History of The Cure - Pt 2

Text by Steve Sutherland

To all extents and purposes, The Cure were dissolved. Smith went camping in Wales, Tolhurst went to Spain and France and, on his return, announced he'd given up drumming in favour of learning keyboards. Parry panicked. Worried that all their work thus far was about to end in shambles, he convinced Smith it would be a smart idea to record a blatant pop single, something to lay the ghost of "Pornography", to alleviate the pressure of status the band had acquired and to confuse the f*** out of the fans who were beginning to blindly worship him. "Let's Go To Bed"/"Just One Kiss" was a deliberately trite act of musical vandalism and Smith immediately hayed it so much he tried unsuccessfully to get it released under the pseudynym Recur. Parry resisted, pointing out that anonymity would destroy the whole point of the exercise and Smith agreed on the proviso that, if it wasn't a hit, Parry would release him from his contract. Disowning it in a series of interviews, Smith was depressed that "Let's Go To Bed" betrayed the trust of the fans and, although the single stiffed and Parry reneged on his promise, the video by rookie Tim Pope was a classic of psychedelic humour, lampooning Tears For Fears and cementing a partnership that was to add another dimension to The Cure.

In November, The Banshees asked Smith to rejoin them, replacing John McGeoch who was suffering from nervous exhaustion. Sensing relief in relinquishing leadership, Smith agreed. Parry threatened to sue, Smith threatened to break his legs and, while Tolhurst produced And Also The Trees, Smith toured the Far East with The Banshees. Back in Britain in February 1983, Smith was approached by Nicholas Dixon, a young choreographer with the Royal Ballet, to write the music for "Les Enfants Terrible". Hesitant to commit himself, he tried out a Cure song, "Siamese Twins", on BBC2's "Riverside" with Tolhurst on drums, Severin on bass, and The Venomettes on strings. The dance sequence didn't really work and Smith shelved the project indefinitely.

Between March and May, Siouxsie and Budgie were busy recording as The Creatures so Severin and Smith took the opportunity to collaborate as The Glove, a manic psychedelic pastiche named after the murder mitten in The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine". Smith was reluctant to sing so Zoo dancer Jeanette Landray was drafted in to front what he referred to as "cultivated madness" and "a mental assault course". While they were ingesting all manner of chemicals and watching film after film on video, trying to recapture the after-images in the studio, The Cure, who didn't actually exist, were offered a spot on "The Oxford Roadshow". Smith swiftly rounded up Tolhurst, Andy Anderson from Brilliant on drums and Derek Thompson from SPK on bass and the makeshift band played "100 Years" and "Figurehead" from "Pornography", Smith so enthralled by singing again that he decided to resume recording as The Cure.

He plumped for another single, "The Walk", which was to be a hard track and, to that end, he recruited Steve Nye, who'd been responsible for Japan's exquisite "Tin Drum", as producer. For a while now, Smith had been writing down his dreams and they inspired his lyrics while Tim Pope's video was a masterpiece of disorientation. "I like Robert's lyrics because they're a spider's web", Pope said at the time. "They're made up of clues, they never present things in an obvious way. It's perfect for film-making because every phrase has a corresponding emphasis."

When "The Walk" was released in July, it happened to coincide with New Order's "Blue Monday", to which it bore an uncanny resemblance, but that didn't impede it from going Top 20, as much of a shock as a surprise to Smith who was simultaneously recording with The Banshees, appearing on "Riverside" with The Glove and assembling a Cure line-up to play The Elephant Fayre, a festival in St Germains, Cornwall. Phil Thornalley, who's been roped into play bass on "Top Of The Pops", agreed to stay, as did Andy Anderson, and, after two chaotic warm-ups in Bournemouth and Bath, The Cure headlined with a nostalgic set before undertaking a short American tour, arriving in France to record "Lovecats" in The Studio Des Dames, in Paris. Heavily inspired by Walt Disney's "Aristocats", the spiked cocktail swing was mixed at Genetic by a young engineer called Dave Allen and Pope's video, a threateningly out-of- control party in a house in Hampstead, was another gem. The story goes that Smith pretended he wanted to buy the property, conned the keys out of an estate agent, and the promo was made overnight, Tolhurst startling a passing rasta at some God forsaken hour of the morning, parading up and down the street in a cat suit.

In August, The Glove's first single, "Like An Animal", was released, inspired by an American newspaper story about a woman who became obsessed with dropping things on people's heads from a tower block window. September found Smith in Italy with The Banshees, making a video for their Mansonised version of The Beatles' "Dear Prudence" which became their biggest hit ever, reaching Number Three in the charts. They were in Israel when The Glove album, "Blue Sunshine", was released, named after the B-movie about a batch of acid that caused homicidal madness in those who'd taken it exactly a decade after their initial trips. A second Glove single, "Punish Me With Kisses", was released as The Banshees played The Royal Albert Hall, the shows filmed and finally released as a double album and video, both entitled "Nocturne".

In December "Japanese Whispers", a compilation of the three Cure fantasy singles - "Let's Go To Bed", "The Walk" and "Lovecats" plus their B-sides - was released and Smith took the opportunity to explain his attitude to the amount of hate mail he'd recently been receiving from long-time Cure fans who felt betrayed by the band's new-found success: "I really detest them," he said. "It's like we're their pet band and how dare I tamper with our mysterious image. I never asked for blind devotion. I resent it because they're trying to shrink me into a one-facetted person who's only allowed to produce one style of music." The Cure could be anything Smith wanted them to be now and, the more normal they were, the weirder it seemed.

Without knowing whether he was coming or going, Smith appeared on the Christmas "Top Of The Pops" with both The Banshees and The Cure and, by Spring 1984, he was attempting to make two albums simultaneously - The Banshees' "Hyaena", which was dragging on interminably and turning out less than he'd have liked, and "The Top", which, despite the patience of Dave Allen who'd been recruited to produce, was frustrating Smith because he simply didn't have the time to see his ideas through to fruition. Porl Thompson was asked to rejoin The Cure after adding some sax to the album which appeared to revel in Smith's identity crisis. "Trying to account for 'The Top' is like trying to account for somebody's dreams," I wrote at the time. "You add up all the reactions and reasons and there's still something missing."

With this inspired madness fresh on the market, Smith helped Tim Pope release a criminally neglected single called "I Want To Be A Tree" then travelled to Australia with The Banshees where the strain of overwork was beginning to take its toll. The creepy "Alice In Wonderland" - like "Caterpillar"/"Happy The Man" single was released in March, The Cure appearing cross-legged and wasted on "Top Of The Pops" while The Banshees' "Swimming Horses" and "Dazzle" singles were commercial failures by comparison - the cause of some tension as Smith joined Siouxsie for a European tour, taking time off to appear with The Cure on "The Oxford Roadshow" with Norman Fisher of The Umbrella on bass.

During April and May, The Cure took to the road with Phil Thornalley back on bass and the shows in Oxford and Hammersmith were recorded on the Manor Mobile. As the tour reached Europe, Smith was giving the most eccentric interviews anyone had read in eons, claiming he had a lamb on tour with him and other such inspired lies. With Andy Anderson freaking out more and more regularly and another Banshees tour on the horizon, Smith decided he couldn't cope and sent a doctor's certificate to Severin proving he was incapable of continuing to participate in both bands. He then took a holiday in Wales and the Lake District, breaking only to perform with The Cure on the "Rock Around The Clock" extravaganza at Glasgow Barrowlands.

While he was resting under medical orders, Smith took the time to review piles of old Cure tapes and, when the live "Concert" LP was released in October, the B-side of the cassette featured "Curiosity - Cure Anomalies 1977-84", his choice of past live cuts.

The band then took off to tour the far East and Andy Anderson finally flipped out in Japan, attacking other members of the tour party. Smith sacked him and The Cure arrived in America with an itinerary of gigs and no drummer. Phil Thornalley called Vince Ely, the original Psychedelic Furs drummer, and he filled in for 11 dates, learning the songs in soundcheck. But he had commitments to record advertising jingles so Thornalley contacted Boris Williams who he'd met working with Kim Wilde and The Thompson Twins.

The shows went well, Williams learning the set quickly and appreciating the incestuous humour within the band so, when they returned to Britain, he decided to take up Smith's offer to join permanently. Thornalley refused a similar offer though, preferring to pursue a solo career which left the way open for Smith to engineer a meeting with Gallup and heal old wounds.

Gallup had formed a band called Cry which mutated into Fools Dance and released a mini-LP called "Priesthole" but he'd been unhappy away from The Cure and jumped at the chance to rejoin as the band began recording the warped but accessible "The Head On The Door" LP with Dave Allen producing. Fuelled on booze, with drugs barred from the sessions, the recording went well although Tolhurst was beginning to get conspicuously too out of it for his own good and contributed little.

The first single released by this line-up, "In Between Days"/"The Exploding Boy" (a reference to Smith's penchant for putting on weight), was widely regarded as their finest for years and entered the Top 20 accompanied by a stunning Pope video which utilised a camera swinging drunkenly on a trapeze and, for some reason still unexplained to this day, a gaggle of fluorescent socks. "In Between Days" was about those times when you wake up and criminally waste the whole day but The Cure weren't having many of these as they toured Europe, conquering the rioting crowd in Athens who'd already stoned Boy George and releasing "The Head On The Door" in August to general acclaim. Smith considered it a compilation album of sorts, its atmosphere less dark and manic than "The Top". Luxuriating in lies, he gave the press many explanations for the title, the most likely of which was that it involved a childhood dream and a vague fear of decapitation and each song was given a characteristically flamboyant explanation in interviews.

Touring Britain under the unofficial title of Team Cure, decked out in American football jerseys offstage, The Cure climaxed with their first appearance at Wembley Arena as "Close To Me"/"A Man Inside My Mouth" continued their chart success, Rent Party's tipsy brass brilliantly complimented by Pope's video which managed to capture the spirit of Claustrophobia, hydrophobia and vertigo by taking place entirely inside a wardrobe perched perilously on the edge of a cliff.

The Cure returned to America in October, playing Radio City in New York and getting lost in a lift on the way to the encore while, back home, The Face published a front cover story in which Smith claimed to be an alcoholic. On November 19, they played Camden Palace in aid of MENCAP, part of the set broadcast live on BBC's "Whistle Test" and, with their contract with Polydor (Fiction are affiliated) about to expire, Smith decided it would be best to assemble a compilation album of Cure singles before some other bright spark within the company tried it and cocked it up.

"Standing On A Beach" was released in May 1986, accompanied by a video compilation, "Staring At The Sea", the titles two lines from "Killing An Arab", The Cure's first single. When it was released in America, the whole ludicrous racist issue was raised again and the album went to the shops with a disclaimer on the cover.

Smith remixed and partly re-recorded "Boys Don't Cry" and this time the single was the chart success he felt it always should have been, entering the Top 20 as the band headlined the Royal Albert Hall in one of a series of Soundwaves concerts in aid of Greenpeace.

Filmed by "Whistle Test" aboard the Orient Express on route to a gig in Verona that was cancelled by the city's fire chief, The Cure played a handful of European dates before headlining The Glastonbury CND Festival in June and setting off for America where the band made the papers because a fan stabbed himself repeatedly at their first gig in Los Angeles. Meanwhile MTV were broadcasting hourly bulletins on Smith's hair, which he'd brutally hacked from a spidery tangle into a crew cut. "I was tired of seeing so many people who looked like me," he said.

In August, The Cure toured Spain and France, their gig at the 8,000 capacity Roman amphitheatre in Orange, Provence, filmed by Tim Pope, his first full length feature. While he worked on editing the movie, the band retired to Miraval, a studio in a vineyard in Southern France, where they recorded a song a day, Smith experimenting with different vocal techniques and drinking so much wine it's reported the band got through 150 bottles in the first five days. Only Tolhurst capitulated under the influence of excess grape, returning home early but not before The Cure had appeared on "Champs Elysees", a French television programme, miming to "Boys Don't Cry" in make-up and frocks - a gesture to confuse all the French fans who'd turned up to the shows wearing gothic black.

In December the band decided to stay with Polydor and signed again via Fiction. Smith then travelled to Compass Point in the Bahamas with Dave Allen to mix the tracks, finishing in Brussels in January 1987 and moving on to Ireland, avoiding the UK for tax purposes. The rest joined him for rehearsals as the brassy, jaunty, gender-confused "Why Can't I Be You?"/ "A Japanese Dream" was released, accompanied by a daft Pope video of the band dressed in various weird costumes, dancing!

In March, The Cure toured South America for the first time. There were riots at the gigs in Buenos Aires and, on their return from Brazil, "Why Can't I Be You?" was in the chart, "The Cure In Orange" opened in selected cinemas in the UK to mixed reviews - many considered its unflinching, warts 'n' all emphasis on the gig boring - and the band performed their current single and "Catch" on the last ever episode of "The Tube" (they also performed "Hot Hot Hot" on the elongated Sunday version).

In April, "Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me" was released, an audaciously rich double album that spanned everything from out-and-out sitar, psychedelia to madcap funk, all slung together in a sleeve that featured Smith's blood red lipstick lips in such close-up, they resembled two butchered maggots under a microscope. "It's a remarkable mess," was the studied opinion of the press while Smith considered its diversity a product of plundering each phase of the band's illustrious past. No one could deny it - The Cure were out there on their own. They'd achieved mass popularity on Smith's own terms and it looked as if it would literally go anywhere from here.

In May, they played at The Golden Rose Of Montreux Rock Festival, just to take the piss out of Spandau Ballet and, in June, the inebriated love song, "Catch"/"Breathe" was released, charting well as the band headed for America, recruiting an old friend of Williams, ex-Psychedelic Furs' keyboards player Roger O'Donnell, to flesh out the live sound.

The lengthy tour took The Cure through Europe as "Just Like Heaven"/"Snow In Summer" was taken from "Kiss Me" as another successful single, and the band wound up at Wembley Arena in December, their autobiography, "10 Imaginary Years" published by Zomba in time for the Christmas market.

NINETEEN eighty eight was a time for recuperation and rethinking. The hilariously funky "Hot Hot Hot" was taken off "Kiss Me" and given a radical remix by Francois Kevorkian, released with "Hey You" and another version of "Hot" as a 12-inch single in February. In April, Strange Fruit released a Cure Peel session from 1978 comprising of "Killing An Arab", "Fire in Cairo", "10.15" and "Boys Don't Cry".

In August, Smith was in church, getting married to his sweetheart since schooldays, Mary Poole, and on TV, featured in the BBC series "That Was Then, This Is Now", recounting his personal view of the history of the band. In December, all the members reconvened with O'Donnell now officially on board and the rudiments of a new album were recorded, Dave Allen rescuing Smith's lyrics from a fire in one of the bedrooms attached to the studio. by the time it was finished in spring '89, it was evident, in the words of John Wilde, that the album made "a move back into the real world of loneliness, isolation, uncertainty, regret, failing love, faithlessness and the memory of bliss". Smith was examining his spiritual malaise again but this time there was a monumental aspect to the music, something uplifting that made a mockery of those who considered it a return to the querulous "Faith" or the savage "Pornography". It was also evident that Tolhurst's contribution to the band was too negligible to abide and, as he increasingly became the butt of band jokes, Smith sacked his founding partner before "Lullaby"/"Babble" was released in April. Complimented by a macabre video in which Smith was swallowed by a giant spider, the creepy-crawly phobic single went into the Top 10 and The Cure appeared on "Top Of The Pops", all close-ups banned because the director considered Smith's lipstick and heavy black eyeshadow too sinister for the kids! The "Disintegration" album was released in May to mostly confused reviews and The Prayer tour took the band across Europe and behind the Iron Curtain for the first time, climaxing with three nights at Wembley Arena, the third of which goes down as their finest night in living memory, the band playing for three and three quarter hours against an impressively desolate industrial backdrop strafed with strobes and lights courtesy of the crew who'd provided the visuals for Prince's recent Wembley extravaganza. The Cure then left on the QE2 (they won't fly anymore) to tour America's baseball stadiums, the "Lovesong"/"2 Late" single mounting the charts.

There are many rumours as to what happens next. Smith has said he won't tour again. Whether he means he won't tour with this line-up or he won't tour period is uncertain. He has also said that "Disintegration" feels like the last Cure LP, but he's said that before and many sceptics surmise he'll say it again. There have also been mentions of a solo LP - but, again, details are sketchy. This is the way Smith likes it and the way we like him - leaving the options open, waiting for the time when the next move will be a necessity so that, whatever it is, it'll feel and be right. No other band has achieved what The Cure has achieved in recent years - mass popularity solely on their own terms, without the slightest compromise. They are an inspiration to us all. As Smith insisted on closing "10 Imaginary Years", so this account must finish: NOT THE END.

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