The Easy Cure.
Written by Hannah Sweeney.
They say when you find your definitive music favourites, you remember exactly where you were. I vividly remember that faithful rainy night when I was gifted my first music player by my father; excitably, the first thing I did was download a selection of my mother’s music onto it, so forth starting the saga.
Upon finding the 1978 English rock band, The Cure, in my early years of life I was always enamoured and star-struck by their songs and style. However, it took me many years to appreciate the music they made but they quickly became massively influential on who I am today. Since their formation up until current the band have released:
- Nine compilation albums
- Six live albums
- Forty-one singles
- Thirteen studio albums
Selling over thirty million albums worldwide. Rumour says that more is due to be released this year. I think the Cure sold such a high volume of albums because they appeal to so many different generations and cover a diverse range of genres. Alongside this, The categories that they are stereotyped under are gothic rock, post-punk, alternative rock, and new wave- but they are so much more than these restrictive classes.
But is the cure original? And how do they influence us fans?? Well…
Introducing The Cure.
The lead singer, songwriter and only consistent member of the cure, Robert Smith, began his music career in his early teens with seemingly no musical talent- when he met his lifelong friend Lol Tolhurst. They shortly went on to form what was known as ‘The Easy Cure’ in 1976 alongside drummer Michael Dempsey. As momentous as they are now, the group began as nothing special, growing up the same as you and me, in the small town of Crawley. This lack of ‘talent’ even found themselves finding a new lead singer for their first gig- Matin Creasey. This was his first and last appearance with the cure. After a few years of mucking about playing small gigs, they became what we know today as ‘The Cure’ with their new bassist Simon Gallup in ‘78 and they were soon to become spectacular after the release of their first album ‘Three Imaginary Boys’.
Three Imaginary Boys.
The release of the first album was not immediately a smash hit with the public nor with Smith. Robert was not impressed with the making or design of the album and felt he had no creative control over it. “My problem with The Cure was, here a band with no image but with strong music, so I thought: ‘let’s make it completely without an image’” – said their producer Chris Parry who hijacked the release of the album.
Parry designed the now much-loved pink cover that consisted of a lamp, refrigerator, and vacuum cleaner, sending the design for print before control freak Smith could get a word in sideways. Resulting in what I believe was a well-deserved ban from the studio when working on their next album.
- It’s always difficult choosing a favourite song, but from Three Imaginary Boys I would have to rate my top three songs: Accuracy, So What, and It’s Not You. This guitar heavy album is one of the reasons I started to learn guitar myself, each line is inspirational to me.
After Parry’s ban, Smith, Tolhurst and Gallup swiftly got to work on their second album ‘Seventeen Seconds’, this time with full creative control. Before the writing and recording process began, Robert came to the studio with a mixtape cassette with four songs on it: ‘Madame George’, ‘Fruit tree’, ‘Gayane Ballet Suit No. 1’ and ‘All Along the Watch Tower’ and this refined selection was to be the template for the upcoming album. “I was trying to get a combination of all the things I liked about those four things, even though they were so desperate”- Smith.
And so, the Cure’s first proper album’ was recorded and released within two weeks with heavy inspiration from the C60 cassette and many books such as: At Night by Franz Kafka and La Mort Heureusse by Albert Camus. The album is described to ‘portray a metaphysical sense of isolation and loneliness’.
- From this album, my top song would have to be ‘M’. It was the earliest written song (before T.I.M) and the letter M is an abbreviation for Mary, Smith’s childhood sweetheart and wife.
After a long, gruelling tour and many home issues the even longer expedition to creating their third album ‘faith’ arose. Realising he ‘had no faith and was scared’ Robert got to work writing the rather emotional album based upon the feeling that no one in the world could feel as painfully, intensely, and perceptively as you can. Where the songs ‘Primary’ and ‘All Cats Are Grey’ were written on the spot, songs such as ‘Other Voices’ and ‘Drowning Man’ were inspired by Truman Capote’s Other Rooms and were based on Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake. The band were also extremely moved by the suicide of joy divisions lead singer, Ian Curtis and hinted so in the death driven album. Due to their erratic lifestyle getting the album finished was tough and straining on the members; there was a heavy alcohol intake amongst them as well as a lot of substance abuse and possibly a slight cocaine addiction. Despite the irascible atmosphere, the Cure made it out of Abbey Road studio red-eyed, disgruntled but with a passionate album. “You may not love it, but you will become addicted to it”.
- My favourite song from this album would most definitely be ‘Other Voices’ with ‘The Funeral Party’ coming in close second. The heavy and driving bassline by Simon Gallup is immaculate and makes the song complete (not because Gallup is my favourite member of the cure of course…)
With the new budget in and £1600 aside for cocaine, their fourth studio album ‘Pornography’ was in motion. But this time the band were determined to deliver a serious artistic statement. They worked long and hard on the record until it was perfect- to the point where they spent weeks on end camping in the studio. Their time in the studio, however, was not so pure. It became a routine for them to pump themselves full of coke, acid, and alcohol before they would allow themselves to even pick up an instrument- they tactically agreed amongst themselves that this would be the only way to achieve perfection. With their “mountain of empties in the corner and pile of debris” growing and growing and the cleaners practically begging at the door to get in, they had completed the beloved masterpiece. This recording as derived from their narcotic abuse, Smith’s fixation on books on psychiatry and clinical insanity, and their drive to ‘not be taken for a laugh’. All the songs were handwritten and polished to perfection- ‘The hanging garden’ was written by Robert after he once again pumped his system with coke and acid and ran around his parents naked whilst looking for cats.
- I think this album is one of their best meaning, I couldn’t pick a favourite, so once again my favourite three would have to be: ‘Cold’, ‘One hundred years’, and ‘The hanging garden’. Since the birth of Pornography, one hundred years has become one of the most popular gothic anthems and has massively influenced my gothic style.
Japanese Whispers and The Top.
After the massive trip that was Pornography, The Cure took a well-deserved break from creating and touring and wondered if they would actually ever see each other again. But inevitably they did. During their little break, Robert went away and worked on a fair bit of music with Siouxie and the Banshees and planned to tour with them on their ‘Hyena’ tour before unexpectedly ditching them right before, ruining his close friendship with Siouxie and angering her severely. But hooray!
The Cure was once again back together with their new drummer Andy Anderson (who unfortunately passed on the 26th of February 2019). They ended up writing the singles album ‘Japanese whispers’ with their hugely popular single ‘The Lovecats’ which placed them into the new pop genre- much to Roberts Dismay.
So, the band decided to go once again camping, this time in a local pub, narcotic driven to release their next album ‘The Top’. No one knew how this album would turn out as the now almost schizophrenic Smith had completely taken over. But still, it was a ‘weird’ success.
- Personally, I enjoyed Japanese Whispers more than I did the top – My favourite song being ‘The Dream’ and ‘Speak My Language’. From the top, I would have to go with the classic ‘The caterpillar’.
The Head On The Door.
The tours were back after this odd release that seemed to have little to no inspiration behind it and so the band released a live album ‘Concert- the cure live’ and the other members began to work with other artists such as The Psychedelic Furs. After a little while the gang got back together with an all-new five person line up which is considered the classic cure formation to produce ‘The head on the door’. When they all arrived at the studio Smith had already come with another mixtape with drafts of the songs he wanted to put on the album; even though the album was already almost complete with Roberts drafts, he listened closely to what the others had to say and really considered their input this time around. Compared to the last few albums the making of The Head on The Door was relatively relaxed despite the booze intake still being life-threatening- although this time Lol Tolhurst began to slip under the bus with his lifestyle. The release was in August of 1985 and was a hit with the public with its more pop-sounding style; even with its more vibrant synth sounds Smith made sure that the lyrics still encompassed the doom and gloom of pornography and faith. The opening lyrics were ‘Yesterday I got so old… I felt like I could die’ they had to be sure everyone still knew who the cure was behind this new sound. “He slipped the straitjacket of brooding depression that shaped faith, cleaved through the claustrophobia of pornography… and now roams among us, a harmless eccentric”. – Steve Sutherland, melody maker.
- I thought the head on the door was a brilliant album, but I still question the new sound they created as genius as it is… but the lyrics bring it all back into perspective for me. So, my top three songs from this one would have to be ‘Six different ways’, ‘Close to me’, and ‘A night like this’.
“I was looking for a bigger audience. It wasn’t to do with being well known. I wanted more people to hear us.”- Robert Smith. I think this perfectly describes how the cure wanted to influence and make music for their followers, not just for the fame and money they would bring them.
Standing On A Beach.
In 1986 ‘Standing on a Beach’ // ‘Staring at the Sea’ was released, another compilation album of their greatest hits so far. This album sent them from play on-thousand capacity clubs to twelve-thousand capacity arenas. It was a revamped version of the not so hit ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ album that was released earlier in their career. The covers feature John Button, a fisherman, who sadly passed in late 2021. The Beach party tour that came from this release was a spectacle! Although at one of their shows a mental hospital patient stabbed himself multiple times with a hunting knife in order to impress a girl and it became an urban legend around the cure that the man had killed himself; luckily this is not true, one of the forum paramedics fortunately saved his life and the tour went on to be one of their best yet. Tension was brewing in the last leg of the tour as Tolhurst became majorly unfit for his job following his substance abuse issues, angering the rest of the band.
- As a compilation album, some of the cure’s best songs are on it- but one of my all-time favourite songs is featured, this being ‘Charlotte Sometimes’. Robert got the inspiration for this song from Penelope Farmer’s book Charlotte sometimes- he wanted to really capture the twisted and strange events in the book, and I think he did it perfectly.
Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.
Next up was ‘Kiss me Kiss me Kiss me’. The band came into the studio with absolutely nothing but drive and began writing ideas straight away. This album was most definitely a group effort where everyone worked tightly alongside each other strategically voting for the best ideas they came up with; this however did not include Tolhurst who had very little to contribute to the album. He became “a pitiful figure” and “a drunken liability” as described by Robert. He refused rehab as suggested by Porl Thompson. The group still got on with completing the album, demoing twice as many songs as they ended up recording- resulting in a four-sided album that was released in 1987. It was one of their biggest successes, reaching number six in the UK charts! The lyrics to the song ‘How beautiful you are’ are practically identical to Les Yeux Du Pauvre by Charles Baudelaire. ‘Just Like Heaven’ is a love song to Robert’s wife Mary Poole, inspired by a beach holiday they took together- she was there for the recording process of the song too.
- In this lengthy smash hit album, there can’t be an overall favourite. All the featured songs are so coherent. But if I had to choose, I would place ‘Hot! Hot! Hot!’, ‘A thousand hours’ and ‘why can’t I be you?’ in my top three.
“Despite the title Disintegration hangs together Beautifully”. This next album was deemed much more than a serious project to the band and Smith went into a monk like mindset when writing it, not talking to a soul, as he had a lot to live up to with the last album. Not that he thought Tolhurst was worth talking to anymore; he had been emitted to rehab for just over a week finding out he had a fatal disease but dismissed himself and relapses almost immediately. Smith wanted it to be the album the cure was defined by and that it is. It was the real deal, delving into much darker corners than Faith and Pornography did. It was a piece of extraordinary shrill of bleak, claustrophobic, and symphonic music. Each song was so different, but each were as intricately woven as the next with such deep, dark confessions from the very bottom of Smith’s heart. ‘Lullaby’ was inspired by the classic poem The spider and the fly by Mary Howitt and a recent nightmare he had had- the music video pictures Robert in bed with a candy-striped legged spider crawling about ready to consume him. The album was a massive success and is one hundred percent a definitive album. “Disintegration was a work of morbidly dark musical genius”.
- This album is definitely one of my most favourite albums, it is lyrical genius and is a joy to listen to despite the gloomy nature of it. My top three songs on this one is: ‘Lovesong’, ‘Pictures of you’ and ‘Lullaby’. All three of these never fail to make me shed a tear and have significant importance to me as I was first introduced to them during some rough times in my childhood.
With the masterpiece that was Disintegration over, the band were in a bit of a divot with such high standards to live up to. Some more tours were completed- featuring some bigger names such as Glastonbury. Their contract stated that a new album should be due to be released soon. With nothing but their outstanding reputation, the cure released ‘Mixed Up’. Yet again this was another compilation album featuring some of their best songs with a mix of shortened and extended plays as well as making them all different styled remixes; however, it did feature a new song ‘Never Enough (big mix)’. This release was definitely not their best and it receive quite severe backlash from the public- bringing in very mixed reviews from critics. Still, they surged on with more tours despite Tolhurst now being removed from the band due to being an alcoholic. This album was more of a side project for the band after they engaged in the UK’s dance and acid house culture.
- Personally, I wouldn’t rate this album highly at all as I do not consider it a proper one. It featured some amazingly different remixes and brought us a new song- but it felt like an unnecessary release to me.
At Manor studio in Oxfordshire, the cure minus one began to record their next album- ‘Wish’. The start of this recording process was delayed however by no one other than their ex-bandmate Lol Tolhurst and his not very handy lawyers. Tolhurst decided that it was only right and proper to sue his former band for “Big, stinking, loud, dark revenge!”. This process slogged on for over three years and it became very emotionally and psychologically draining for Smith. But the Cure had to press onwards and so they began to record in September 1991 for the release in April 1992. The band arrived in Oxfordshire with pre-recorded demo tapes from back in London so all that was left to do was polish and refine them; this didn’t prove as easy for them as said. After disintegration, Robert had no idea what the sound of wish would end up being meaning it didn’t feel like anything special to him, otherwise unmotivating him to finish the recording. But the lighter and enjoyable atmosphere at Manor pulled them through- creating masterpieces such as ‘From the edge of the deep green sea’. Once released Wish was no failure! Taking in one hundred and eleven dates across the globe; Gallup was then taken ill on the Italian leg of the tour, dimming the mood once more. After the very successful tour and selling over three million copies, the cure was back in court with Tolhurst winning the four-year case; Lol ended up paying over one million pounds in legal fees.
- I love the wish album! It is a classic with zero skips. So again, I couldn’t choose a favourite, but some honourable mentions are: ‘Apart’, ‘From the edge of the deep green sea’, ‘A letter to Elise’, ‘Open’ and ‘To wish impossible things’.
- Fun Fact: A Letter to Elise was written by smith after being inspired by Jean Cocteau’s book ‘The holy terrors’ and David Bowie’s ‘A letter to Hermione’. Smith said “For the first time, the narrators voice was mine. His influence on my lyrics is huge”.
Wild Mood Swings.
The tenth studio album was ‘Wild Mood Swings’, produced by Depeche Mode’s collaborator Steve Lyon. But since their last album, Smith was left without a band and a still sickly Simon Gallup. Thompson was replaced by Perry Bamonte and Williams was replaced by a new face, Jason Cooper. The recording process for this album was incredibly slow, the same as wish was; it had been four years since they last made an appearance and the UK’s music scene had drastically changed. Despite the hiatus, the Cure settled into St Catherine’s Court, an Elizabethan mansion owned by the world-renowned actress- Jane Seymour.
There were a lot of procrastination shows between recording the album and releasing it in May of 1996. It was upbeat and morose, yet the critics didn’t take it as well as hoped; it was said to be too far into their comfort zone and features the same brooding and pop cliché tones that their last albums had featured. It was nothing new. Despite this the fans ate at the record, sending it soaring to number nine on the UK chart- even though only a little over one million copies were sold. The ‘Swing’ tour in May 1996 filling ninety-three arenas across Europe, they were essentially the biggest live band in the world.
- Despite the harsh feedback from the album Robert said it was one of his personal favourites due to having some ‘pretty demented songs’. I must agree with that last part of the statement, the album was wild! Featuring a real mix of brooding lyrics and bright, pop sounds. My favourite songs on this album would have to be ‘Trap’ and ‘Gone!’- with ‘this is a lie’, ‘strange attraction’ and ‘want’ as very honourable mentions. The mixture of sounds and feelings this album creates makes it a worthy listen that I would recommend.
- Fun Fact: ‘Treasure’ was influenced by the poem ‘Remember’ by Christina Rossetti; “Remember me when I am gone away”. The album was also supposed to be called ‘Bare’ (as the exiting song is) before a last-minute change.
After the swing of the last album, Robert and the rest of the cure decided there was a life outside of rock and roll. Robert settled down a wealthy, happily married man who worked from his home studio back in his childhood town of Crawley. But Smith made one exception and returned to the scene for a fiftieth birthday concert at Madison Square Garden, also known as the ‘Party-Cum-Concert’ when asked to play alongside his childhood hero and prodigious inspiration: David Bowie. After the concert, Smith gave Bowie’s co-producer and long-time Cure fan, Mark Plati, some of his work. And so, their next compilation album ‘Galore’ was operational. The band created a new single ‘Wrong Number’ in order to promote the album but that was ineffective, the single alongside the whole album kicked the bucket- failing to reach the charts anywhere. Unlike its sister album ‘Standing on a Beach’ that had gone double platinum. Robert put it down to the fact that no one wanted to hear the cure as a pop band, so he decided to revert to their caliginous ways for the next album.
- I am utterly shocked at how badly Wrong Number did! The album I can understand as they have many compilations that are almost identical- but wrong number is an amazing song and I think It deserved to do better in the charts. I’m sure many true Cure fans can also agree with me there.
Then came 1998, where the band were due to start creating their eleventh and supposedly last album ‘Bloodflowers’. Disheartened by Galore, this album was to complete the trilogy of Disintegration and Pornography (with absolutely no pop melodies) being one of their defining albums. It was to focus on the cataclysm of ageing and the inevitability of death. To reach the level that Pornography and Disintegration were on, Smith decided it was best for the band to sit and listen to them on repeat so that they could remember and recreate the emotional impact they had. He also began to fill himself up on the narcotics he took whilst recording the others to recreate the atmosphere, in turn practically locking the rest of the band out of the making. The album was recorded in two sessions, and it was Smith’s version- with only two songs having input from his bandmates. Overall, the record was inspired by the original doom duo, but it had undoubtedly taken inspiration from the debut album ‘Young team’ by Mogwall. Released in February 2000, Bloodflowers was a sensational hit, smashing all UK charts and capturing the doom and gloom the original cure albums once did. Sales were through the roof and so were spirits; just before the end of the ’Dream’ tour supporting Bloodflowers, Lol Tolhurst got back in touch with Robert and solved the issues between them.
- Bloodflowers was an amazing follow up to Disintegration and Pornography, it truly was the sound of the cure. It captured the dark essence but in a new sense- they were no longer young adolescents being seized by the magnitude of their youth. They had lived life doing something they loved and no longer faced the abyss. As someone who has always struggled in their youth, being uncertain about everything around me- I found this mindset and presentation incredibly inspiring; it gave me some hope that there would be a good future for me as long as I did what makes me happy.
- Although inspired by the albums message, overall, I was not a fan of the sound of the album. The lyrics were once again genius, but something wasn’t quite right for me. So, I would have to make my favourite song on this album ‘The last day of summer’ or the self-titled ‘Bloodflowers’.
Greatest Hits & The Cure.
The new century came about and apparently so was the end The Cure. For the first time since 1978 they were out of a record deal, the year 2000 brought their journey with Fiction records to a close when it was sold to Universal Music by their producer Chris Parry. At a career high after Bloodflowers and going into hiding in 2001 after they released their final compilation album ‘Greatest hits’, the public were unsure whether they would ever fully return to the music world.
In 2002 Robert found a new producer who was more commonly associated with nu-metal, Ross Robinson. Robinson had released debut albums for metal bands such as Korn, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot and Sepultura. With seemingly no connections to the cure, Robert reached out to Ross, meeting backstage at a concert they were to hit it off immediately. After not long of talking Robinson let it be known that the cure was his all-time favourite band and he believed that the time was right for the cure to return with a new album; despite Robert persisting that he wanted to make the solo album he was on about from when he wrote Disintegration.
And so, their twelfth album ‘The Cure’ was to be recorded. Robinson took a lot of weight off Robert during the creation process, taking control of almost everything- this was a bit of a smack in the face to the usually sole writer, but he let it slide. Smith thought Ross was the best producer they’ve had to date much to the disagreement to the rest of the band, they thought he was too hands on and touchy with the whole thing; the public also feared what he would do to the cure, everyone prayed he would not turn them into the next Slipknot.
But if it wasn’t for him there would not have been anymore albums. “I’ve decided to call it the cure for very good reason… it’s the best thing we’ve ever done.” Said Robert. It was released in June 2004 with 11 brand new songs, with the same cure sound.
It reached the top 10 in the UK with its immaculate and powerful lyrics and radio ready melodies, selling nearly a million copies in its first week. They began to tour again, featuring at the ‘Curiosa’ festival, with many other bands that had clearly been heavily influenced by the cult band. “This tour is the most fun I’ve had in years.”- Robert Smith.
- I think this comeback album was a work of art, it is upbeat, yet it still captures the old-fashioned doom and gloom of the real cure. My favourite song on the album is ‘Lost’, I find the lyrics rather relatable, and the sound is generally immaculate. My very honourable mentions are: ‘The end of the world’, ‘Us or them’, ‘alt. end’ and ‘Labyrinth’.
Finally came the Cure’s thirteenth and last album to date. Before the making, the band lost another two members- Perry Bamonte and Roger O’Donnell, ruining the dream team Robert had put together so many years ago. However, previous member Porl Thompson re-joined them to finish some remaining shows. When speaking of the release Smith revealed that we would be given a double version album named ‘4:13 Dream’; unfortunately, the record label chose to sell the single version despite Roberts acts to persuade them to sell the original thirty-three song double album. They refined the album down to just fourteen songs and was fully released in October of 2008. To market this album and try and get it to sell, they released for songs prior to the whole thing- one on the thirteenth of each month: ‘The only one’- 13th May, ‘Freakshow’- 13th June, ‘Sleep when I’m dead’- 13th July and ‘The perfect boy’ on the 13th of October 2008. These sales failed miserably everywhere. 4:13 is their lowest ranking album on the charts since their debut album Three Imaginary Boys in 1978. The Cure could no longer top the pop charts, but they could still sell out stadiums, so on they went with their ‘4tour’.
- Their lowest ranking album?? That cannot be right. Despite being a complete failure, 4:13 Dream stands as one of my favourite Cure albums- featuring one of my all-time favourite songs ‘Underneath the stars’. I think the album is beautiful and the lengthy songs really do capture a sense of nostalgia.
4tour & Influence.
Since finishing up the ‘4tour’, the cure has not been active as a band. They have played a few shows and festivals here and there but there have been no new releases or news from them, until now. The cure announced at the end of 2021 that they would be returning for a global tour at the end of 2022 titled ‘The Twilight Sad Tour’. This even sold out within minutes (luckily enough I managed to bag myself some tickets). But who knows what this return will bring? There have been rumours of new music to be released and played on tour this year- maybe it will be the dark material that was stashed away in the making of 4:13 dream? Or maybe we will see some old unreleased material… Nobody knows what the Cure have in store besides the mad hatter himself, Robert Smith.
So, are The Cure original and inspiring? I think the obvious answer to that one is yes. Over the years that they have been creating and playing music, The Cure always stayed true to themselves, they worked tirelessly to sound like the Cure and no one else. Although arguably a lot of their earlier material was inspired by classic literature and popular songs, every song must derive from something inspirational- they took one thing and created something entirely new from it. And they continued to be unique and as true to themselves as they could possibly be. As for inspiring, they inspired hundreds of gothic, new wave, emo, and alternative bands; even big names we know and love such as My chemical romance, The smashing Pumpkins, Siouxie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Depeche Mode, New Order and many more. Not only that, but they have inspired me, since discovering them I have discovered myself, my style, and my taste in music- I am sure they have done the same for many of you cure fans reading this too. There is always an easy cure if you stay true to yourself.
Bill Tompkins on Getty Images – Robert Smith.
Rick Kern on Getty Images – Robert Smith Singing.
Suzanne Cordeiro on Getty Images – The Cure Drummer.
Roberto Ricciuti on Getty Images – The Cure In Glasgow.