Two of my favorite things are turning 40 this year – Grease and The Cure!
The movie Grease was released on June 16, 1978. It was then, and still is, my favorite movie. I’ve seen it dozens of times. But, more to come on this later this month, after I see Grease in the movie theater when it is re-released for a special showing.
Today I’m talking about The Cure. They signed their first record deal in September of 1978. I wasn’t listening to The Cure in 1978 (I was only 7 years old and was probably still listening to Mickey Mouse Club and Disney movie music). But, once I started listening to them during my high school years, I was hooked. They’ve been my favorite band ever since.
Obscure by Andy Vella is a great book to add to the collection of any Cure fans. It’s Vella’s collection of pictures over the years, and includes a forward by Robert Smith.
In honor of their 40th anniversary, I wanted to share with all of you the history of the band, and why I love them. For you fellow Cure fans out there, I hope I do justice to a band that has managed to stick around despite a lot of turmoil and changes, and has influenced countless other bands over their 40-year history.
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EARLY HISTORY OF THE BAND
ROBERT SMITH IS THE CURE
Over its 40-year history, The Cure has had a lot of band members come and go. But, the one constant has been Robert Smith. In fact, when most people think of The Cure, they think of Smith with his crazy black hair, eyeliner and lipstick.
Smith has not only been the only constant member, but The Cure really is his band. He has been the one who has guided the direction of the band throughout the past four decades. In addition, Smith’s voice and style of guitar playing are very unique, and are what gives the band their signature “Cure” sound.
BEFORE THE CURE WAS THE CURE
In April of 1973, five schoolmates from Crawley, West Sussex in England got together to form what they called Obelisk. The band featured Robert Smith on piano, Michael “Mick” Dempsey on guitar, Laurence “Lol” Tolhurst on percussion, Marc Ceccagno on lead guitar and Alan Hill on bass guitar.
Obelisk didn’t last long, but in 1976, Ceccagno, Smith and Dempsey got back together to form a new band – Malice. After only a few months, Ceccagno left the band. Tolhurst re-joined, along with Martin Creasy (vocals) and Porl Thompson (guitar). Malice only played three live shows in December of 1976.
By January of 1977, the band went through another transformation. Creasy left, and the remaining members called themselves Easy Cure. This new version of the band went through a couple of different lead singers, before Robert Smith assumed the role in September of 1977.
Easy Cure won a talent contest, and was signed to the German record label called Ariola-Hansa. The band wrote several songs and recorded some demos, but the record label wasn’t happy with any of them. They wanted Easy Cure to record cover songs. The band refused, and their contract with the record company was terminated.
On April 22, 1978, Easy Cure performed their last live show. Porl Thompson was dropped from the line-up and Smith renamed the group of remaining members The Cure.
EARLY DAYS OF THE CURE
In September of 1978, The Cure signed a record deal with Fiction – a relationship that would remain for the majority of their career. The Cure released their debut single – “Killing an Arab” – in December of 1978. The single was controversial when it was released, and has continued to raise controversy throughout their careers. Despite the song’s title, it’s actually based on Albert Camus’ novel “The Stranger” and was not intended to be racist in any way.
In May of 1979, The Cure released their debut album – Three Imaginary Boys. The album contained “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Jumping Someone Else’s Train”, both of which continue to be staples at Cure shows to this day.
To support the album, The Cure went out on tour as the opening band for Siouxsie and the Banshees. During the tour, Robert Smith pulled double duty. Siouxsie’s guitar player quit the band, so Smith filled in throughout the tour.
IF YOU’RE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT!
If you’re looking for a song to cheer you up, I would not suggest playing a Cure song. While they have always been known for making dark music, they actually hit their peak darkness early in their career.
By the recording of their second album – Seventeen Seconds – Smith had really taken control of the band’s direction. This album was followed by Faith in 1981, which saw their darkness level go up even more.
The third of the “depressing” albums – Pornography – was released in 1982, and cemented The Cure’s position as kings of somberness. Both the mood of the music and the lyrics of the songs were very dark, and clearly didn’t lend themselves to radio play and commercial success.
THE CURE HITS MAINSTREAM
While it’s fine to make the music you want to make, for most bands to have a long career, you need to have some commercial success. While The Cure was happy writing and playing the dark songs, it wasn’t getting them radio play.
The record label convinced the band to make their music more attractive to mainstream, and Smith wrote the song “Let’s Go To Bed”. That was followed by two more “poppy” songs – “The Walk” and “The Love Cats”. This was The Cure’s first taste of commercial success, with “The Love Cats” becoming the band’s first British Top 10 hit.
In 1985, The Cure released Head On The Door. On the album, the band tried to combine their new “happier” side, with some of the moroseness of their early music. The album had two hits – “In Between Days” and “Close to Me”. At this point in their career, The Cure had become very popular in Europe, and was starting to gain some popularity in the U.S.
DISCOVERING THE CURE – WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN MY WHOLE LIFE?
KISS ME KISS ME KISS ME AND MY SWIMMING POOL
In 1987, I was a sophomore in high school. I was very involved in theater and the music program in school, which got me involved with a group of kids known as “skaters”. These were the kids that shaved their heads, wore a lot of black, and listened to what was known as “skater music”. That included bands like the Violent Femmes, Depeche Mode, New Order, and of course The Cure.
My new fandom of the band led me to buy their 1987 album – Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me – on cassette tape. In the summer of 1987, I listened to that album on permanent repeat. I had a great set up. My parents had just bought a pool for the backyard, so I spent my entire summer laying on a raft in the pool getting a tan. I brought my little boom box outside by the pool, and put my Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me tape in and hit play. When the first side of the tape ended, I got up and turned it over, then turned myself over on my raft to tan on the other side. The days of not having responsibilities!
I still have my Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me cassette tape. I listened to this on constant repeat for a whole summer!
While the album had some very “radio friendly” hits on it – “Just Like Heaven”, “Why Can’t I Be You” and “Hot Hot Hot” – it also had some very dark songs on it as well. Songs like “Torture”, “Shiver and Shake” and “Fight” were very reminiscent of The Cure’s early music.
DISINTEGRATION AND MY VERY FIRST CONCERT
By 1989, I was a senior in high school. That year also marked the release of Disintegration, which ended up being The Cure’s most commercially successful album. It contained hits like “Lovesong” “Pictures Of You” and “Fascination Street” (which to this day is still one of my favorite Cure songs).
The year also has a lot of significance for me, because I met Kevin, who eventually became my husband of almost 22 years now. Over the years, our musical tastes have merged quite a bit, but back then we were in two different universes. He liked bands like Van Halen and Ratt, and I liked The Cure and Depeche Mode.
So, despite the fact that he didn’t know anything about them or any of their songs, Kevin bought us tickets to go see The Cure in concert on The Prayer Tour.
DON’T WEAR YOUR PINK IZOD SHIRT!!!!!!
This was my first concert, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I did know that to go to a Cure concert, you had to dress the part. Wearing all black clothes was rule number one.
So, Kevin pulls up to pick me up for the show, and he’s wearing a pink izod and white shorts with his deck shoes. WHAT???????
I knew this wasn’t appropriate to wear to a Cure show, but I kept my mouth shut. After all, he had bought us tickets on the floor to see my favorite band.
We pulled into the parking lot, and a van pulled into the spot next to us. The first guy that hopped out of the van had a rainbow colored mohawk, and was wearing black combat boots and a black dress. Kevin quickly realized that he wasn’t going to fit in with the crowd, and thought twice about even getting out of the car.
It all worked out fine – even though Kevin stuck out like a sore thumb – and we had an amazing time. It ended up being the first of many times I would see The Cure. The band even managed to convert Kevin into a fan.
LIFE AFTER SUCCESS AND MY LEAST FAVORITE SONG
Disintegration was a huge success for The Cure. It brought their music into the mainstream. In 1992, they released the album Wish. While the album didn’t have the same level of success as Disintegration, it contained one of The Cure’s most popular songs “Friday I’m In Love”.
To say that I don’t like “Friday I’m in Love” is an understatement. In fact, I think it’s one of the biggest pieces of trash that’s been written. As a devoted Cure fan, I feel like Robert Smith put together something he thought would do well on the radio, and didn’t care what sort of garbage it sounded like. It is the only Cure song that I will turn off when it comes on the radio, and it’s my bathroom break song when I go to their shows.
SLOWING DOWN WITH NEW MUSIC
In 1996, the band released Wild Mood Swings, which didn’t make much of an impact on the music world outside of dedicated Cure fans. At a time when the music world was in love with either grunge or boy bands, the music The Cure put out couldn’t find a new audience.
After a delay of a couple of years, the band released Bloodflowers in 2000. This was the third of the three albums Smith deemed the trilogy – Pornography, Disintegration and Bloodflowers. The album was nominated for a Grammy, but still had little commercial success.
In 2002, The Cure played all three of the trilogy albums live in their entirety over a two night show in Berlin. This is the DVD from my personal collection of those shows.
The Cure released their last album in 2008 – 4:13 Dream. Again, it was a commercial failure.
IS THE CURE STILL RELEVANT?
Even though The Cure hit their commercial peak in the late 80’s and early 90’s, they continue to exist as a band. They are still able to fill an arena, including their 3-night run at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 2016.
In 2004, they headlined a festival called Curiosa, which saw them playing cities across the U.S. and featured other bands like Interpol. It also featured an unknown band at the time on the side stage called Muse!
My concert t-shirt from the Curiosa festival when it came to Camden, NJ.
The Cure continued the festivals in Europe in 2005. Robert Smith, Simon Gallup and Jason Cooper were re-joined by guitarist Porl Thompson to play a set of shows.
Another DVD in my personal collection is a compilation video of the 2005 festival shows across Europe.
Every time I’ve seen The Cure over the past 10 years or so (including the last time in 2016), I’m amazed at the energy level. They consistently play 30+ songs a show that includes two or three encores. Robert Smith’s voice – even though he is approaching 60 – is still strong. Plus, he looks like he still loves what he does and never wants to come off the stage.
CELEBRATING 40 YEARS!
I was really hoping for another world tour in honor of 40 years, but it doesn’t look like we are going to get one. To celebrate their 40 years, The Cure is headlining a show on July 7th in London’s Hyde Park. The show will feature some of their old friends like Interpol, along with The Twilight Sad, who is a new band Smith discovered and opened for them during their 2016 tour.
Robert Smith himself is also staying busy. He was named as the curator for the 25th Meltdown Festival in London. This is a huge honor for Smith, as the show will be featuring some his favorite artists. Some of the bands already announced to play are Nine Inch Nails, The Psychedelic Furs, and the Deftones.
In my opinion, The Cure has been snubbed by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They were nominated in 2012, but never again since. Eligible since 2003, it seems ridiculous to me that a band that has been around for 40 years and had as much influence on music as The Cure, has not been nominated again.
I’m hoping for one more tour out of The Cure, but I’m not sure I’m going to get it. It would have seemed natural for them to hit the road to celebrate 40 years. However, The Cure and Robert Smith have never followed the popular road, so who knows. Maybe Smith will decide to take the band out to celebrate year #41!
So what do you think? Should The Cure be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Has the band influenced you over the years? Comment below or e-mail me at email@example.com.
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