The Cure is a British rock band widely seen as one of the leading pioneers of the British alternative rock and post-punk scenes of the 1980s. A combination of lead singer Robert Smith’s iconic wild hair, smudged lipstick, and the frequently gloomy and introspective lyrics have led to the band being considered part of the gothic rock genre. Smith rejects this and other attempts to confine the band to a single genre, having said this, the band is considered by most to be post punk. They played the Live 8 show in Paris on July 2, 2005.
In 1976 Robert Smith, a 17-year-old student, formed the Easy Cure with classmates Michael Dempsey (bass), Laurence “Lol” Tolhurst (drums) and Porl Thompson (guitar) from St. Wilfrid’s Catholic Comprehensive School in Crawley, Sussex. They began writing their own songs almost immediately, and quickly amassed both an impressive repertoire of original material and a growing following.
In 1977, the Easy Cure auditioned for Hansa Records and received a recording contract worth £1000. A year later, following disagreements about the direction the group should take, the band, newly named The Cure, were signed as a trio (minus Porl Thompson) on former Polydor records scout Chris Parry’s new Fiction label (distributed by Polydor). The B-Side to the single, “Boys Don’t Cry”, “Do the Hansa” has been seen as a humorous slap in the face of Hansa Records by The Cure for not signing them.
The Cure released their first single, “Killing an Arab”, to 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’ story, The Stranger. The single was packaged with a sticker label that denied the racist connotations.
In 1979, The Cure released the album, Three Imaginary Boys, and embarked on an extensive period of touring, during which they performed with various other iconic bands such as Joy Division and Siouxsie and The Banshees, leading eventually to a side-project collaboration between Smith and Banshees’ member Steven Severin, released under the name, The Glove. One particular tour The Cure and The Banshees embarked upon together saw Smith pulling double duty each night by performing with The Cure and the Banshees (as their guitarist).
The next single, “Boys Don’t Cry”, was a minor hit in the U.S., and Three Imaginary Boys was repackaged for sale there as Boys Don't Cry. Member Michael Dempsey left the band, and Simon Gallup (bass) and Matthieu Hartley (keyboards) joined.
In 1980 the four-piece Cure released “Seventeen Seconds”, which reached number 20 on the UK charts. “A Forest” became the band’s first UK hit single. The Cure set out on their first world tour, at the end of which Matthieu Hartley left the band. In 1981 came the album Faith, which hit number fourteen on the UK charts, as well as an instrumental soundtrack for the film Carnage Visors (these were packaged together as a long-play cassette called Faith/Carnage Visors). Carnage Visors was used as a “tour support” film for their “Picture Tour”. The music from Carnage Visors had a very limited print run and has subsequently become very rare.
Now twenty-one, Smith “didn’t see that there was much point in continuing with life. In the next two years, I genuinely felt that I wasn’t going to be alive for much longer, and I tried pretty hard to make this feeling come true”. Smith’s increasing depression was embodied in the album, Faith, released in 1981.
The band members’ lives began to be marked by increasing drug use. In 1982 The Cure recorded Pornography, a bleak, nihilist offering that led to more rumors that Smith was suicidal. In spite, or perhaps because of the rumors, Pornography became the band’s first UK Top Ten album, hitting the charts at number nine. The release was followed by the “Fourteen Explicit Moments” tour, and by increasing problems among the members. After an altercation in a club between Smith and Simon Gallup, Gallup left the group and started another one called Fool’s Dance. Smith says that he “doesn’t even remember making a lot of Pornography”.
In 1983 The Cure released two more singles, “The Walk” (UK number twelve) and “The Lovecats”, which became the band’s first UK top ten single at number seven. The same year, Smith also recorded and toured with Siouxsie and the Banshees, contributing his writing and playing skills on their Hyaena and Nocturne albums, as well as recording the Blue Sunshine album with Steven Severin as The Glove. Reduced to the duo of Smith and Tolhurst, The Cure released four studio singles and their B-sides as the album, Japanese Whispers. The singles from this period were uncharacteristically upbeat and accessible, though Smith would soon return to writing more melancholy (if not as sombre) material.
In 1984 The Cure released The Top, an album on which Smith played all the instruments except the drums (played by Andy Anderson) and the saxophone (played by returnee Porl Thompson). The Cure then embarked on their “Top Tour” with Thompson, Anderson, and bassist Phil Thornalley on board. At the end of the tour, however, Anderson was fired and replaced by Boris Williams, and Thornalley was replaced by returnee Simon Gallup. Robert Smith later expressed his satisfaction with the reunited Cure, saying “we’re a band again”.
In 1985 the new lineup released The Head on the Door which reached number seven in the UK and number 59 on the American charts. Following this release and another world tour, the band released Standing on a Beach, a collection featuring all The Cure’s singles and B-sides. The album’s title was taken from a line in the song “Killing an Arab”. This release was accompanied by a video version called Staring at the Sea and by another tour, as well as a live concert film called The Cure in Orange.
Throughout 1986 Lol Tolhurst’s alcohol consumption was interfering with his ability to perform, and Psychedelic Furs’ keyboardist Roger O’Donnell was frequently called upon to stand in for him.
In 1987 The Cure released the double album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and embarked on the “Kissing Tour”.
In 1988 the band history, Ten Imaginary Years, was released, and Lol Tolhurst, though he had not yet officially left the band, was replaced by O’Donnell. In 1989 The Cure released the album, Disintegration, which became their highest-charting album to date at number three and featured four Top 20 singles (“Lullaby”, “Fascination Street”, “Pictures of You”, and “Lovesong”). Shortly before the release, Tolhurst left permanently, leaving Smith as the only remaining founding member. The Cure embarked on the “Prayer” tour. This tour featured some of the band’s longest ever shows; their final gig at Wembley Arena (announced By Robert as “probably our last show”) lasted over three and a half hours. Because Tolhurst was still on the payroll during the recording of Disintegration, he was credited on that album’s liner notes as playing “other instruments”, even though he didn't contribute at all to its recording or engineering.
In 1990 The Cure released a collection of remixes called Mixed Up, a collection which was roundly panned by both critics and fans (Smith says that he expected this, but decided to release the collection anyway). Mixed Up was followed in 1992 by Wish, which went straight to number one in the UK and to number two in the US. The Cure also embarked on the “Wish Tour” with Portsmouth’s Cranes (one of Smith’s favorite bands) and released the live albums Paris (1992) and Show (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. The EP has since become an extremely sought after item, copies exchanging hands for approaching £100. Porl Thompson (guitar) left the band once more during 1993 to play with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.
During 1994, Lol Tolhurst sued Robert Smith and Fiction Records over royalties payments, also claiming joint ownership of the name, “The Cure”, with Smith; after a long legal battle Tolhurst eventually lost. Boris Williams (drums) left the band, and was replaced by Jason Cooper (formerly with My Life Story), and Roger O’Donnell rejoined.
In 1996 The Cure released Wild Mood Swings, and in 1998 Smith appeared as himself on the animated TV show, South Park. The Cure also contributed to the soundtrack album for The X-Files: Fight the Future as well as a cover of Depeche Mode's “World in My Eyes” for the For the Masses tribute album.
The Grammy-nominated album, Bloodflowers, was released in 2000. This album was widely seen as the third in a trilogy including 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 they continued recording, and also headlined twelve major music festivals, in addition to playing several three-hour concerts during which they performed the albums Pornography, Disintegration and Bloodflowers in their entirety over shows on back-to-back nights at the Tempodrome in Berlin. These performances were released as the Trilogy DVD in 2003.
In the spring of 2003, The Cure signed to iam Records. In 2004 The Cure released a new four-disc boxed set on Fiction Records titled Join the Dots: B-Sides and Rarities, 1978-2001 (The Fiction Years). The set includes seventy Cure songs, some previously unreleased, and a 76-page full-color book of photographs, history and quotes, packaged in a hard cover. This album peaked at number 106 on the Billboard 200 album charts.
The Cure released their first eponymous album on iam records on June 28, 2004. To promote this album, the band headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on May 2. They also appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The album, The Cure, made a top ten debut on both sides of the Atlantic in July 2004 and debuted in the top 30 in Australia. The album also received a generally positive reaction with some critics rating it as the group’s best since Disintegration.
The group was awarded MTV Icon for 2004. The ceremony included performances of Cure songs by the groups AFI (Just Like Heaven), Blink 182 (A Letter to Elise), Razorlight (Boys Don’t Cry) and the Deftones (If Only Tonight We Could Sleep), and was hosted by Marilyn Manson. Smith subsequently included songs by AFI, Blink 182 and The Deftones in his setlist while presenting a special John Peel evening session on BBC Radio 1.
Inspired by Rhino Records’ series of Elvis Costello reissues, 2004-2005 has seen the reissue of Three Imaginary Boys (December 2, 2004), Faith, Seventeen Seconds and Pornography (April 26, 2005). Each comes with a second bonus disc of previously unreleased material, including home and studio demos, live performances and out-takes.
Together with Join the Dots, the four-disc set of B-sides, the amount of non-album material the band possesses appears to be rather high.
In May 2005, Smith fired O’Donnell and Bamonte, who reportedly were informed of such by a Cure fansite. However, in June 2005 it was announced that Porl Thompson would be returning for the band’s 2005 summer shows.