The Cure were one of the most pivotal and musically diverse post-punk bands to emerge from England.
Reincarnated continually throughout their history by main man Robert Smith they have recorded in a distinct array of musical styles which include pop, Goth, punk, but are most remembered for the dark and gloomy music that helped define Goth music of the time.
Formed in Crawley, Sussex in 1976, initially as The Easy Cure, Robert Smith, Lawrence Tolhurst and Michael Dempsey were the founding members.
In 1978 the band recorded Killing An Arab for a small indie label called Small Wonder. The track met with controversy upon its 1979 release, while a subsequent debut album, Three Imaginary Boys (1979) remains among The Cure’s finest work.
The record almost scraped into the Top 40, while the pop brilliance of accompanying single Boys Don’t Cry saw The Cure lauded as one of the UK’s most promising young bands.
A pseudonymous single, I’m A Cult Hero – under the name The Cult Heroes – passed unnoticed and, soon after its release, Dempsey was replaced on bass by Simon Gallup. Amid the shake-up, keyboard player Matthieu Hartley was added to the line-up.
By the spring of 1980, The Cure was developing less as a pop outfit than a guitar-laden rock band.
The atmospheric 12-inch single A Forest gave them their first UK Top 40 hit, while a stronger second album, Seventeen Seconds, reached the Top 20.
Thereafter, The Cure’s cult following ensured that their work regularly appeared in the lower regions of the charts.
After consolidating their position during 1981 with Primary, Charlotte Sometimes and Faith the band looked to the new year for a new direction. Their fourth album, Pornography, was their first to make the UK Top 10 in May 1982.
Unfortunately, while on tour in France, pallid frontman Robert Smith quarrelled with bass player Simon Gallup and the band ostensibly broke up.
Smith briefly joined Siouxsie & The Banshees as a temporary replacement for John McGeogh. As well as contributing the excellent psychedelic-tinged guitar work to their hit Dear Prudence, Smith subsequently teamed up with Banshee Steve Severin and Jeanette Landray in The Glove.
The Cure, meanwhile, continued to record and during the summer enjoyed their first UK Top 20 single appearance with the electronics-based The Walk.
Four months later, they were in the Top 10 with the radically contrasting pop single The Love Cats. Smith subsequently attempted to distance himself from this song, which was initially intended more as a parody.
Further success followed with The Caterpillar, another unusual single, highlighted by Smith’s eccentric violin playing. This chart success confirmed The Cure as not only one of the most eclectic and eccentric ensembles working in British pop but one of the very few to make such innovations accessible to a wider audience.
Smith’s heavy eye makeup, smudged crimson lipstick and shock-spiked hair was equally as striking, while the band’s videos, directed by Tim Pope, became increasingly wondrous. In 1985, the band released their most commercially successful album yet, The Head On The Door.
The following year, they re-recorded their second single, Boys Don’t Cry, which this time became a minor UK hit. By now, the band was effectively Smith and Tolhurst, with members such as Gallup and others flitting through the line-up from year to year.
With the retrospective Standing On A Beach singles collection The Cure underlined their longevity during an otherwise quiet year. During 1987, they undertook a tour of South America and enjoyed several more minor UK hits with Why Can’t I Be You?, Catch and Just Like Heaven. The latter also reached the US Top 40, as did their double album, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.
Robert Smith suffered from a chronic fear of flying throughout the 1980s but still insisted that the band travelled in style. They went to the US on the QEII and travelled to Venice on the Orient Express, racking up a £2,000 bar bill in a single evening.
A two-year hiatus followed before the release of the follow-up, Disintegration. A fiendishly downbeat affair, with some of Smith’s most moribund lyrics, it nevertheless climbed into the UK Top 3.
During the same period, the band continued to register regular hits with such singles as Lullaby (promoted by a memorable video), Lovesong, Pictures Of You and the fiery Never Enough.
The Cure were no strangers to fisticuffs, with Robert Smith lamping Simon Gallup in Strasbourg in 1982 and drummer Andy Anderson battering the others in 1984, but the late 80s saw founding member Lol Tolhurst demoted to one-fingered keyboards and transformed into the band’s drunken punch-bag.
In the wake of his ultimate sacking, Smith said, “The only way we could communicate that he was turning into a complete parody of himself was by beating him up”. This left Smith as the sole original member.
Although it was assumed that The Cure would attempt to consolidate their promising sales in the USA, Smith announced that he would not be undertaking any further tours of America.
Mixed Up, a double album compiling re-recordings and remixes of their singles, was released at the end of 1990.
By 1992, The Cure line-up comprised Smith, a reinstated Gallup, Perry Bamonte (keyboards and guitar), Porl Thompson (guitar) and Boris Williams (drums), and with the critically acclaimed Wish, The Cure consolidated their position as one of the world’s most consistently successful bands.
Thompson left the group in June 1993, at which time former member Tolhurst sued Smith, the band and its record label, for alleged unpaid royalties. The ensuing court transcripts made for colourful reading and confirmed The Cure’s reputation for drinking excess.
Tolhurst was summarily defeated in the action and left with a huge legal debt. Following a successful bill-topping gig at the 1995 Glastonbury Festival, the band started work on what was to become Wild Mood Swings, issued in May 1996. The line-up on this album was Smith, Bamonte, Gallup, Jason Cooper (drums) and Roger O’Donnell (keyboards).
The revealing lyrics hinted at Smith’s personal insecurities. Galore, a useful follow-up to the earlier compilations, preceded the excellent Bloodflowers (2000) which Smith claimed was to be the final Cure album.
The claim was not taken seriously, and sure enough, the singer later announced that The Cure would be ending their long association with Fiction Records and signing a new recording contract with Ross Robinson’s I Am imprint.
Lawrence ‘Lol’ Tolhurst
Guitar, saxophone, keyboards