Robert Smith – circa 1983
“I’ve waited hours for this / I’ve made myself so sick” – ‘Close To Me’ (Robert Smith)
The little boy tosses uneasily in his bed. Beads of sweat break out on his forehead. He is ill. He knew this was going to happen. During the night, he experienced a nightmare. He saw his own detached head stuck to his bedroom door. It had happened before. Just as on those previous occasions, the dream is the herald of a bout of sickness. Now it is happening again and young Robert Smith is helpless to do anything about it.
Robert James Smith is born on 21 April 1959 in Blackpool, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom. He is the son of James Alexander ‘Alex’ Smith and Rita Mary Smith (nee Emmott). Robert’s parents are both musically inclined; his father sings and his mother plays piano. Robert is raised as a Catholic, but in later life he becomes an atheist. Robert Smith is the third of four children in his family. Robert’s siblings are: Richard (born on 12 July 1946), Margaret (born on 27 February 1950) and Janet (born on 30 August 1960). In December 1962, when Robert is 3 years old, he and his family move to Horley in Surrey, England. “When I came down south, I actually had quite a broad Northern accent,” claims Robert Smith. Young Robert attends St Francis Primary School where, as a 5 year old, he meets fellow future member of The Cure, Lol Tolhurst.
Laurence Andrew Tolhurst is born on 3 February 1959 in Horley, Surrey, England. ‘Lol’ is a common abbreviation for ‘Laurence’ in some parts of England. Lol Tolhurst is the son of William Tolhurst and Daphne Tolhurst. William Tolhurst was an engineer in the British Navy during World War Two. After the war, he becomes a mentally scarred and surly character inclined to over indulge in alcohol. ‘Sailor Bill’ bangs out sea shanties on the piano. Like Robert Smith, Lol Tolhurst is raised in a Catholic family. Lol is the fifth of six children in his family. He has three brothers – Roger, Nigel and John – and two sisters – Jane and Barbara. Lol Tolhurst bonds with Robert Smith when the two lads are thrown together at St Francis Primary School.
In March 1966 Alex Smith gets a job as the head of Upjohn Pharmaceuticals in Crawley, West Sussex. This necessitates the Smith family moving to Crawley, the town that will come to be known as the birthplace of The Cure. Robert Smith attends St Francis Junior School, the educational facility associated with St Francis Primary School, his former school.
Robert Smith’s parents introduce him to the music of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones – probably the two most popular rock groups of the time – when Robert is 6. It takes a more circuitous path for Robert to become interested in playing music. His younger sister, Janet, begins learning to play piano. According to Robert, Janet “was a piano prodigy, so sibling rivalry made me take up guitar because she couldn’t get her fingers around the [guitar] neck.” Robert starts taking guitar lessons when he is 9 but gives up formal tuition and instead learns to play by ear, absorbing the contents of his older brother Richard’s record collection. The first concert Robert Smith attends is a 1969 gig by Jimi Hendrix, the African-American guitar great who first broke through to popularity in the U.K.
Robert Smith moves on to Notre Dame Middle School (1970-1972). This is ‘an experimental school whose teaching methods are supposed to be revolutionary.’ Robert’s friend Lol Tolhurst also attends Notre Dame. Lol has made friends with another boy and introduces the kid to Robert Smith. This new acquaintance is Michael Dempsey who will also become a member of The Cure.
Michael Stephen Dempsey is born on 29 November 1958 in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia. (This region of Southern Africa is now known as Harare, Zimbabwe.) Despite his exotic birthplace, Michael is born to British parents, William and Nancy Dempsey. The family moves to Salfords in Surrey, England, in 1961. Michael Dempsey attends Salfords County School (1963-1970) before moving on to Notre Dame Middle School (1970-1972) where he meets Robert Smith and Lol Tolhurst.
The three boys – Robert Smith, Lol Tolhurst and Michael Dempsey – are drawn together by a mutual interest in music. In April 1972 the trio get together with a couple of other kids from their school and form a group called Obelisk. The line-up is: Marc Ceccagno (lead guitar), Michael ‘Mick’ Dempsey (guitar), Robert Smith (piano), Alan Hill (bass) and Lol Tolhurst (percussion). Obelisk performs their one and only gig at their school. Years later, Robert Smith recalls that the first album he bought was David Bowie’s ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ (1972), released in June. Lol Tolhurst points out that Bowie’s performance of ‘Starman’ – a track from that album – on British television show ‘Top of the Pops’ had a big effect on him too. At the end of 1972 Robert Smith receives his first guitar. In some accounts, the instrument is a hand-me-down from Robert’s elder brother; in other versions of the legend, Robert’s parents buy him an inexpensive guitar as a Christmas gift.
Robert Smith and his friends move on to St Wilfrid’s Comprehensive School in Crawley (1972-1977). In a drama class at this school, 14 year old Robert Smith meets Mary Theresa Poole (born on 3 October 1958), the love of his life. They begin dating in 1973. Mary is ‘the inspiration behind many of The Cure’s songs.’
When Robert Smith is 13 or 14 he get more serious about playing guitar. “The very first concert I ever went to on my own was actually [a show by Irish blues guitarist] Rory Gallagher [around 1973 or 1974],” says Smith. (Robert Smith went to a Jimi Hendrix concert in 1969 but since Robert was only 10 at that time, he probably went along with his 23 year old brother, Richard.) As a 14 year old, Robert Smith plays in The Crawley Goat Band with his older brother, Richard, and his younger sister, Janet. Robert still plays music with his school friends while at St Wilfrid’s. They are known as ‘The Group’ – for the simple reason that they are the only group at the school. The lads toy with the idea of calling themselves Brat’s Club, but instead they settle on Malice (January 1976-December 1976). In the early to mid-1970s Robert Smith is a big fan of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band but Robert and his mates get swept up in the excitement of punk rock (starting around 1975-1976). They admire The Sex Pistols and naming their group Malice fits in with the aggressive attitude of punk. Later punk/new wave acts like The Stranglers and Elvis Costello are also cited as influences. Malice starts out with the following members: Marc Ceccagno (lead guitar), Robert Smith (guitar), Michael Dempsey (bass), ‘Graham’ (drums) and ‘Graham’s brother’ (vocals). As the year of 1976 progresses, Malice undergoes a line-up reshuffle. The new configuration of the act is: Martin Creasy (vocals), Porl Thompson (guitar), Robert Smith (guitar), Michael Dempsey (bass) and Lol Tolhurst (drums). Martin Creasy was a journalist with the local newspaper ‘The Crawley Observer’ and has only a ‘brief tenure’ with Malice in December 1976. However, guitarist Porl Thompson is destined for a longer association with the band.
Porl Thompson is born Paul Stephen Thompson on 8 November 1957 in Surrey, England. How he came to use the variant forename of ‘Porl’ is unknown but it is probably an artistic affectation. Punk rock bands are fond of blatantly false names (such as The Sex Pistols’ singer Johnny Rotten) so Paul may have become ‘Porl’ in a similar fashion. Porl Thompson has a younger sister named Carole. Porl Thompson met Robert Smith’s younger sister, Janet, when they were both children. They begin dating during Porl’s stint with Malice.
Malice plays ‘only a few live shows’ in December 1976 before being reborn as a new band. In January 1977, Robert Smith (guitar), Porl Thompson (guitar), Michael Dempsey (bass) and Lol Tolhurst (drums) regroup as a band called Easy Cure. The new name is taken from the title of a song written by Tolhurst. Robert Smith points out, “When we started I wasn’t the singer. I was the drunk rhythm guitarist who wrote all these weird songs.” All the boys do some lead vocals at this point. This rather chaotic situation can’t continue indefinitely. In March 1977 they take on a new lead singer known as Gary X but he ‘came and went.’ In April 1977 Gary X is replaced by Peter O’Toole who stays for ‘several months.’
By this time, the members of Easy Cure (as the group is still known) are finishing up their school days. In 1977, Robert Smith is expelled (or maybe just suspended?) from St Winifred’s as an ‘undesirable influence.’ Smith spends eight or nine months on social security payments. Only bassist Michael Dempsey continues his education, attending Crawley College (1976-1978).
Easy Cure wins a talent competition in 1977 that is sponsored by the German record label, Hansa. Vocalist Peter O’Toole is on the demo recording the group prepares for Hansa but, by the time the group enters the recording studio in October 1977, O’Toole has left the group. Peter O’Toole goes to Israel to work on a kibbutz (a kind of communal farm). Guitarist Robert Smith steps up to take on lead vocal duties as well with Easy Cure. Although Easy Cure records some material for Hansa, they find themselves in dispute with the label. Apparently, Hansa would prefer them to record some cover versions but the group prefers to do original material. The disagreement cannot be resolved and so, consequently, the recording contract is dissolved in March 1978 without anything being released by Easy Cure.
A period of reassessment follows. Guitarist Porl Thompson is dropped from the line-up in May 1978. This is ‘because his lead guitar style is at odds with [group leader Robert] Smith’s growing preference for minimalist songwriting.’ Porl Thompson will return later in this story. The period 1976-1978 is only the first of three stints he has with The Cure. Unusual as that may sound, Thompson is not the only member of the group who will leave only to return later in the saga. The remaining trio – Robert Smith (vocals, guitar), Michael Dempsey (bass) and Lol Tolhurst (drums) – modify the group’s name from Easy Cure to The Cure. Reportedly, the change takes place ‘because Robert [Smith] thinks [Easy Cure] sounds too hippy/West Coast.’
A new demo recording by The Cure lands on the desk of Chris Parry of Polydor Records. Parry is impressed by the group. He is also in the process of creating a new small label of his own and he fancies signing The Cure to this new enterprise. The Cure even plays a part in coming up with a name for the new label. In September 1978 The Cure signs a recording contract with Fiction, and the label will be distributed by Polydor. Fiction’s boss, Chris Parry, becomes the ‘long-time Cure manager’, though – eventually – the group becomes virtually self-managed.
The music made by The Cure is hard to define. Over the years, their sound attracts the following labels: post-punk, gothic rock, psychedelic, alternative rock, dream pop and pop rock. All these tags are accurate enough for specific albums or singles, but not for an overall description. The Cure’s leader Robert Smith wearily testifies, “I’ve been everything – punk, goth, psychedelic, pop. It was really great showing that The Cure could make pop singles.” On another occasion, Smith says, “We’re not categorisable. I suppose we were post-punk when we came out, but in total it’s impossible…I just play Cure music, whatever that is.”
If there is a through line in The Cure’s sound it may be Robert Smith himself. His recognisable voice is a curious mix of posh English pronunciation and brattish yelping. Smith’s guitar playing is also off-kilter. “I’m not technically a good [guitar] player but at least I don’t sound like anyone else,” he points out. Although The Cure is not a one man show, Smith is right when he notes, “There have been very few virtuosos in the history of the group.”
The songwriting credits for The Cure vary over time. There are four main configurations for this credit: (1) The Cure (as a whole); (2) lyrics by Robert Smith and music by The Cure; (3) Robert Smith and Lol Tolhurst; and (4) Robert Smith. The most common of these is to credit the group as a whole, closely followed by the lyrics being attributed to Robert Smith and the music to the whole group. Without detracting from the contributions of the others in The Cure, it seems pretty clear that Smith is the band’s creative engine and leader.
The Cure’s songs are often inspired by the dreams of group leader Robert Smith. “People think it’s funny that I enjoy dreaming so much,” he says. “I just use it as a form of entertainment. It’s very private. I don’t see my dreams as separate. I mean, half the time I’m wandering around dreaming anyway.” Just as our dreams can be divided between wish-fulfilment (where everything goes right) and nightmares (where everything goes wrong), the music of The Cure is almost bipolar in its division. At different times, the group conveys soul-crushing despair and giddy happiness. Neither is an aberration. Both extremes have to be embraced to comprehend The Cure’s tapestry of sound.
‘Killing An Arab’ is the first single released by The Cure, the trio of Robert Smith (vocals, guitar), Michael Dempsey (bass) and Lol Tolhurst (drums). ‘Killing An Arab’ is issued on 21 December 1978 on the Small Wonder label. Although The Cure is signed to Fiction, that label’s distribution deal with Polydor is not finalised yet, so the single comes out on Small Wonder as a stopgap measure. ‘Killing An Arab’ is reissued by Fiction in February 1979. The song’s ‘provocative title leads to accusations of racism.’ In truth, the song is inspired by the novel ‘L’Etranger’ (‘The Stranger’) (1942) by Albert Camus. Over an appropriately Arabesque guitar line and simple yet effective bass and drums, Robert Smith sings, “Standing on the beach with a gun in my hand / Staring at the sea, staring at the sand / Staring down the barrel at the Arab on the ground / The sea is in my mouth but I hear no sound / I’m alive [a ringing guitar chord] / And I’m dead [clamped, flatline] / And the stranger / Killing an Arab.” The song gains some airplay in the U.S.A. but is often wilfully misconstrued. Its literary roots ignored, it is adopted as a xenophobic anthem for bigots with a grudge against those of Middle Eastern origin.
The Cure’s debut album, ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ (1979) (UK no. 44), is released on 8 May. Like almost all of The Cure’s albums, this disc is released on the Fiction label. ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ is produced by The Cure’s manager (and the boss of the Fiction label), Chris Parry. All the tracks are credited as group compositions. ‘Killing An Arab’ is not included on this disc. Perhaps the most famous song here is ’10:15 Saturday Night’, a minimalist excursion into darkness, kitchen sink drama and boredom. “I started out in The Cure reflecting things that I thought were important,” claims group leader Robert Smith. ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ receives ‘good reviews in the British music press’ and is probably the group’s most post-punk recording.
A new single, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ (AUS no. 99), is released on 15 June 1979. A more hook-laden effort, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ has vocalist Robert Smith yelping, “I would say I’m sorry if I thought that it would change your mind / But I know that this time I have said too much, been too unkind / I tried to laugh about it / Hiding the tears in my eyes / ‘Cos boys don’t cry.” His desperation escalating, Smith blurts out, “Misjudged your limit / Pushed you too far / Took you for granted, thought that you needed me more.”
From August to October 1979 The Cure goes on tour as the support act to punk/new wave band Siouxsie And The Banshees. During this tour, guitarist John McKay quits Siouxsie And The Banshees. The Cure’s Robert Smith pulls double duty; he fills in for McKay with the headliners as well as performing with The Cure. The last show on this tour – on 15 October 1979 at London’s Hammersmith Odeon – turns out to be bassist Michael Dempsey’s final show with The Cure.
A new Cure single, ‘Jumping Someone Else’s Train’, is released on 20 November 1979. This rattling tune is a broadside aimed at copycats. Bassist Michael Dempsey is still part of the band at this point and plays on ‘Jumping Someone Else’s Train’.
In December 1979 a one-off single is released by a side-project of The Cure. ‘I’m A Cult Hero’ is credited to an act called Cult Hero. The lead vocal is by Frankie Bell, a local postman. Backing him up are six musicians: the three members of The Cure – Robert Smith, Michael Dempsey (playing keyboards rather than bass) and Lol Tolhurst – plus former Cure member Porl Thompson (guitar) and two future Cure members, Simon Gallup (bass) and Matthieu Hartley (keyboards).
Bassist Michael Dempsey is ‘dumped’ from The Cure late in 1979 ‘because of his cold reception to material [group leader Robert] Smith has written for written for The [Cure’s] upcoming [second] album.’
Michael Dempsey goes on to join Scottish band The Associates (1979-1983). They also record for Fiction, the same label as The Cure. Dempsey plays on all The Associates’ singles from 1980 to 1983 as well as their albums ‘Fourth Drawer Down’ (1981) and ‘Sulk’ (1982) (UK no. 10). After The Associates break up, Michael Dempsey joins The Lotus Eaters (1983-1985) and appears on their album ‘No Sense Of Sin’ (1984).
Michael Dempsey is replaced as bassist in The Cure by Simon Gallup.
Simon Jonathon Gallup is born on 1 June 1960 in Surrey, England. Simon is the son of Bob and Peggy Gallup. He is the youngest of six children in the family. Simon’s elder siblings are Stuart, David, Duncan, Monica and Ric. The Gallup family moves to Horley, Surrey, in 1961. Simon attends Horley Infants and Junior Schools (1961-1971) and then Horley Balcombe Road Comprehensive (1971-1976). After finishing school, Simon Gallup works in a plastics factory (1976-1978). At the same time, he starts playing bass. “No one ever taught me how to play bass,” says Gallup who is a self-taught musician. Simon Gallup lists his influences as a bassist as being Pete Way (UFO), Paul Simonon (The Clash) and J.J. Burnel (The Stranglers). From 1976 to 1978 Simon Gallup is a member of local punk rock band Lockjaw. The line-up of that group is: Gary Bowe (vocals), Stuart Hinton (guitar), Simon Gallup (bass) and Martin Ordish (drums). Subsequently, Matthieu Hartley (keyboards) also joins Lockjaw. Two singles are released by Lockjaw; 1977’s ‘Radio Call Sign’ and 1978’s ‘Journalist Jive’. Both Simon Gallup and Matthieu Hartley move on to Magazine Spies (1979), sometimes called Mag/Spys (sounding like ‘magpies’). Mag/Spys contribute two songs to a 1979 single they split with a group called The Obtainers. The Mag/Spys tunes are ‘Lifeblood’ and ‘Bombs’. Gallup and Hartley both play on the Cult Hero single (a Cure side-project) in December 1979 before joining The Cure. Simon Gallup will come to be known as Robert Smith’s ‘right-hand man’ because he will be The Cure’s ‘second longest-serving member’ (after Smith).
Simon Gallup becomes romantically involved with Carole Joy Thompson. A former secretary, Carole contributes backing vocals to The Mag/Spys recordings. Carole Thompson is the younger sister of former Cure guitarist Porl Thompson. Simon and Carole eventually marry (circa 1982?) and have two children, Eden and Lilly. Simon and Carole’s son, Eden, adopts the stagename of Ed Vendetta and fronts the band Violet Vendetta (formed in 2004).
The Cure becomes a quartet with the addition of Matthieu Hartley (keyboards), who joins in 1979 around the same time as bassist Simon Gallup.
Matthieu Hartley is born on 4 February 1960 in Smallfield, England. Matthieu Hartley works with future Cure comrade Simon Gallup in Lockjaw (1977-1978), Magazine Spies (1979) and Cult Hero (1979).
‘Boys Don’t Cry’ (1980) (UK no. 71, AUS no. 60), released on 5 February, is an early compilation album created by The Cure’s American label, Elektra/Asylum. It’s basically ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ with an altered track listing to include the otherwise unaffiliated U.K. singles ‘Killing An Arab’, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and ‘Jumping Someone Else’s Train’. The album’s contents are all group compositions. The album is the work of a ‘post-punk power trio…all hummable hooks, choppy guitars and mopey vocals.’ It is also noted that ‘you wait for a guitar solo and get a club-footed bass line instead.’
The Cure’s second album, ‘Seventeen Seconds’ (1980) (UK no. 20, AUS no. 39), is released on 22 April. This disc is co-produced by Mike Hedges and The Cure’s leader Robert Smith. This is the first Cure album to feature new members Simon Gallup (bass) and Matthieu Hartley (keyboards). The lyrics for the songs on this album are credited to Robert Smith and the music is credited to The Cure. ‘Seventeen Seconds’ is the first of two consecutive Cure albums to display a new logo for the band with a ‘dropped C’, hanging lower than the surrounding back-slanting letters. This logo is the work of Ric Gallup, elder brother of bassist Simon Gallup. ‘Seventeen Seconds’ is recorded and mixed in seven days due to budgetary restraints. This disc is home to The Cure’s first song to make it to the U.K. singles chart, ‘A Forest’ (UK no. 31). Matthieu Hartley’s keyboard tones conjure up the oppressive greenery. A compelling, hypnotic, pulse-quickening thrust to the song frames Robert Smith’s exhortations of heading “Into the trees.” Lyricist Smith describes ‘A Forest’ as “really atmospheric” and says it represents “the archetypal Cure sound.” Robert Smith has said that the song is based on a dream he had as a child where he was lost in the woods, unable to escape…but he has also later denied that backstory. ‘A Forest’ becomes the most played Cure song, making nearly a thousand appearances in their live shows over the years. Perhaps the next most famous song on ‘Seventeen Seconds’ is ‘Play For Today’. In this track, Robert Smith’s vocal rushes blindly forward following the trail of his sinewy guitarwork and troubled by the overlaid keyboards of Matthieu Hartley and, especially, percussive effects that sound like distant firecrackers. ‘Seventeen Seconds’ is a ‘dark, minimalist album’ on which the group’s sound is more ‘experimental’ and in which they frequently ‘immerse themselves in slow, gloomy pieces.’ This is the first Cure album to be considered ‘gothic rock.’
The Cure begins their first world tour; it showcases ‘Seventeen Seconds’. However, after the Australian leg of the tour, keyboardist Matthieu Hartley quits the group. His departure is said to be ‘due to a difference of opinion with the other three members.’ Hartley says, “I realised that the group was heading towards suicidal, sombre music – the sort of thing that didn’t interest me at all.” Matthieu Hartley never returns to The Cure, but he does work with his long-time comrade bassist Simon Gallup again. More on that subject in due course. Without Matthieu Hartley, The Cure decides to carry on as a trio. This is The Cure’s best line-up: Robert Smith (vocals, guitar), Simon Gallup (bass) and Lol Tolhurst (drums).
‘Faith’ (1980) (UK no. 14, AUS no. 38) is released on 14 April. This album is co-produced by Mike Hedges (co-producer of The Cure’s previous album, ‘Seventeen Seconds’). However, instead of co-producing with The Cure’s group leader Robert Smith (as he did on ‘Seventeen Seconds’), the co-producer of this disc is listed as The Cure. Once again, the lyrics to these songs are penned by Robert Smith while the music is written by The Cure. ‘Faith’ includes The Cure’s finest song, ‘Primary’ (UK no. 43, AUS no. 94). This is a song about “the innocence of sleeping children” that claims, “The more we know / The less we show.” Simon Gallup’s chugging bass is accompanied by Robert Smith playing a six-string bass (as opposed to the standard four-string bass). There are no guitars or keyboards on ‘Primary’. Effects pedals are used to give Smith’s ‘lead’ bass a different sound. At the drumkit, Lol Tolhurst sounds like he is in a race to see who will be the first to reach the end of the song. The overall effect is akin to rushing through a tunnel at high speed and offers just as many thrills. ‘Primary’ was first played on the ‘Seventeen Seconds’ tour where it was sometimes introduced as ‘Cold Colours’. ‘Primary’ brings together many of The Cure’s characteristics – a childlike, dreamy atmosphere; a bracing chill; and minimal instrumentation – into a definitive package. ‘Other Voices’, the next best known track from ‘Faith’, is built on tribal drums and a thudding bass that thunders in the ears. ‘Other Voices’ is as sinister as a snake. The title track, ‘Faith’, is one of Robert Smith’s favourites. ‘Faith’ ‘furthers the dour mood’ from ‘Seventeen Seconds’. ‘Faith’ is considered ‘somewhat funereal but enchanting.’ “’Faith’ was the sound of extreme desolation because that’s how we felt at the time,” says group leader Robert Smith.
‘Carnage Visors’ is an animated film The Cure uses in place of an opening act on the band’s 1981 Picture tour. ‘Carnage Visors’ is directed by Ric Gallup, elder brother of Cure bassist Simon Gallup.
‘Happily Ever After’ (1981) is the title of a Cure compilation album put together by A & M Records in an attempt to crack the American market. Released in September, It fails to chart.
‘Charlotte Sometimes’ (UK no. 44) is a one-off single by The Cure released on 5 October 1981. Robert Smith contributes a yowling vocal to this dark as charcoal tune. Smith plays the keyboard parts on this song. ‘Charlotte Sometimes’ is co-produced by Mike Hedges and The Cure and written by the band.
‘Pornography’ (1982) (UK no. 8, AUS no. 39) is the lurid title of The Cure’s album released on 4 May. The album is co-produced by Phil Thornalley and The Cure. All the tracks on this set are credited as group compositions. The single taken from ‘Pornography’ is ‘The Hanging Garden’ (UK no. 34). The title may be inspired by one of the seven wonders of the ancient world (the hanging gardens of Babylon), but The Cure’s interpretation seems decidedly more ominous and nightmarish. Vocalist Robert Smith cocks an ear “as the animals scream” while the pounding drumbeats threaten to collapse into chaos. “It doesn’t matter if we all die,” are the opening words of ‘One Hundred Years’, the opening track on ‘Pornography’. Bassist Simon Gallup says of this era, “Nihilism took over…We sang, ‘It doesn’t matter if we all die,’ and that is exactly what we thought at the time.” Drummer Lol Tolhurst claims, “’Pornography’ is my favourite [of all The Cure’s albums].” Following ‘Seventeen Seconds’ and ‘Faith’, ‘Pornography’ is the ‘third and final album of an “oppressively dispirited” trio.’ “I was in a really depressed frame of mind between 1981 and 1982,” explains group leader Robert Smith. “I had two choices at the time, which were either completely giving in [committing suicide] or making a record of it and getting it out of me.” ‘Pornography’ is a doom-laden, introspective album.’
Following ‘Pornography’, The Cure undertakes the Fourteen Explicit Moments tour. It is on this trek that the band (in particular frontman Robert Smith) starts sporting ‘big towering hair and smeared lipstick on their faces.’ The smeared lipstick is ‘supposed to symbolise the violence of the new material.’ Robert Smith says, “I started wearing it because it made me feel more confident and more attractive. I’m completely featureless without it. But on stage I always used to lean my mouth on the mike [i.e. microphone] and shut my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see people. And at the end, I’d come off with lipstick smeared all over my face, so I thought I might as well go on like that and make it look intentional.” Coupled with his pale look – accented by chalk-white make-up, dark eyeliner and black clothes – and The Cure’s gloomy songs, Robert Smith is adopted by ‘goth subculture’ as it takes off. If he is ever accepting of that label, Smith grows increasingly ill at ease with it. “It’s so pitiful when ‘goth’ is still tagged onto the name [of] The Cure,” he snaps.
As the Fourteen Explicit Moments tour progresses, tensions arise. Part-time Cure roadie Gary Biddles sings at a Cure concert and turns it into a forum for abusing group leader Robert Smith and drummer Lol Tolhurst. Only bassist Simon Gallup is praised by Biddles. On 27 May 1982 in Strasbourg, France, Smith and Gallup get into a fist fight over a bar tab. ‘This results in Robert going home and not talking to Simon for over a year.’ Simon Gallup quits The Cure…though he will later return. Robert Smith admits he was, “undergoing a lot of mental stress…I was a pretty monstrous sort of person at the time.” For his part, Simon Gallup says, “It’s just basically that Robert and I are both really arrogant b*st*rds, and it got to such an extreme. I suppose you can’t have two egomaniacs in a band and Robert was sort of ‘the main man’.”
During his hiatus from The Cure, Simon Gallup plays with two other bands. The Cry (1983) consists of: Ian Huller (vocals), Stuart Curran (guitar), Matthieu Hartley (keyboards), Simon Gallup (bass) and Paul Thompson (drums). Stuart Curran previously worked with Gallup in the latter days of Mag/Spys. Matthieu Hartley previously worked with Gallup in Lockjaw, Mag/Spys and The Cure. Gallup, Curran and Hartley then go on to Fools Dance (1983-1985). They are joined by Gary Biddles (vocals), Pete Gardner (drums) and Ron Howe (saxophone). (This is the same Gary Biddles who was a roadie for The Cure and helped spark the conflict between Robert Smith and Simon Gallup.) Fools Dance issue two EPs: ‘Fools Dance’ and ‘They’ll Never Know’.
After Fools Dance, keyboardist Matthieu Hartley plays with ‘newer small bands in Brighton’ such as Icicle Thieves and then ‘power pop band’ Speak.
Meanwhile, Cure leader Robert Smith takes time out to play guitar live with Siouxsie And The Banshees again in November 1982.
After the tour to support the ‘Pornography’ album, The Cure’s drummer Lol Tolhurst reassesses his role within the group. He decides to switch from being a drummer to playing keyboards instead.
Without bassist Simon Gallup, The Cure is briefly reduced to the duo of Robert Smith and Lol Tolhurst.
‘Let’s Go To Bed’ (UK no. 44, US no. 109, AUS no. 15) is a one-off single by The Cure released on 15 November 1982. It is produced by the act’s manager Chris Parry (who produced their debut album back in 1979). On ‘Let’s Go To Bed’, Robert Smith provides the lead vocal, guitar and keyboards, former drummer Lol Tolhurst plays keyboards and Steve Goulding (of Graham Parker And The Rumour) makes a guest appearance on drums. The song is co-written by Smith and Tolhurst. Robert Smith wrote his part after returning from a month-long detox in England’s Lake District. Surprisingly, ‘Let’s Go To Bed’ is a ‘dance-tinged’ number. Following a funky introduction, Robert Smith pleads, “Let me take your hands / I’m shaking like milk.” The sexual politics build to the point where he says, “I don’t care if you don’t / And I don’t feel if you don’t / And I don’t want it if you don’t / (voice cracking) And I won’t say it if you don’t say it first!” In the lyrics, Smith follows this with the acknowledgment that, “It’s a stupid game.” Allegedly, ‘Let’s Go To Bed’ is a ‘sarcastic reflection on sexual imagery in pop songs.’
The Cure follows ‘Let’s Go To Bed’ with another one-off single. ‘The Walk’ (UK no. 12, AUS no. 34) is released on 27 January 1983. It is produced by Steve Nye. Like its predecessor, this single is co-written by Robert Smith and Lol Tolhurst. On ‘The Walk’ Smith is vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist while Tolhurst adds keyboards and a drum machine. ‘The Walk is weirder than ‘Let’s Go To Bed’, relying on squiggly synthesisers and oddly oriental chimes.
The Glove is a Cure side-project responsible for the album ‘Blue Sunshine’ (1983) released in August. This is a venture into psychedelic music. The members of this group are: Robert Smith (vocals, guitar), Martin McCarrick (keyboards), Steve Severin (bass) [from Siouxsie And The Banshees], Andy Anderson (drums) and Jeanette Landray (vocals) [the girlfriend of Budgie, the drummer of Siouxsie And The Banshees].
A third one-off single is next on the agenda for The Cure. Before that happens, two new members join the group in 1983 bringing them back to a quartet. The new members are Phil Thornalley (bass) and Andy Anderson (drums).
Philip Thornalley is born on 5 January 1960 in Worlington, Mildenhall, Suffolk, England. He previously acted as co-producer on The Cure’s most recent album, ‘Pornography’.
Andy Anderson is born Cliff Anderson on 30 January 1951 in West Ham, Essex, England. He is the ‘only member of The Cure of African descent.’ Andy Anderson has a brief stint with British space-rockers Hawkwind in 1983 but does not record with them. Anderson previously worked with Cure leader Robert Smith in The Glove.
‘The Lovecats’ (UK no. 7, AUS no. 6) is released on 18 October 1983. This is the first of four Cure singles to reach the U.K. top ten. ‘The Lovecats’ is written by Cure leader Robert Smith who co-produces the song with bassist Phil Thornalley and manager Chris Parry. This is a bizarrely catchy tune. “We should have each other to tea / We should have each other with cream,” Smith purrs. A jaunty melody “so wonderfully, wonderfully pretty” is put across with an upright double bass, a ragtime piano and a strummed guitar. Lol Tolhurst, The Cure’s keyboards-player (and former drummer), notes that after the ‘Pornography’ album, “People were surprised when it was followed with these three fun, joyous singles [i.e. ‘Let’s Go To Bed’, ‘The Walk’ and ‘The Lovecats’].” For those pining for a more bleak version of The Cure, there is a view that ‘The Lovecats’ is ‘an upbeat, highly danceable song about a lover’s suicide pact’ – though it’s hard to see the basis for the latter part of this observation.
Cure leader Robert Smith continues to work with Siouxsie And The Banshees appearing on their live album ‘Nocturne’ (1983) (UK no. 29) which is released on 25 November.
‘Japanese Whispers’ (1983) (UK no. 26, US no. 181, AUS no. 18), released on 12 December, is basically a compilation of the material from The Cure’s recent string of singles: ‘Let’s Go To Bed’, ‘The Walk’ and ‘The Lovecats’. The album was originally intended only for the Japanese market but the record company decides to release it worldwide.
‘The Top’ (1984) (UK no. 10, US no. 180, AUS no. 55) is the title of The Cure album released on 22 May. It is co-produced by David M. Allen, Chris Parry and The Cure. ‘The Top’ is considered to be psychedelic as Robert Smith’s experiments with that type of music in The Glove side-project bleed over into The Cure’s music. Smith describes ‘The Top’ as “the solo album I never made.” Seven of the ten songs on this disc are written by Smith (the other three are co-written by Smith and keyboardist Lol Tolhurst) and he plays nearly all the instruments – except drums which are the domain of Andy Anderson. The single from ‘The Top’ is ‘The Caterpillar’ (UK no. 14, AUS no. 51) (co-written by Smith and Tolhurst). On this song, Lol Tolhurst plays keyboards and Andy Anderson plays drums. This quirky song is made even more unusual by Smith scraping away at a violin. Vocals, guitar, bass and violin are handled by Robert Smith. Despite the single, ‘The Top’ is described as ‘a return to the bleak soundscapes of “Pornography”.’
Cure leader Robert Smith again joins Siouxsie And The Banshees for that group’s album ‘Hyaena’ (1984) (UK no. 15, US no. 157, AUS no. 98), issued on 8 June. However this is Smith’s last outing with Siouxsie And The Banshees.
When The Cure goes on tour to promote ‘The Top’, the quartet is joined by former Cure guitarist Porl Thompson who left the band before the start of their recording career. On his return in 1984, Thompson plays guitar, keyboards and saxophone with The Cure.
‘Concert: The Cure Live’ (1984) (UK no. 26, AUS no. 86) is released on 16 October. The Cure’s first live recording is taken from shows on 5 May 1984 at Oxford and 9-10 May 1984 at Hammersmith Odeon, London.
The tour for ‘The Top’ takes a toll on The Cure. Drummer Andy Anderson is fired in 1984 for ‘destroying a hotel room.’ His place is taken by Boris Williams.
Boris Williams is born Boris Peter Bransby on 24 April 1957 in Versailles, France. Boris Williams is one of seven children. He has two brothers (Michael and Morgan) and four sisters (Juliet, Caroline, Mira and Sarah). Before joining The Cure, Boris Williams plays drums in the touring backing groups for The Thompson Twins (1983-1984) and Kim Wilde. Williams dates Caroline Crawley, the vocalist for British group Shelleyan Orphan. The first gig Boris Williams plays with The Cure is on 7 November 1984 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A.
Bassist Phil Thornalley quits The Cure in 1985 ‘because of the stress of touring.’ He was with The Cure for eighteen months. Phil Thornalley resumes his work as a producer and songwriter. In later years, Phil Thornalley co-writes ‘Torn’ (UK no. 2, US no. 42, AUS no. 2), a 1991 hit for Australian singer Natalie Imbruglia and writes a trio of 2010 hits for Pixie Lott: ‘Mama Do’ (UK no. 1, AUS no. 55), ‘Boys And Girls’ (UK no. 1, AUS no. 67) and ‘Cry Me Out’ (UK no. 5).
Phil Thornalley’s departure leaves The Cure without a bassist. Roadie Gary Biddles brokers a peace between Cure leader Robert Smith and Thornalley’s predecessor as Cure bassist, Simon Gallup, paving the way for Gallup’s return to the group.
So the 1985 Cure line-up consists of: Robert Smith (vocals, guitar), Porl Thompson (guitar, keyboards, saxophone), Lol Tolhurst (keyboards), Simon Gallup (bass) and Boris Williams (drums). Around this time, Robert Smith increasingly acts just as a vocalist. Though he continues to play some guitar, with Porl Thompson back in the fold, Smith can leave the bulk of the guitarwork to Thompson. Smith’s bird’s nest hairdo expands to a sort of exploded mushroom of dark tendrils of hair, sprayed into place. His increasingly outré public image actually makes him a more effective frontman.
‘The Head On The Door’ (1985) (UK no. 7, US no. 59, AUS no. 6) is The Cure’s best album. It is released on 13 August. The disc is co-produced by David M. Allen and Robert Smith. All the songs on this album are written by Robert Smith. This is the first Cure album to be described as alternative rock. The cover for ‘The Head On The Door’ is the work of Parched Art – the combination of Andy Villa and Cure guitarist Porl Thompson. The strange, smeared image is a manipulated photo of Porl Thompson’s girlfriend Janet Smith – who is the younger sister of The Cure’s leader Robert Smith. The first single from ‘The Head On The Door’ is the ‘poppy and upbeat’ ‘In Between Days’ (UK no. 15, US no. 99, AUS no. 16). The song is a fast-paced blend of toy piano, throaty organ, rhythm guitar and explosive drums. “Yesterday I got so old / I felt like I could die / Yesterday I got so old / It made me want to cry,” howls Robert Smith in the lyrics, illustrating that, amidst its sugary rush, ‘In Between Days’ also deals with ‘themes of aging, loss and fear.’ “’In Between Days’ was the first hit that I was really proud of,” says its author, Robert Smith. “it was fresh and upbeat and full of life.” For those more accustomed to Smith as a gloomy goth, he retorts, “People think you’re like that all the time, but I don’t think that. I just usually write more when I’m depressed.” The album’s title – ‘The Head On The Door’ – is derived from a nightmare vision that plagued Robert Smith’s childhood. It is also referenced in the song ‘Close To Me’ (UK no. 24, AUS no. 57): “If only I was sure that the head on the door was a dream.” Lol Tolhurst picks out a plink-plonk keyboard sound. Flute-like keyboard trills build into bumptious horns. Tim Pope’s video for the song is also memorable, featuring the members of The Cure crammed together into what seems to be an over-sized steamer trunk…that falls over a cliff. The expansive ‘A Night Like This’ is more bleak, but still works as an example of pouty pop. The saxophone solo on ‘A Night Like This’ is played by Ron Howe – who worked with bassist Simon Gallup in Fools Dance. The album also offers stylistic variations like the oriental tones of ‘Kyoto Song’ and the flamenco-flavoured ‘The Blood’. ‘The Head On The Door’ is the ‘first big international success for the band.’ A big part of what makes this The Cure’s best album is that it ‘manages to bind together the optimistic and pessimistic aspects of the band’s music.’ This disc presents the most-balanced version of The Cure’s contradictory extremes.
‘Standing On A Beach’ (1986) (UK no. 4, US no. 48, AUS no. 13), released on 19 May, is a compilation of The Cure’s singles up to this point. The title is the first line from their first single, ‘Killing An Arab’. A version of ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ (UK no. 22, AUS no. 26) – with a new vocal and a new mix – makes it to the singles chart in 1986.
‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’ (1987) (UK no. 6, US no. 35, AUS no. 9) is a double album by The Cure released on 25 May. The album is co-produced by David M. Allen and Robert Smith. The lyrics for these songs are credited to Robert Smith while the music is the work of The Cure. The horny ‘Why Can’t I Be You’ (UK no. 21, US no. 54, AUS no. 16) appears to be an anthem for wannabe’s. Once past the thumping drums though, it seems the narrator is so passionate about his love that he actually wants to be the object of his own affections, to totally assume the identity of that person. The violin-laced ‘Catch’ (UK no. 27, AUS no. 77) is woozily romantic. “And I used to sometimes try to catch her / But I’d never even caught her name,” sings Robert Smith in the lyrics to ‘Catch’. ‘Just Like Heaven’ (UK no. 29, US no. 40, AUS no. 39) is spritely guitar pop with added keyboards. As a bonus, Robert Smith’s girlfriend Mary Poole can be glimpsed in the video for ‘Just Like Heaven’. ‘Hot, Hot, Hot!!!’ (UK no. 45, US no. 68) is a Cure-ish approximation of funk featuring a choked guitar and a trumpet solo. In the video for ‘Hot, Hot, Hot!!!’ Robert Smith sports short back ‘n’ sides but soon gives up this hairstyle in favour of his more familiar tangled and long locks. ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’ is a ‘musically eclectic double LP’ that is described as ‘adventurous, flamboyant and beautiful.’
During the European leg of the tour to promote ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’ keyboardist Lol Tolhurst’s ‘alcohol consumption interferes with his ability to perform’ on stage. To compensate for this, an additional member – Roger O’Donnell – is added to The Cure in 1987.
Roger O’Donnell is born on 29 October 1955 in East London, England. He comes from a musical family. Roger attends art school before becoming a professional musician. He is a keyboards player. Roger O’Donnell’s first paying gig is backing 1960s British psychedelic singer Arthur Brown in a show at Oxford Town Hall in 1976. O’Donnell joins fellow future Cure member drummer Boris Williams in the backing group for The Thompson Twins (1983-1985). Subsequently, Roger O’Donnell goes on to work with Berlin and then The Psychedelic Furs (1985-1987) – but only as a hired hand, not a fully-fledged official member of these bands. O’Donnell joins The Cure in 1987. On the subject of Cure leader Robert Smith, Roger O’Donnell says, “For about the first year I was in the band, I was scared of him. He’s a difficult person to know because he’s so quiet.”
Cure guitarist Porl Thompson marries Janet Smith in March 1988. She is the younger sister of Cure leader Robert Smith. Porl and Janet go on to have four children together.
Cure leader Robert Smith marries Mary Poole on 13 August 1988. Mary Poole worked as a model and as a nurse with intellectually disabled children. However she gave all that up when The Cure became financially secure. Robert and Mary are married in a private ceremony at Worth Abbey, Sussex. Cure bassist Simon Gallup is best man at the wedding. Robert Smith and Mary Poole purposefully decide not to have any children.
‘Disintegration’ (1989) (UK no. 3, US no. 12, AUS no. 9) is the title of The Cure album released on 2 May. This album is co-produced by David M. Allen and Robert Smith. The lyrics to these songs are by Robert Smith while the accompanying music is written collectively by The Cure. ‘Disintegration’ is a mixture of gothic rock and dream pop. The latter designation describes songs where atmosphere and texture are as important as melody. ‘Disintegration’ is the first Cure disc to earn that description but it sounds like it could have been applied to most of their albums back to ‘Seventeen Seconds’. ‘Lullaby’ (UK no. 5, US no. 74, AUS no. 28) is inspired by songs Robert Smith’s father sang him as a child, nursery rhymes with horrible endings. So this is a vaguely sinister song with nagging guitar lines. “On candy striped legs the spiderman comes,” exhales Smith with tangible dread. “The spiderman is coming to have me for dinner tonight,” the lyrics warn. When asked about his phobias, Robert Smith admits, “I hate spiders.” ‘Lullaby’ is The Cure’s most commercially successful British single. On ‘Fascination Street’ (US no. 46), a jagged guitar part battles Simon Gallup’s turbulent bass. ‘Lovesong’ (UK no. 18, US no. 2, AUS no. 82) is The Cure’s biggest American hit. It’s surprisingly straightforward and sincere – but it still rocks quite assertively and is not really a ballad. “Whenever I’m alone with you / You make me feel like I am home again…However far away / I will always love you,” sings Robert Smith on ‘Lovesong’. He wrote the piece as a wedding present for his new bride, Mary Poole. There is a romantic thread to ‘Pictures Of You’ (UK no. 24, US no. 71, AUS no. 89) as well: “I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you / That I almost believe that they are real.” It’s an atmospheric song with a spiralling guitar part. However, this is more focussed and less impressionistic than something like ‘A Forest’. It also has a bigger drum sound. During the recording of ‘Disintegration’, Robert Smith ‘became overwhelmed with dark thoughts.’ His struggle with depression was exacerbated by his use of the mind-altering drug LSD and reports of two teenagers from a nearby town who committed suicide while listening to The Cure. Although ‘more melancholy than its predecessor’, ‘Disintegration’ is said to be The Cure’s ‘most iconic, timeless, successful and inspirational album.’ ‘According to many depressive 1980s-minded kids, it’s the only album ever made.’ Not everyone sees it that way. Robert Smith recalls how The Cure’s American label, Elektra, complained about ‘Disintegration’: “They thought I was being ‘wilfully obscure’, which is an actual quote from the letter [they sent me].”
On 13 May 1989 The Cure’s keyboardist (and ex-drummer) Lol Tolhurst marries an American girl named Lydia. The couple go on to have a son together, Gray Andrew Tolhurst (born in 1991).
During the making of ‘Disintegration’, ‘some tensions surface, when [keyboardist Lol] Tolhurst is battling with alcohol and drugs.’ The rest of The Cure gives their leader Robert Smith an ultimatum: ‘Either Tolhurst would have to leave the band or they would.’ On ‘Disintegration’ Tolhurst is credited with ‘other instrument’ but he apparently didn’t play on the album at all. In 1989 Robert Smith resorts to firing Tolhurst for ‘breach of contract.’ The problem is that, although Lol Tolhurst is not contributing to the group, he doesn’t want to quit because, by the terms of the band’s recording contract, he is obligated to be paid for any work they produce as long as he is a member of the group, irrespective of how much (or how little) he contributes. Lol Tolhurst doesn’t take his dismissal well. In 1991 he institutes a lawsuit, suing Robert Smith and Fiction over royalties and claiming co-ownership of the name ‘The Cure’ with Robert Smith. After a lengthy battle, in September 1994 a ruling is made in favour of Smith, though reportedly ‘Robert takes no pleasure in defeating his old friend.’
Former Cure keyboardist Lol Tolhurst puts together a group called Presence. The line-up is: Gary Biddles (vocals) [former Cure roadie], Rob Steen (guitar), Lol Tolhurst (keyboards), Chris Youdell (keyboards), Roberto Soave (bass) and Alan Burgess (drums). They release only one album, ‘Inside’ (1993).
The marriage of former Cure keyboardist Lol Tolhurst and his wife Lydia dissolves in 1994. Tolhurst faces up to his alcohol problems and cleans up his act. He marries for a second time (in 2004?). Tolhurst’s new spouse is Cindy Levinson. “I now have a wonderful married life,” he proclaims. Lol and Cindy form a band called Levinhurst; the name being an amalgam of their surnames. The members of Levinhurst are: Cindy Levinson (vocals), Eric Bradley (guitar), Dayton Borders (guitar, keyboards) and Lol Tolhurst (keyboards, drums). Dayton Borders leaves the group after their first album. Former Cure bassist Michael Dempsey plays with Levinhurst from 2007. Levinhurst releases the following works: ‘Perfect Life’ (2004), an EP in 2006 called ‘The Grey’, ‘House By The Sea’ (2007), ‘Blue Star’ (2009) and the EP ‘Somewhere, Nothing Is Everything’ in 2014.
Former Cure member Lol Tolhurst writes the memoir ‘Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys’ (2016).
“For about three years, 1989 to 1992, I kept the pretence that I had this phobia [about flying],” explains Cure leader Robert Smith. “We did two American tours sailing over on the [ocean liner] ‘The QE2’, which was very civilised.” This is not Smith’s only eccentricity dating from this period. He also puts on a substantial amount of weight – which he never really sheds – earning the derisory nickname ‘Fat Bob’.
In May 1990 keyboards player Roger O’Donnell leaves The Cure for the first (but not the last) time. Cure leader Robert Smith offers this justification for Roger O’Donnell’s exit: “Very simply – [bassist] Simon [Gallup] and [drummer] Boris [Williams] didn’t really get on.” Roger O’Donnell will return to The Cure at a later date but, in the immediate future, the keyboards are handled by Perry Bamonte.
Perry Archangelo Bamonte is born on 3 September 1960 in London, England. He has an Anglo-Italian family background. Perry Bamonte has a sister named Carla and a younger brother named Daryl. His sibling Daryl will work as a tour manager for The Cure – and serve in the same capacity for British synth-pop band Depeche Mode. Perry Bamonte grows up in Basildon, England, and attends St Nicholas School. He first enters the orbit of The Cure as a guitar technician. When Roger O’Donnell leaves The Cure, Perry Bamonte is invited to take his place. The only problem is that Bamonte is familiar with guitars, not keyboards. It falls to Janet Thompson (wife of Cure guitarist Porl Thompson and younger sister of Cure leader Robert Smith) to teach Perry Bamonte to play piano. In practice, Bamonte also contributes some guitarwork to The Cure as well as keyboards. He can be distinguished from his comrades because Perry Bamonte is the only left-handed guitarist in The Cure.
The line-up of The Cure now assembled in 1990 is probably the most commercially successful incarnation of the band. The new membership is: Robert Smith (vocals, some guitar), Porl Thompson (guitar), Perry Bamonte (keyboards, guitar), Simon Gallup (bass) and Boris Williams (drums).
‘Entreat’ (1990) (UK no. 10, AUS no. 25), released on 11 September, is a live album by The Cure. It was recorded at Wembley Arena in London in July 1989. (Roger O’Donnell plays on ‘Entreat’ because it was recorded before his departure.)
As the title suggests, ‘Mixed-Up’ (1990) (UK no. 8, US no. 14, AUS no. 12) is an album of remixes of Cure songs. It is released on 5 November. ‘Never Enough’ (UK no. 13, US no. 72, AUS no. 22) is the only new song on this album. It is a claustrophobic piece, bursting with yammering guitars. “However much I push it down / It’s never enough,” moans Robert Smith despairingly. ‘Never Enough’ is written by four of the five members of The Cure – the exception being new boy Perry Bamonte. The track is co-produced by Robert Smith and Mark Saunders. A remixed version of the 1985 hit ‘Close To Me’ (UK no. 13, US no. 97, AUS no. 55) taken from ‘Mixed-Up’ also lands on the singles charts.
‘Assemblage’ (1991) is a twelve CD box set of The Cure’s works.
The Cure releases a new album, ‘Wish’ (1992) (UK no. 1, US no. 2, AUS no. 1), on 21 April. This is the fourth (and final) Cure album to be co-produced by the pairing of David M. Allen and Cure leader Robert Smith. All the songs on this set are credited as group compositions. ‘High’ (UK no. 8, US no. 42, AUS no. 5) is The Cure’s biggest Australian hit. ‘High’ appears to be a buoyant song about yearning for a lost love, its feathery guitars strummed on a lofty melody. “When I see you sky as I kite / As high as I might / I can’t get that high,” sings Robert Smith, the lyrics challenging linear sense and grammar but clearly connecting emotionally. ‘High’ is mesmeric, but ‘Friday I’m In Love’ (UK no. 6, US no. 18, AUS no. 39) is ‘simply’ irresistible pop. Vocalist Robert Smith counts his way through the bad days until everything goes right on Friday. This is a familiar, time-tested pop song device but the undeniable glee of the song helps make ‘Friday I’m In Love’ ‘one of the band’s most popular songs.’ ‘A Letter To Elise’ (UK no. 28, AUS no. 103) is a mid-paced authoritative pop/rock song. It’s an aching love song, broken, awkward and lovely. ‘Wish’ has ‘more of a dream pop direction,’ emphasising The Cure’s gift for atmospherics. It is their ‘most commercially successful album in the U.K. and came in at no. 1 on the U.S. Billboard chart’ [if not the standard U.S. albums chart].
“’Wish’ went to no. 1 around the world, so there wasn’t anywhere to go,” observes Cure leader Robert Smith. “I’m sort of worried about the fact that we’ve become quite popular in America.”
‘The Cure embarks on another international tour after the release of “Wish”.’ Two live albums come out of this tour. ‘Show’ (1993) (UK no. 29, US no. 42, AUS no. 16), released on 13 September, is recorded on 18-19 July 1992 at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit, Michigan. ‘Show’ is a double album in most territories but is released as a single disc in the U.S. ‘Paris’ (1993) (UK no. 56, US no. 118, AUS no. 72), released on 26 October, was recorded on 19-21 October 1992 at Le Zenith de Paris, France. ‘Show’ is more pop-oriented and features The Cure’s hits while ‘Paris’ plays host to a larger number of old cult favourites.
Around the same time in 1992 that the ‘Wish’ tour concludes, the marriage of Cure bassist Simon Gallup and Carole Thompson (sister of Cure guitarist Porl Thompson) ends in divorce.
The Cure undergoes a line-up reshuffle in 1994 as both guitarist Porl Thompson and drummer Boris Williams leave the group.
After leaving The Cure for a second time (he first left in 1978 but returned in 1984), guitarist Porl Thompson tours with Led Zeppelin alumni Robert Plant and Jimmy Page in 1995. Thompson guests with Babacar (circa 1998). This brings him together again with former Cure drummer Boris Williams.
In 2000 Porl Thompson’s marriage to Janet Smith (younger sister of Cure leader Robert Smith) comes to an end.
Former Cure guitarist Porl Thompson plays with a group called Quietly Torn. Then, in 2002, he backs Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant on tour. Porl Thompson will return for a third stint with The Cure.
Drummer Boris Williams plays his last gig with The Cure on 13 June 1993 at Finsbury Park in London, but does not officially leave the group until 1994. Boris Williams then forms a group called Babacar with his girlfriend Caroline Crawley as lead singer. Former Cure guitarist Porl Thompson guests with Babacar in 1998.
The Cure regroups following the departures of Porl Thompson and Boris Williams. Perry Bamonte, who has been playing keyboards and some guitar, switches exclusively to guitar in 1995, effectively taking Porl Thompson’s role in The Cure. Keyboardist Roger O’Donnell (who left in 1990) returns in 1995 to begin a second stint with The Cure. O’Donnell takes up the position vacated by Bamonte when the latter changes roles in the group. Finally, Boris Williams is replaced as drummer in 1995 by Jason Cooper.
Jason Toop Cooper is born on 31 January 1967 in London, England. Before joining The Cure, Jason Cooper is best known for his work with a band called My Life Story. Cooper is part of the original line-up of My Life Story in 1991. An unusual blend of pop group and chamber orchestra, My Life Story is fronted by singer-songwriter Jake Shillingford. The membership of My Life Story is otherwise subject to a lot of fluctuation.
‘Wild Mood Swings’ (1996) (UK no. 9, US no. 12, AUS no. 5) is the title of The Cure album released on 7 May. The disc is co-produced by Steve Lyon and Cure leader Robert Smith. All the tracks are credited as group compositions with the exception of ‘Club America’ which does not include returning keyboardist Roger O’Donnell among the authors. The first single from the album is ‘The 13th’ (UK no. 15, US no. 44, AUS no. 31). It features strange mariachi horns and a gentle sway. “Part of me thought it [‘The 13th’] was good because it was different and half of me thought it was totally ridiculous,” admits Robert Smith. The song’s title is nowhere to be found in the lyrics…and the same is true for ‘Mint Car’ (UK no. 31, US no. 58, AUS no. 100). This is a recklessly optimistic track. Though the sound is perhaps a bit thin, it may be that – as the lyrics put it – “It’s everything I wished.” By contrast, ‘Gone’ (UK no. 60) is big-bottomed and buzzing with a stumbling beat. Robert Smith urges, “Get up, get out and get gone.” ‘Strange Attraction’ (AUS no. 145) is jaunty and poppy but its keyboards are disjointed and it has odd percussions. Comically, a woman is quoted in the lyrics asking, “Can I use some of your lipstick?” One can only imagine the reaction of the lipstick-smeared Cure frontman. Robert Smith describes ‘Wild Mood Swings’ as being “like starting again…I think it’s a very underrated record…[and] one of the weirdest records we ever made.” On another occasion, he says, “For a period in the 1990s, I felt that The Cure was massively undervalued.” ‘Wild Mood Swings’ offers ‘exactly what it said on the tin’ and ‘marks the end of the band’s commercial peak.’
‘Galore’ (1997) (UK no. 37, US no. 32, AUS no. 45), released on 3 November, is a collection of The Cure’s latter day singles from the period 1987 to 1997. It includes one new song, ‘Wrong Number’ (UK no. 62, AUS no. 70). The song is written by Cure leader Robert Smith who also co-produces the track with Mark Saunders and Mark Plati. “Lime green, lime green and tangerine / Are the sickly sweet colours of the devil in my dreams,” chants Smith in this catchy song. ‘Wrong Number’ has a heavy techno mix and is digitally berserk. Robert Smith provides the lead vocal, guitar, bass and keyboards on this unusual song. The only other Cure member who plays on ‘Wrong Number’ is drummer Jason Cooper. However, there is one other musician on the song. Future Cure member guitarist Reeves Gabrels makes a guest appearance on ‘Wrong Number’ over a decade before he joins The Cure.
In December 1997 Cure bassist Simon Gallup marries his second wife, Sarah. Simon and Sarah go on to have two children together, Evangeline (or ‘Evie’) (born in 2000) and Ismay (born in 2007).
‘Bloodflowers’ (2000) (UK no. 14, US no. 16, AUS no. 11) is the imaginative title of The Cure album released on 15 February. This disc is co-produced by Paul Corkett and Cure leader Robert Smith. All the contents of this album are group compositions. No songs from ‘Bloodflowers’ are released as singles. This album reasserts the ‘more serious side of the band.’ ‘Bloodflowers’ is conceived as the final instalment in ‘a heavy goth trilogy’ stretching back through ‘Pornography’ (1982) and ‘Disintegration’ (1989). It was almost very final. “I had every intention of ‘Bloodflowers’ being the last Cure record,” asserts Robert Smith, though it doesn’t work out that way. Instead the group heads out on the nine-month long ‘Dream’ tour.
‘Greatest Hits’ (2001) (UK no. 33, US no. 58, AUS no. 27) is a Cure compilation issued on 12 November. This set includes two new songs, ‘Cut Here’ and ‘Just Say Yes’. ‘Cut Here’ (UK no. 54, AUS no. 83) is a group composition produced by The Cure’s leader Robert Smith. The song’s title, ‘Cut Here’, is an anagram of ‘The Cure’. ‘Cut Here’ is a fairly standard Cure-by-numbers effort, but no less satisfactory because of that. It is quite bass driven, reinforcing the always-existing resemblance between The Cure and their peers, New Order. ‘Cut Here’ is a tribute to Billy McKenzie, the former vocalist of The Associates (the group bassist Michael Dempsey joined after leaving The Cure). Billy McKenzie committed suicide on 22 January 1997 through an intentional overdose of pharmaceuticals. ‘Just Say Yes’ is also issued as a single – but only a promotional single, not for commercial sale. Early editions of ‘Greatest Hits’ come with a bonus disc of acoustic hits, new recordings of Cure hits from the past recast as quieter versions. Former Cure drummer Boris Williams plays on some of these acoustic versions but does not officially rejoin The Cure. ‘Greatest Hits’ is The Cure’s final release on the Fiction label.
On 15 May 2004 The Cure’s new drummer Jason Cooper marries his long-time girlfriend, Allison. They have a son, Arthur.
‘The Cure’ (2004) (UK no. 8, US no. 7, AUS no. 28), released on 28 June, is the band’s first album on their new label(s), I Am (in the U.K.) and Geffen (in the U.S.). This set is co-produced by Russ Robinson and The Cure’s leader, Robert Smith. The credits for this album assign the lyrics to Robert Smith and the music to The Cure. ‘The Cure’ is ‘partially designed to appeal to a younger audience familiar with The Cure through their influence on a new generation of bands.’ ‘The End Of The World’ (UK no. 25) is a rough and ready slice of existential angst and doomed love. “Tonight I’m so alive with you,” sings Robert Smith in ‘Taking Off’ (UK no. 39). This track features a heavily strummed guitar and blooms into a more expansive chorus. ‘alt.end’ (presumably an abbreviation for ‘Alternate Ending’) is relentless, filled with plunging guitar chords. “And I don’t want another go round – I don’t want to start again / No, I don’t want another go round – I want this to be the end,” sings Smith in ‘alt.end’. (‘alt-end’ does not chart.) ‘The Cure’ is ‘heavier but not necessarily harder’ than the previous full-length Cure album, ‘Bloodflowers’.
‘Join The Dots – B-Sides & Rarities 1978-2001 (The Fiction Years)’ (2004) (UK no. 98, US no. 106) is a four disc box set issues by The Cure’s old label on 26 November.
In May 2005 both guitarist Perry Bamonte and keyboardist Roger O’Donnell are sacked from The Cure.
Former Cure guitarist Perry Bamonte marries his girlfriend Donna in 2009. In 2012 Bamonte joins a band called Love Amongst Ruin and plays on their second album, ‘Lose Your Way’ (2015). Curiously, although he played both keyboards and guitar with The Cure, Perry Bamonte plays bass in Love Amongst Ruin. The group’s line-up is: Steve Hewitt (vocals, drums, bass, guitar, piano), Donald Ross Skinner (guitar, bass, keyboards), Steve Hove (guitar), Perry Bamonte (bass), Laurie Ross (cello, programming) and Beth Porter (cello).
Former Cure keyboardist Roger O’Donnell makes a solo album, ‘Truth In Me’ (2006). Although he has already done two stints in The Cure (1987-1990 and 1995-2005), Roger O’Donnell will return to the band later for a third stint.
For about a year, The Cure continues as a trio – Robert Smith (vocals, guitar), Simon Gallup (bass) and Jason Cooper (drums). Then, in June 2015, former Cure guitarist Porl Thompson joins The Cure for a third time.
‘Hypnagogic States’ is a five track EP of remixes of the singles from The Cure’s forthcoming new album. The EP is released on 13 September 2008 and fails to chart.
‘4:13 Dream’ (2008) (UK no. 33, US no. 16, AUS no. 30) appears just over a month later on 27 October. This album is co-produced by Keith Uddin and Cure leader Robert Smith. The songs on this disc are all credited as group compositions. Since ‘Wish’ (1992), The Cure has released an album every four years and this new effort is their thirteenth album of new material so, taken together, this ‘could explain’ why the album is titled ‘4:13 Dream’. This project was conceived as a double album, but only the lighter, poppier songs end up on the single disc that is actually released. The sound of ‘4:13 Dream’ is fairly stark and basic. All four of the singles lifted from this set are love songs, albeit fairly tough and twisted love songs. ‘The Only One’ (UK no. 48, AUS no. 80) is dark and emotionally messed up. “This is a freakshow,” spits vocalist Robert Smith on ‘Freakshow’ (UK no. 89, AUS no. 91) which – despite its title – is another love song, not a narrative about a sideshow attraction. Porl Thompson’s heavily processed guitarwork on ‘Freakshow’ makes for an intentionally distortion-riddled end product. On ‘Sleep When I’m Dead’ (UK no. 68, AUS no. 84), Thompson’s distorted guitar is pitted against the hooked lines of Robert Smith’s guitar. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead, you angels,” bids Smith over the sheer brute power of this song. In ‘The Perfect Boy’ (UK no. 78, AUS no. 91), Smith sings, “The two of us is all there is / The rest is just a dream,” before declaring, “The happy ever / After girl / Will never find / The perfect boy.” ‘4:13 Dream’ is ‘a commercial failure in the U.K. compared to the previous album releases…only staying in the charts two weeks.’ Robert Smith says, “I’m not going to worry about The Cure slipping down into the second division; it doesn’t bother me because I never expected to be in the first division anyway.”
Former Cure drummer and keyboardist Lol Tolhurst appears with The Cure on some dates of their 2011 ‘Reflections’ tour. This represents a welcome thaw in the relationship between founding members Lol Tolhurst and Robert Smith – though Lol Tolhurst does not rejoin the group. Guitarist Porl Thompson is not present for these shows but former Cure keyboardist Roger O’Donnell plays live with the group in May 2011. On 11 September 2011 it is announced that O’Donnell has officially signed up again as a member of The Cure for the third time.
‘Bestival Live 2011’ (2011) (UK no. 119, AUS no. 79) is a Cure concert recording issued on the Sunday Best label on 5 December. This double CD captures The Cure’s September 2011 performance at the Bestival Music Festival, a four day event staged in Dorset, England.
Guitarist Porl Thompson officially leaves The Cure for the third and final time on 1 May 2012. In 2013 he changes his name to Pearl Thompson. “It’s really all about starting afresh,” Thompson explains. “Friends have always called me Pearl and it really seemed to fit with my new path. I’m legally Pearl now. I think it’s good for your mind to say, ‘Right, that was then, this is now.’” The guitarist is ‘reclusive and private about his personal life and is primarily now dedicated to painting.’ On 13 November 2014 the former Cure member marries for a second time; his new spouse is Dali’esque Thompson.
Pearl Thompson’s place in The Cure is taken over by Reeves Gabrels in 2012.
Reeves Gabrels is born on 4 June 1956 on Staten Island, New York, New York, U.S.A. He is the son of Carl Winston Gabrels and Claire Gabrels. Carl Gabrels worked on tugboats; Claire Gabrels was a typist. Reeves Gabrels starts playing guitar when he is 13 years old. He attends the Parsons School of Design, then the School of Visual Arts (New York) before winding up at the Berklee College of Music (Boston). Reeves Gabrels leaves school in 1981 without a degree. Around 1987 he marries publicist Sara Terry, though they later divorce. Before joining The Cure, Reeves Gabrels is best known for playing guitar with David Bowie from 1987 to 1999. This includes a stint with Bowie in the group Tin Machine (1988-1992). This act releases the albums ‘Tin Machine’ (1989) (UK no. 3, US no. 28, AUS no. 42) and ‘Tin Machine II’ (1991) (UK no. 23, US no. 126). Their only top forty singles are ‘Under The God’ (UK no. 51, US no. 8) (from their first album) and ‘You Belong In Rock ‘N’ Roll’ (UK no. 33) (from their second). The other two members of Tin Machine are the brothers Tony Sales (bass) and Hunt Sales (drums). In the 1980s and early 1990s Reeves Gabrels plays guitar with the following bands: The Dark, Life On Earth, The Atom Said, Rubber Rodeo and The Bentmen. ‘Hard Row To Hoe’ (1993) is recorded by Modern Farmer, an act consisting of Jamie Rubin (vocals?), Reeves Gabrels (guitar), David Hull (bass) and Billy Beard (drums?). Reeves Gabrels then records his first solo album, ‘The Sacred Squall Of Now’ (1995). In 1997 he guests with The Cure on ‘Wrong Number’, a new track added to the compilation disc ‘Galore’. The Cure’s Robert Smith returns the favour, making a guest appearance on Gabrels’ second solo album, ‘Ulysses’ (2000). Reeves Gabrels issues two more solo albums, ‘live…late…loud’ (2002) and ‘Rockonica’ (2005). Reeves Gabrels plays live with The Cure on 26 May 2012 but doesn’t officially join them at first. However, by the time The Cure tours in summer 2012, he is a full-fledged member. For the side project ‘Reeves Gabrels & His Imaginary Friends’ (2015) the guitarist works with Kevin Hornback (bass) and Jeff Brown (drums).
Dreams often inspired The Cure’s leader Robert Smith. At times, songs such as ‘A Forest’ and ‘The Head On The Door’ are said to have drawn on Smith’s nocturnal visions. He has also claimed to use his dreams as entertainment and titled one Cure album ‘4:13 Dream’ (2008). ‘Dream pop’ is also a description attached to The Cure’s atmospheric sounds. Yet dreams can be both desirable and terrifying. Similarly, The Cure vacillated between joyful pop (‘In Between Days’, ‘Friday I’m In Love’) and macabre fantasies (‘The Hanging Garden’, ‘Lullaby’). Both extremes are just as true. During the early 1980s ‘the band’s increasingly dark and tormented music was a staple of the emerging gothic rock genre’ and saw group leader Robert Smith given the title ‘the Godfather of Goth.’ After 1982, ‘Smith was keen to move past the gloomy reputation his band had acquired…[A new] pop sensibility…[lead to] global success which lasted until the mid-1990s.’ It’s difficult to choose one ‘golden era’ of The Cure. Given their longevity and diversity, different periods appealed to different audiences. If one period must be singled out, then the 1980-1982 phase seems the best candidate. Though Robert Smith may have bristled at the goth tag in later days, his music of this period remains hugely influential and distinctive. “I don’t want to be remembered for anything in particular other than being in a pop group that was good,” said Robert Smith. The Cure were ‘charming pop cynics; college-age fans loved singer Robert Smith for the way he mated [authors Franz] Kafka with Sylvia Plath; absurdist, absurdly romantic gloom’. The Cure was ‘notorious for their slow, gloomy dirges and Smith’s ghoulish appearance. But the public image often hid the diversity of The Cure’s music.’
- wikipedia.org as at 25 April 2017
- Notable Names Database – nndb.com – as at 25 April 2017
- ‘New Musical Express’ (U.K. rock music newspaper) – ’27 Geeky Facts About The Cure’ by ‘NME’ (5 November 2014) on nme.com
- ‘Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys’ by Lol Tolhurst (Hachette U.K., 22 September 2016) via books.google.com.au
- ‘Guitar Player’ (U.S. magazine) – ‘Confessions of a Pop Mastermind’ – Robert Smith interview conducted by Joe Gore (September 1992) via 1 (above)
- Internet Movie Database – imdb.com – as at 3 May 2017
- brainyquote.com as at 1 May 2017
- ‘Musician’ (U.S. magazine) – ‘What’s the Big Idea? Robert Smith’s Conception of The Cure in 1989’ – interview conducted by J.D. Considine (1989) via 7 (above)
- ‘Q’ (U.K. rock magazine) – ‘Disintegration: A Classic Interview with Robert Smith of The Cure in 1989’ by Robert Sandall (May 1989) reproduced on the quietus.com (6 May 2010)
- ‘Music News – The Latest Music News and Gossip from Yahoo! Music U.K. & Ireland’ – Robert Smith quote (6 December 2006) via 1 (above)
- ‘The Hit’ (U.K. rock magazine) – ‘Robert Smith’s Critical Guide to Robert Smith’ – via ‘Cultural Studies Volume 7, Issue 3’ by Lawrence Grossberg (Routledge, October 1993) p. 470 via 1 (above)
- allmusic.com, ‘The Cure’ by Stephen Thomas Erlewine as at 1 May 2017
- ‘Spin’ (U.S. rock magazine) – ‘The Cure’s Robert Smith: “I Don’t Worry About my Epitaph” – A Classic Interview from the Vaults’ by Susan Compo (1993) via theguardian.com (21 August 2012)
- ‘The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time’ – ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (February 2004) p. 65, 71
- thecure76.tripod.com – ‘Simon Gallup’ – no author credited – as at 30 April 2017
- ‘Bass Player’ (U.S. magazine) – ‘Simon Gallup – A Cure for the Common Bass’ – interview conducted by Britt Strickland via 30 (below)
- discogs.com as at 29 April 2017 [for Lockjaw and Mag/Spys recordings]
- ‘Never Enough: The Story of The Cure’ by Jeff Apter (Omnibus Press, 2009) p. 116, 126, 161 via (1) above
- ‘The Guardian’ (U.K. newspaper) – ‘The Cure’s Robert Smith: “I’m Uncomfortable with Politicised Musicians”’ – interview conducted by Louis Pattison (10 September 2011) reproduced on theguardian.com
- ‘Standing On A Beach’ – Anonymous sleeve notes (Fiction Records, 1986) p. 3, 4
- metrolyrics.com as at 30 April 2017
- bigwheelmagazine.com – ‘Interview with Lol Tolhurst of The Cure’ – conducted by Louie Bones (19 November 2011)
- ‘Mojo’ (U.K. rock magazine) – ‘The Crack Up’ – Robert Smith interview conducted by Alex Petrides (August 2003) via 1 (above)
- ‘Stereogum’ – ‘Robert Smith: Not Goth, Has Writer’s Block’ – no author credited (12 June 2006) via 1 (above)
- ‘Spin’ (U.S. rock magazine) – ‘The Cure – Curioser and Curioser’ – Robert Smith interview conducted by Adam Sweeting (July 1987) via 1 (above)
- ‘Esquire’ (U.S. men’s magazine) – ‘Why The Cure’s Lol Tolhurst was Kicked out of – and Invited Back into – his Influential Band’ – Lol Tolhurst interview conducted by Maggie Serota (19 October 2016) reproduced on esquire.com
- ‘Stylus Magazine’ – ‘The Cure – The Top / The Head On The Door / Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’ – Robert Smith interview conducted by Thomas Inskeep (20 November 2006) via 1 (above)
- imaginaryboys.altervista.org – ‘The Holy Hour’ – Robert Smith interview (28 September 2014) via 1 (above)
- textura.org – ‘Ten Questions with Roger O’Donnell’ – no author credited (August 2007)
- picturesofyou.us as at 30 April 2017 [information about Jason Cooper’s son]
- contactmusic.com – ‘The Cure Star Legally Changes his Name as he Leaves the Music World for Art’ – Pearl Thompson interview conducted by ‘Wenn’ (5 March 2015)
- ‘The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll’, ‘Alternative Scenes: Britain’ by Ken Tucker (Plexus Publishing Limited,1992) p. 584
Song lyrics copyright Mushroom Music with the exceptions of: ‘Catch’ (Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group); ‘Lullaby’, ‘High’, ‘Mint Car’, ‘Strange Attraction’, ‘Wrong Number’, ‘Taking Off’, ‘alt.end’, ‘Sleep When I’m Dead’ (all Universal Music Publishing Group); and ‘Freakshow’ (Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group)
Last revised 21 May 2017