(Read all about the Cure after the video)
The Cure are an English rock band formed in Crawley, West Sussex in 1976. The band has experienced several line-up changes, with vocalist, guitarist and principal songwriter Robert Smith being the only constant member.
Their debut single "Killing an Arab" (1978) and debut album Three Imaginary Boys (1979) were important records in the development of the post-punk and new wave movements that developed in the wake of the punk rock scene in the United Kingdom. During the early 1980s, the band's increasingly dark and tormented music (as well as Smith's unique stage look) was a staple of the emerging style of music known as gothic rock.
Following the release of the album Pornography in 1982, the band's future was uncertain. Smith was keen to move past the gloomy reputation his band had acquired, introducing a greater pop sensibility into the band's music. Songs such as "Let's Go to Bed" (1982), "Just Like Heaven" (1987), "Lovesong" (1989) and "Friday I'm in Love" (1992) aided the band in receiving commercial popularity. The band is estimated to have sold roughly 27 million records as of 2004 and have released thirteen studio albums, ten EPs and over thirty singles to date.
Formation and early years (1973–79)
The founding members of the Cure were school friends at Notre Dame Middle School in Crawley, West Sussex, whose first public performance was at an end-of-year show in April 1973 as members of a one-off school band called the Obelisk. That band consisted of 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. In January 1976 while at St. Wilfrid's Comprehensive School Ceccagno formed a 5-piece rock band with Smith on guitar and Dempsey on bass, along with two other school friends. They called themselves Malice and rehearsed David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Alex Harvey songs in a local church hall. By late April 1976, Ceccagno and the other two school friends had left, and Tolhurst (drums), Martin Creasy (vocals), and Porl Thompson (guitar) had joined the band. This lineup played all three of Malice's only documented live shows during December 1976. In January 1977, following Martin Creasy's departure, and increasingly influenced by the emergence of punk rock, Malice's remaining members became known as Easy Cure after a song written by drummer Laurence Tolhurst. Both Malice and Easy Cure auditioned several vocalists before Smith assumed the role of Easy Cure's frontman in September 1977.
That year, Easy Cure won a talent competition with German label Hansa Records, and received a recording contract. Although the band recorded tracks for the company, none were ever released. Following disagreements in March 1978 over the direction the band should take, the contract with Hansa was dissolved. Smith later recalled, "We were very young. They just thought they could turn us into a teen group. They actually wanted us to do cover versions and we always refused." Thompson was dropped from the band in May, and the remaining trio were soon renamed "The Cure" by Smith. Later that month, the band recorded their first sessions as a trio at Chestnut Studios in Sussex, which were distributed as a demo tape to a dozen major record labels. The demo found its way to Polydor Records scout Chris Parry, who signed the Cure to his newly formed Fiction label—distributed by Polydor—in September 1978. The Cure released their debut single "Killing an Arab" in December 1978 on the Small Wonder label as a stopgap until Fiction finalised distribution arrangements with Polydor. "Killing an Arab" garnered 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's novel The Stranger. The band placed a sticker label that denied the racist connotations on the single's 1979 reissue on Fiction. An early NME article on the band wrote that the Cure "are like a breath of fresh suburban air on the capital's smog-ridden pub-and-club circuit", and noted, "With a John Peel session and more extensive London gigging on their immediate agenda, it remains to be seen whether the Cure can retain their refreshing joie de vivre."
The Cure released their debut album Three Imaginary Boys in May 1979. Because of the band's inexperience in the studio, Parry and engineer Mike Hedges took control of the recording. The band, particularly Smith, were unhappy with the album; in a 1987 interview, he admitted, "a lot of it was very superficial – I didn't even like it at the time. There were criticisms made that it was very lightweight, and I thought they were justified. Even when we'd made it, I wanted to do something that I thought had more substance to it". The band's second single, "Boys Don't Cry", was released in June. The Cure then embarked as the support band for Siouxsie and the Banshees' Join Hands promotional tour of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales between August and October. The tour saw Smith pull double duty each night by performing with the Cure and as the guitarist with the Banshees when John McKay quit the group in Aberdeen. That musical experience had a strong impact on him: "On stage that first night with the Banshees, I was blown away by how powerful I felt playing that kind of music. It was so different to what we were doing with the Cure. Before that, I'd wanted us to be like the Buzzcocks or Elvis Costello; the punk Beatles. Being a Banshee really changed my attitude to what I was doing."
The Cure's third single, "Jumping Someone Else's Train", was released in early October 1979. Soon afterwards, Dempsey was dropped from the band because of his cold reception to material Smith had written for the upcoming album. Dempsey joined the Associates, while Simon Gallup (bass) and Matthieu Hartley (keyboards) from the Magspies joined the Cure. The Associates toured as support band for the Cure and the Passions on the Future Pastimes Tour of England between November and December—all three bands were on the Fiction Records roster—with the new Cure line-up already performing a number of new songs for the projected second album. Meanwhile, a spin-off band comprising Smith, Tolhurst, Dempsey, Gallup, Hartley and Thompson, with backing vocals from assorted family and friends and lead vocals provided by their local postman Frankie Bell, released a 7-inch single in December under the assumed name of Cult Hero. On 8 December 1979, the Cure were recorded for their first live TV special, at Théâtre de l'Empire in Paris, with three songs from the set, "At Night", "Three Imaginary Boys" "Killing An Arab", being broadcast on 16 December.
Early gothic phase (1980–82)
Due to the band's lack of creative control on the first album, Smith exerted a greater influence on the recording of the Cure's second album Seventeen Seconds, which he co-produced with Mike Hedges. The album was released in 1980 and reached number 20 on the UK charts. A single from the album, "A Forest", became the band's first UK hit single, reaching number 31 on the singles chart. The album was a departure from the Cure's sound up to that point, with Hedges describing it as "morose, atmospheric, very different to Three Imaginary Boys." In its review of Seventeen Seconds the NME said, "For a group as young as the Cure, it seems amazing that they have covered so much territory in such a brief time." At the same time, Smith was pressed concerning the concept of an alleged "anti-image". Smith told the press he was fed up with the anti-image association that some considered to be "elaborately disguising their plainness", stating, "We had to get away from that anti-image thing, which we didn't even create in the first place. And it seemed like we were trying to be more obscure. We just didn't like the standard rock thing. The whole thing really got out of hand." That same year Three Imaginary Boys was repackaged for the American market as Boys Don't Cry, with new artwork and a modified track list. The Cure set out on their first world tour to promote both releases. At the end of the tour, Matthieu Hartley left the band. Hartley said, "I realised that the group was heading towards suicidal, sombre music—the sort of thing that didn't interest me at all."
The band reconvened with Hedges to produce their third album, Faith (1981), which furthered the dour mood present on Seventeen Seconds. The album peaked at number 14 on the UK charts. Included with cassette copies of Faith was an instrumental soundtrack for Carnage Visors, an animated film shown in place of an opening act for the band's 1981 Picture Tour. In late 1981 the Cure released the non-album single "Charlotte Sometimes". By this point, the sombre mood of the music had a profound effect on the attitude of the band. The band would refuse requests for older songs in concert, and sometimes Smith would be so absorbed by the persona he projected onstage he would leave at the end in tears.
In 1982 the Cure recorded and released Pornography, the third and final album of an "oppressively dispirited" trio that cemented the Cure's stature as purveyors of the emerging gothic rock genre. Smith has said that during the recording of Pornography he was "undergoing a lot of mental stress. But it had nothing to do with the group, it just had to do with what I was like, my age and things. I think I got to my worst round about Pornography. Looking back and getting other people's opinions of what went on, I was a pretty monstrous sort of person at that time". Gallup described the album by saying, "Nihilism took over [...] We sang 'It doesn't matter if we all die' and that is exactly what we thought at the time." Parry was concerned that the album did not have a hit song for radio play and instructed Smith and producer Phil Thornalley to polish the track "The Hanging Garden" for release as a single. Despite the concerns about the album's uncommercial sound, Pornography became the band's first UK Top 10 album, charting at number eight. The release of Pornography was followed by the Fourteen Explicit Moments tour, where the band finally dropped the anti-image angle and first adopted their signature look of big, towering hair and smeared lipstick on their faces. The tour also saw a series of incidents that prompted Simon Gallup to leave the Cure at the tour's conclusion. Gallup and Smith did not talk to each other for eighteen months following his departure.
Early commercial success (1983–86)
With Gallup's departure from the Cure and Smith's work with Siouxsie and the Banshees, rumours spread that the Cure had broken up. In December 1982, Smith remarked to Melody Maker, "Do the Cure really exist any more? I've been pondering that question myself [...] it has got to a point where I don't fancy working in that format again." He added, "Whatever happens, it won't be me, Laurence and Simon together any more. I know that."
Parry was concerned at the state of his label's top band, and became convinced that the solution was for the Cure to reinvent its musical style. Parry managed to convince Smith and Tolhurst of the idea; Parry said, "It appealed to Robert because he wanted to destroy the Cure anyway." With Tolhurst now playing keyboards instead of drums, the duo released the single "Let's Go to Bed" in late 1982. While Smith wrote the single as a throwaway, "stupid" pop song to the press, it became a minor hit in the UK, reaching number 44 on the singles chart, but entered the Top 20 in Australia and New Zealand. It was followed in 1983 by two more successful songs: the synthesiser-based "The Walk" (number 12), and "The Love Cats", which became the band's first British Top 10 hit, reaching number seven. The group released these studio singles and their B-sides as the compilation album Japanese Whispers, designed by Smith for the Japanese market only, but released worldwide on the decision of the record company. The same year, Smith also recorded and toured with Siouxsie and the Banshees, contributing as guitarist on their Nocturne live album and video and their Hyæna studio album. Meanwhile, he recorded the Blue Sunshine album with Banshees bassist Steven Severin as the Glove, while Lol Tolhurst produced the first two singles and debut album of the English band And Also the Trees.
In 1984, the Cure released The Top, a generally psychedelic album on which Smith played all the instruments except the drums—played by Andy Anderson—and the saxophone—played by returnee Porl Thompson. The album was a Top 10 hit in the UK, and was their first studio album to break the Billboard 200 in the US, reaching number 180. Melody Maker praised the album as "psychedelia that can't be dated", while pondering, "I've yet to meet anyone who can tell me why the Cure are having hits now of all times." The Cure then embarked on their worldwide Top Tour with Thompson, Anderson and producer-turned-bassist Phil Thornalley on board. Released in late 1984, the Cure's first live album, Concert consisted of performances from this tour. Near the tour's end, Anderson was fired for destroying a hotel room and was replaced by Boris Williams. Thornalley also left because of the stress of touring. However, the bassist slot was not vacant long, for a Cure roadie named Gary Biddles had brokered a reunion between Smith and former bassist Simon Gallup, who had been playing in the band Fools Dance. Soon after reconciling, Smith asked Gallup to rejoin the band. Smith was ecstatic about Gallup's return and declared to Melody Maker, "It's a group again."
In 1985, the new line-up of Smith, Tolhurst, Gallup, Thompson and Williams released The Head on the Door, an album that managed to bind together the optimistic and pessimistic aspects of the band's music between which they had previously shifted. The Head on the Door reached number seven in the UK and was the band's first entry into American Top 75 at number 59, a success partly due to the international impact of the LP's two singles, "In Between Days" and "Close to Me". Following the album and world tour, the band released the singles compilation Standing on a Beach in three formats (each with a different track listing and a specific name) in 1986. This compilation made the US Top 50, and saw the re-issue of three previous singles: "Boys Don't Cry" (in a new form), "Let's Go to Bed" and, later, "Charlotte Sometimes". This release was accompanied by a VHS and LaserDisc called Staring at the Sea, which featured videos for each track on the compilation. The Cure toured to support the compilation and released a live concert VHS of the show, filmed in the south of France called The Cure in Orange. During this time, the Cure became a very popular band in Europe (particularly in France, Germany and the Benelux countries) and increasingly popular in the US
Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and worldwide success (1987–93)
In 1987, the Cure released the musically eclectic double LP Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, which reached number six in the UK, the Top 10 in several countries and was the band's first entry into the US Top 40 at number 35 (where it was certified platinum), reflecting the band's rising mainstream popularity. the album's third single, "Just Like Heaven", was the band's most successful single to date in the US, being their first to enter the Billboard Top 40. The album produced three other singles. After the album's release, the band embarked on a successful tour. During the European leg of the tour, Lol Tolhurst's alcohol consumption was interfering with his ability to perform, so the Psychedelic Furs keyboardist Roger O'Donnell was frequently called upon to stand in for him.
In 1989, the Cure released the album Disintegration, which was critically praised and became their highest charting album to date, entering at number three in the UK and featuring three Top 30 singles in the UK and Germany: "Lullaby", "Lovesong" and "Pictures of You". Disintegration also reached number twelve on the US charts. The first single stateside, "Fascination Street", reached number one on the American Modern Rock chart, but was quickly overshadowed when its third US single, "Lovesong", reached number two on the American pop charts (the only Cure single to reach the US Top 10). By 1992, Disintegration had sold over three million copies worldwide.
During the Disintegration sessions, the band gave Smith an ultimatum that either Tolhurst would have to leave the band or they would. In February 1989, Tolhurst's exit was made official and announced to the press; this resulted in Roger O'Donnell becoming a full-fledged member of the band and left Smith as the Cure's only remaining founding member. Smith attributed Tolhurst's dismissal to an inability to exert himself and issues with alcohol, concluding, "He was out of step with everything. It had just become detrimental to everything we'd do." Because Tolhurst was still on the payroll during the recording of Disintegration, he is credited in the album's liner notes as playing "other instrument" (sic) and is listed as a co-writer of every song; however, it has since been revealed that he contributed nothing to the album in either performance or song writing. The Cure then embarked on a successful tour which saw the band playing stadiums in the US. On 6 September 1989, the Cure performed "Just Like Heaven" at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.
In May 1990, Roger O'Donnell quit and was replaced with the band's guitar technician Perry Bamonte. That November, the Cure released a collection of remixes called Mixed Up. The one new song on the collection, "Never Enough", was released as a single. In 1991 the Cure were awarded the Brit Award for Best British Group. That same year, Tolhurst filed a lawsuit against Smith and Fiction Records in 1991 over royalties payments, and claimed joint ownership of the name "the Cure" with Smith; the verdict was handed out in September 1994 in favour of Smith. In respite from the lawsuit, the band returned to the studio to record their next album. Wish reached number one in the UK and number two in the US and yielded the international hits "High" and "Friday I'm in Love". The Cure also embarked on the "Wish Tour" with Cranes, and released the live albums Show (September 1993) and Paris (October 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. In 1993, the band were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album for Wish.
In the years between the release of Wish and the start of sessions for the Cure's next album, the band's line-up shifted again. Thompson left the band once more during 1993 to play with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, and Bamonte took over as lead guitarist. Boris Williams also left the band, and was replaced by Jason Cooper (formerly of My Life Story).
Period of transition (1994–98)
The sessions for the new album began in 1994 with only Smith and Bamonte present; the pair were later joined by Gallup (who was recovering from physical problems) and Roger O'Donnell, who had been asked to rejoin the band at the end of 1994. The Cure performed "Burn" in the movie The Crow and "Dredd Song", the theme song of the 1995 movie Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone. It was not released on a Cure album until 2004 on Join the Dots: B-Sides & Rarities 1978–2001 (The Fiction Years).
Wild Mood Swings, finally released in 1996, was poorly received compared with previous albums and marked the end of the band's commercial peak. Early in 1996, the Cure played festivals in South America, followed by a world tour in support of the album. In 1997 the band released Galore, a compilation album containing all of the Cure's singles released between 1987 and 1997, as well as the new single "Wrong Number", which featured longtime David Bowie guitarist Reeves Gabrels. Gabrels also accompanied the Cure on a brief American radio festival tour as an onstage guest guitarist for "Wrong Number". In 1998, the Cure contributed to the soundtrack album for The X Files feature film as well as the Depeche Mode tribute album For the Masses with their cover of "World in My Eyes".
Another soundtrack appearance occurred with the song "Watching Me Fall" (later appearing in a different form on the Cure's next album, Bloodflowers), which was remixed by Underdog (of Massive Attack) for the 2000 American film American Psycho.
Later years (1999–2009)
With only one album left in their record contract and with commercial response to Wild Mood Swings and the Galore compilation lacklustre, Smith once again considered that the end of the Cure might be near and thus wanted to make an album that reflected the more serious side of the band. The Grammy-nominated album Bloodflowers was released in 2000 after being delayed since 1998. According to Smith, the album was the third of a trilogy along with 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. In 2002, the band headlined twelve major summer music festivals, and played three extended concerts (one in Brussels, two in Berlin) in which they performed the albums Pornography, Disintegration and Bloodflowers in their respective entireties each night. The Berlin performances were released on DVD as The Cure: Trilogy in 2003.
In 2003, the Cure signed with Geffen Records. In 2004, they released a new four-disc boxed set on Fiction Records titled Join the Dots: B-Sides and Rarities, 1978–2001 (The Fiction Years). The compilation includes seventy Cure songs, some previously unreleased, and a 76-page full-colour book of photographs, history and quotes, packaged in a hard cover. The album peaked at number 106 on the Billboard 200 album charts. The band released their twelfth album The Cure on Geffen in 2004, which was produced by Ross Robinson. It made a top ten debut on both sides of the Atlantic in July 2004. To promote the album, the band headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival that May. From 24 July to 29 August, the Cure headlined the Curiosa concert tour of North America. While attendances were lower than expected, Curiosa was still one of the more successful American summer festivals of 2004. The same year the band was honoured with an MTV Icon award in a television special presented by Marilyn Manson.
In May 2005, Roger O'Donnell and Perry Bamonte were fired from the band. O'Donnell claims Smith informed him he was reducing the band to a three-piece. Previously O'Donnell said he had only found out about the band's upcoming tour dates via a fan site and added, "It was sad to find out after nearly twenty years the way I did, but then I should have expected no less or more." The remaining members of the band—Smith, Gallup and Cooper—made several appearances as a trio before it was announced in June that Porl Thompson would be returning for the band's 2005 Festival summer shows, as well as their set at Live 8 in Paris on 2 July. Later that year, the band recorded a cover of John Lennon's "Love" for Amnesty International's charity album Make Some Noise. It is available for download on the Amnesty website, while the album was released on CD in 2006. On 1 April 2006, the Cure appeared at the Royal Albert Hall on behalf of the Teenage Cancer Trust. It was their only show through to the end the year. In December a live DVD, entitled The Cure: Festival 2005, including thirty songs from their 2005 Festival tour, was released.
The Cure began writing and recording material for their thirteenth album in 2006. Smith initially stated it would be a double album. The Cure announced a last-minute postponement of their autumn 2007 North American 4Tour in August to continue working on the album, rescheduling the dates for spring 2008. The group released four singles and an EP—"The Only One", "Freakshow", "Sleep When I'm Dead", "The Perfect Boy" and Hypnagogic States respectively—on or near to the 13th of each month, in the months leading up to the album's release. Released in October 2008, 4:13 Dream was a commercial failure in the UK compared to the previous albums releases, only staying in the charts two weeks and not peaking higher than number 33. In February 2009, the Cure received the 2009 Shockwaves NME Award for Godlike Genius.