- Greatest Hits: Deluxe edition (CD 1 of "Greatest hits"; CD2 of "Acoustic hits" and DVD)
- Trilogy (DVD)
|US Hot 100||US Modern Rock||US Mainstream Rock||UK|
|1988||"Just Like Heaven"||#40||-||-||-||"Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me"|
|1990||"Pictures of You"||-||#19||-||#24||Disintegration|
|1990||"Never Enough"||-||#1 (3 weeks)||-||#13||Never Enough [Single]|
|1990||"Hello, I Love You"||-||#6||-||-||Rubaiyat: Elektra's 40th Anniversary|
- Robert Smith (vocals, guitar, six-string bass, keyboards, bass guitar, violin, drum machine; member 1976-present)
- Porl Thompson (guitars, saxophone, artwork; member 1976-1978, 1983-1993 & 2005-present)
- Simon Gallup (bass guitar, keyboards; member 1979-1982 & 1985-present)
- Jason Cooper (drums; member 1995-present)
- Lol Tolhurst (drums, keyboards, other instruments; member 1976-1989)
- Michael Dempsey (bass guitar; member 1976-1979)
- Matthieu Hartley (keyboards; member 1979-1980)
- Phil Thornalley (bass guitar, production; member 1983-1984)
- Andy Anderson (drums; member 1983-1984)
- Boris Williams (drums; member 1984-1994, one-off acoustic session in 2001)
- Roger O'Donnell (keyboards; member 1987-1990 & 1995-2005)
- Perry Bamonte (keyboards, guitars, six-string bass; member 1990-2005)
- 1. The Cure, Join the Dots: B-Sides and Rarities 1978-2001 (13).
- 2. The Cure, Join the Dots: B-Sides and Rarities 1978-2001 (15).