Last updated 22.09.08
Through more than 30 extravagant years and 12 extraordinary albums The Cure have done it all in their own unmistakable way. Free, independent, willful, unconfined, the band have spent most of their career creating and exploring in the strange places where the worlds of mainstream and alternative collide. They have developed a range of uniquely distinctive sounds and styles, and in the process created as great a body of contemporary music as you could wish to hear.
With over 30 million albums sold, The Cure's achievements on every level have been incredible. Yet whereas even the most creative of bands both past and present have invariably completed their best work during 'the early years', The Cure have continued to flourish and grow with every release, continually adding new, unusual and essential chapters to their improbable story.
...It all started in 1976 when Robert, a 17 year old attending St. Wilfrid's Comprehensive in Crawley, Sussex, formed The Easy Cure band with schoolmates Michael Dempsey (bass), Lol Tolhurst (drums) and local guitar hero Porl Thompson. The 4-piece began writing and demoing their own songs almost immediately, and quickly amassed an impressive repertoire of original material that included such seminal classics as «Killing an Arab» and «10:15 Saturday Night».
By early 1977 the fledgling group had won a nationwide Battle of the Bands style competition held by German-owned major label Ariola-Hansa that would have led to the release of a debut single and album but for the doomed nature of the relationship - Hansa saw The Easy Cure as a «fresh faced» and malleable pop group - but even at this relatively young age, a headstrong Robert had other ideas... Within one unsatisfactory year the two parties had parted company with nothing having been released.
Frustrated but undeterred, in 1978 the «Easy» was dropped, along with Porl, and an eager trio now known simply as The Cure sent out a demo tape of 4 songs to a number of record labels. A keen response from Polydor A&R man Chris Parry was quickly followed up, and The Cure signed with his new Fiction label that September; it was to prove a lasting partnership - they have been together ever since. Work began immediately on their first single and album, with debut engineer Mike Hedges, and «Killing An Arab» was released to great acclaim through a deal with Small Wonder Records in December.
Re-released on Fiction in January 1979, it was quickly followed by the album «Three Imaginary Boys», and the strangely beguiling mix of peculiarly obscure imagery and sparsely angular music caused a great deal of controversy and comment. The album kick-started an extensive UK touring period, during which The Cure played with various other emergent bands of the time such as Wire, Joy Division and The Jam. A further two non-album singles, «Boy's Don't Cry» and «Jumping Someone Else's Train« were released, as well as a couple of «sideline recordings» with The Obtainers and Cult Hero. «Boys Don't Cry», the single, was a minor success in the USA, and led to «Three Imaginary Boys» being re-tuned and re-named «Boys Don't Cry». This period also saw the development of a long standing affiliation between The Cure and Siouxsie and The Banshees, as within two dates of their support slot on the Banshee's UK tour in late 1979, Robert found himself playing two sets a night, having stepped into the breach for departed guitarist John McKay. At the end of this incredibly hectic period, subtle but irresolvable differences within the band led to the quiet departure of Michael Dempsey.
Simon Gallup (bass) and Matthieu Hartley (keyboards) joined, and in early 1980 the 4-piece Cure embarked on two weeks of studio experimentation. This time with Mike Hedges co-producing, the band decided to explore the darker side of Robert's songwriting, and emerged with the minimalist classic «Seventeen Seconds». An album of extraordinary clarity and grace, the distinctive, almost cinematic «A Forest» became the band's first bona fide UK hit single, and a Top Of The Pops appearance followed. With «Seventeen Seconds» climbing to #20 in the UK album charts, The Cure set out on an extensive and exhilarating world tour of Europe, the USA and Australasia. Unfortunately, the strains of a frantic year proved too much for Matthieu Hartley, and he was forced to leave the band.
A trio once more, in the spring of 1981 The Cure, again with Mike Hedges co-producing, recorded «Faith», a mournful, atmospheric album of bleak and barren soundscapes evoking a world of dissolution and fear. The band also finished an instrumental soundtrack for their «tour support» film «Carnage Visors». «Faith» reached #14 in the UK album charts, and spawned another successful single, the abrasively insistent «Primary». The global Picture Tour that followed was an intense experience for all, and by the time the hauntingly beautiful non-album single «Charlotte Sometimes» was released in October, the band were due a break.
But a break was not on the agenda. Instead, at the start of 1982 The Cure returned to the studio to produce an album, in tandem with Phil Thornalley, that was to be the culmination of their increasingly morbid fascination with darkness, despair and decay. «Pornography», released in May, was infected with an unrelenting black nihilism, and rather ironically became the first Cure album to break into the UK Top 10 at #9. The Fourteen Explicit Moments Tour however, saw the band becoming increasingly more volatile and violent, and by the time «The Hanging Garden» was released as a single, Simon Gallup had left. Having pushed himself and those around him beyond the limits of excess, Robert realised it was make or break time, and that the only way to distance himself from all that the group had become was to 'lighten up' again. This he did with the counterfeit cheesy disco of «Let's Go To Bed», an instant if unexpected pop hit in America! The Cure line-up was still in some disarray - the single was recorded with Wreckless Eric drummer Steve Goulding, Lol Tolhurst having moved onto keyboards - but another key Cure partnership was forged in the making of the accompanying promotional video, and the colourful collaboration with Tim Pope was another relationship that would stand the test of time.
The Cure continued to redefine themselves in 1983 with the groovy electronic dance of «The Walk» (UK #12) and the demented cartoon jazz of «The Lovecats», which became the band's first single to claim UK Top 10 status, reaching #7. Robert felt vindicated: he had worked through the rage and despair of «Pornography», and with the release of these 3 wildly different singles, had effectively turned everyone's perception of The Cure upside down. 1983 was interspersed further with Robert's commitments recording and touring once more as a Banshee, helping write and record their «Hyaena» and «Nocturne» albums, as well as completing the «Blue Sunshine» album as The Glove, an experimental project undertaken in partnership with Banshee Steve Severin. The three Cure singles and their B-sides were collectively released as the album «Japanese Whispers» in December.
In 1984 «The Top» was released, and although billed as a Cure album, in reality Robert played everything on it save drums. The result was a strangely hallucinogenic mix that saw the band drift once more into the UK Top 10, a Top 20 single being achieved with the release of the infectiously psychedelic «The Caterpillar». Robert also recorded the Tim Pope single «I Want To Be A Tree» at this time. With the world Top Tour featuring the live line-up of Andy Anderson on drums, Phil Thornalley on bass and Porl Thompson back on guitar, the band were seemingly once more fully functioning and on their way. But for a number of reasons, come the end of the tour both Andy Anderson and Phil Thornalley had left the band. Boris Williams (drums) and a returning Simon Gallup (bass) replaced them.
This new incarnation started work on 1985's «The Head On The Door» with enthusiasm, zeal, and a very real sense that 'something was happening'... Varied and diverse, and yet informed throughout with a wonderfully simple pop sensibility, «The Head On The Door», co-produced with Dave Allen, reached # 7 in the UK. The vibrant hit single «Inbetween Days» was followed up by «Close To Me», and another brilliant Tim Pope collaboration, this time featuring the five band members unaccountably trapped in a wardrobe, balanced perilously on the clifftop of the infamous suicide drop Beachy Head!
«The Head On The Door» had managed #59 in the American Billboard Charts, and the accompanying world tour and ever increasing devotion of fans paved the way for the massive success of the impeccable collection «Standing On A Beach». Released in May 1986, the title taken from the first line of «Killing An Arab», it featured all The Cure singles and B-sides to date. Complemented by a video version of the compilation «Staring At The Sea», these releases, and yet another huge world tour, including the band's first headlining slot at Glastonbury, launched the band headlong into a worldwide «big time». The album broke into the US Top 50, and the American media suddenly became fascinated with Robert Smith. One publication labelled him «the male Kate Bush», and when he lopped off his notorious mop of hair in a fit of pique, it made MTV News On The Hour! «Boy's Don't Cry» was re-sung, re-mixed and re-released as a single, and a year of extensive gigs and festivals was crowned in the August with Tim Pope's celebratory live concert film «The Cure In Orange», released for cinema and video the following spring.
In 1987 The Cure brought out an immense and ambitious double album entitled «Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me». Lyrically and musically broader than anything they had yet attempted, the greatest strength of the album, once again co-produced with Dave Allen, lay in it's extreme diversity and extraordinary stylistic range, as the band moved effortlessly from dreamlike beauty to nightmare horror. Hit singles «Why Can't I Be You?», «Catch», «Just Like Heaven» and «Hot Hot Hot!!!» were released, all accompanied by more brilliantly inventive Tim Pope videos. With the arrival of Roger O'Donnell on keyboards, the 6-piece Cure travelled the world from July to December on the wildly successful Kissing Tour.
In 1988 The Cure's first decade was officially documented with the «Ten Imaginary Years» biography, and the band had a few well deserved months off. On reconvening for new demos, it became obvious that Lol Tolhurst's increasingly tenuous position in the group had soured beyond recognition and his departure was sadly inevitable.
His exit was followed by the completion and release in 1989 of the wonderfully atmospheric «Disintegration». Co-produced once more with Dave Allen, the album was a classic work of mournful grandeur and brooding power. It entered the UK charts at #3, and gave rise to 4 Top 20 singles; «Lullaby» (which also garnered a Best Video award at The Brits), «Fascination Street», «Lovesong» and «Pictures Of You». The awesome Prayer Tour that followed gave rise to some of the best performances The Cure had yet played, and the European leg included, among many memorable shows, a wonderful three night stint at Wembley Arena, whilst the USA leg took in sell-out crowds at the Giants and Dodgers Stadiums.
In early 1990 Roger O'Donnell left the group, and was replaced by long-time band friend and «roadie» Perry Bamonte. The Cure headlined various festivals around Europe, including Glastonbury for a 2nd time, gave the royalties from their live album «Entreat» to their 10 favourite charities, recorded the single «Never Enough», and released «Mixed Up», a collection of remixes old and new by such luminaries as Mark Saunders and William Orbit. The album also included the seminal Paul Oakenfold single remix «Close To Me», and reached #13 in the UK and #14 in the US.
In February 1991 The Cure at last won some long overdue recognition at home with The Brits award of «Best British Group», and celebrated by filming a secret London gig as Five Imaginary Boys, debuting 4 new songs which would go on to form part of their next album. They also released «Playout», a «behind the scenes» live video containing excerpts of this show as well as a number of other strange TV performances!
«Wish» was hailed in 1992 as The Cure's best work yet. Again working with Dave Allen as co-producer, the album was a richly diverse, multi-faceted guitar driven album of massive appeal. It went straight in at #1 in the UK and #2 in the USA, and 3 more fabulous hit singles were taken from it; «High», «Friday I'm In Love», and «A Letter To Elise». This was another phenomenal year for The Cure, with the wonderfully kaleidoscopic Wish Tour taking the band around the world again, playing sold-out shows wherever they went, from NZ's Wellington Town Hall to Dallas Texas Stadium...
The sheer power and excitement of the Wish Tour performances inspired the release of two live works in 1993, «Show» and «Paris». «Show», a double album as well as a cinema and video release, captured the band onstage in Detroit performing «all the hits and more», whereas «Paris», a limited edition, presented the band live in the French capital playing a rather more eclectic collection of songs. Immediately after the tour, guitarist Porl Thompson left the band again, (this time with a smile!), and The Cure headlined the Great Xpectations Show in London's Finsbury Park as a 4-piece on behalf of XFM. The band also contributed the song «Burn» to the film «The Crow», as well as covering «Purple Haze» for the Hendrix tribute album «Stone Free».
The recording of new material was hindered in 1994 by a protracted and distracting legal action, instigated by Lol Tolhurst and finally settled in the Fall by High Court judgement in favour of the defendants Robert Smith and Fiction Records, and by the unexpected departure of drummer Boris Williams. A period of auditions was held, and Jason Cooper quickly took up residency behind the kit, as Roger O'Donnell rejoined on keyboards.
In 1995 The Cure contributed «Dredd Song» to the film «Judge Dredd», as well as covering Bowie's «Young Americans», again in support of XFM. They broke off recording further new songs with co-producer Steve Lyon to headline some more major european festivals, including, for an unprecedented 3rd time, the 25th Glastonbury. The band eventually returned to the studio (actually Jane Seymour's country mansion!) to finish off the new album in time for Christmas...
In January 1996 The Cure headlined the two Hollywood rock festivals in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, returning to the UK for the release of the album «Wild Mood Swings». Although the sheer scope and scale of its diversity unsettled many people, it still went straight into almost every Top Ten around the world! The Cure hit the road once more with The Swing Tour, their biggest to date, and as the four singles «The 13th», «Mint Car», «Strange Attraction» and «Gone» were released to growing acclaim, the band played over 100 extraordinary concerts to increasingly rabid crowds around the globe.
In January 1997, Robert was invited to perform at David Bowie's 50th birthday party at Madison Square Gardens NYC, and was thrilled to sing and play a couple of songs onstage with the only living idol of his teenage days... Later in the year «Galore», a collection of the second decade of Cure singles, including new track «Wrong Number», was released on album and video. The Cure headlined another number of festivals in America and Europe, as well as performing live on several TV shows around the world.
In early 1998 Robert appeared in an episode of «South Park» saving the world from the evil Mecha Streisand, as well as recording the song «A Sign From God» for the Trey Parker/Matt Stone film «Orgazmo». The Cure also recorded «World In My Eyes» for a Depeche Mode tribute, and «More Than This» for the «X-Files» album. During the summer The Cure headlined another 12 european festivals, played a secret gig in London for Miller Beer's Blind Date competition, and then returned once more to Jane Seymour's house to record a new album with Paul Corkett (Depeche Mode, Placebo, Nick Cave) co-producing.
1999 saw the band complete the recording and mixing at RAK Studio in London and Fisher Lane Farm in Surrey, and with the new album «Bloodflowers» finished, they went over to NYC to record an episode of VH1's Hard Rock Live, scheduled for broadcast in spring 2000. Robert then embarked on an extensive global promotional campaign using TV, radio, print and the internet to get the word out that «Bloodflowers» is, in his opinion, the most perfect Cure album ever. «Bloodflowers», the last piece of a trilogy that includes «Pornography» and «Disintegration», is filled with sounds of nostalgia, introspection, rage, despair and emotional resolution. The album received high critical acclaim and «Bloodflowers» is considered to be one of the band's best albums.
The Cure played a limited number of small promotional shows in Europe and the USA around the February 2000 release date, before setting off around the world again for a full-scale Dream Tour very soon after.
In late 2001, The Cure released «Greatest Hits», featuring 16 of their most popular and beloved singles of their entire career. The album also features two new songs, including the hit single «Cut Here». A special limited edition features acoustic versions of all 18 hits featured on the album. This year also saw the end of the group's relationship with Fiction Records, the label they had been instrumental in starting 23 years before.
In 2002 the band spent the summer headlining a number of European Festivals before going into rehearsals for two very special nights in November at the Tempodrom, Berlin, where they performed all the tracks from «Pornography», «Disintegration» and «Bloodflowers» plus encores! Both performances were shot in Hi-Definition video on 12 cameras, and «Trilogy» DVD was released in 2003 as another chapter of The Cure story opened, the band signing a 3 album global deal with the Geffen label.
2004 saw the release of «Join the Dots», a 4 CD Box set of all the b-sides and rarities, followed by the widely acclaimed new album «The Cure», and another hugely successful world tour. In 2005 Perry Bamonte and Roger O’Donnell left the band and Porl Thompson joined for a third time. The quartet’s debut show was headlining Live 8 in Paris, followed by a number of other summer European festivals. The first four The Cure albums («Three Imaginary Boys», «Seventeen Seconds», «Faith» and «Pornography») were re-released, with Robert providing 'rarities' for Deluxe Edition extras CD's, as part of an ongoing campaign to re-master and re-issue all The Cure albums. Immediately after closing a week of Teenage Cancer Trust Shows at the Royal Albert Hall in April 2006, the band started recording their 13th studio album, breaking off in June to allow Robert to work on a live DVD. In August the second set of re-releases («The Top», «The Head On The Door», «Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me») was released, each album as a 2CD Deluxe Edition, along with 1983’s Glove album «Blue Sunshine». In November «Festival 2005», a 155 minute 5.1 DVD comprising a 30 song selection of live performances captured the previous Summer by a mix of fans, crew and on-the-night-big-screen cameras, was released.
Spring 2007 saw The Cure back in the studio continuing work on the 33 new songs slated for their forthcoming double CD release, before taking a break in July/August to play some shows.
The 10 show first leg of The Cure 4Tour 2007-2008 kicked off July 27th with a headline slot at the Fuji Rock Festival, the bands first performance in Japan since 1984.
To be continued...
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