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Members include Michael Dempsey (founding member, left band, 1979; reappeared on the 1986 "Boys Don't Cry" video), bass; Simon Gallup (founding member), guitar; Roger O'Donnell (joined band, 1987; left band, 1990; rejoined band, ca 1993), keyboards; Robert Smith (founding member), guitar, lead vocals; Perry Bamonte (joined band, 1991), keyboards, 1991-93, guitar, ca 1993~; Jason Cooper (joined band, ca 1992), drums; Laurence Tolhurst (founding member, left band, 1989), drums, keyboards. Former band members include Matthieu Hartley (joined band, 1979; left band, 1980) keyboards; Andy Anderson (joined band to replace Tolhurst on drums, early 1980s; left band, 1984), drums; Vince Ely (joined band for fall 1984 tour only), drums; Porl Thompson (founding member of the Easy Cure, 1977; rejoined band, 1983; left band, 1993), guitar; Phil Thornalley (joined band, 1983; left band, 1985), bass; Boris Williams (joined band, 1984; left band, 1992), drums; Addresses: Home--France. Record company--Elektra Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.
The late seventies punk movement gave birth to an array of British bands whose music changed the face and form of rock. Like the Sex Pistols and U2, it seemed unthinkable during those spirited times that the Cure would endure into the late nineties. Led by the uniquely styled and endlessly imitated Robert Smith, the phenomenally successful act has moved from punk to pop through ten studio releases, yet still manages to retain a distinct sound. Along the way, the Cure's fan scene has become a semi-cult onto itself, with legions of teenagers in both North America and Europe copying Smith's crimson mouth and souffle-like, jet-black coif.
The Cure formed around the nucleus of Smith, born in 1959, and two friends from his early years. Smith grew up outside London in a town called Crawley and had known Laurence "Lol" Tolhurst since childhood. As a teenager, Smith befriended Crawley's only other punk rocker, Simon Gallup, and the two often went in to London to catch live acts in the city's thriving punk scene. "The bands were so awful I really did think `If they're doing it, I can do it,'" recalled Smith in a Melody Maker interview with Simon Reynolds. He and Gallup formed a band they called the Easy Cure in 1977; its two other founding members were Tolhurst and Michael Dempsey. Still in school, the band talked their way into their first live performance by telling school authorities they were a jazz-fusion act, which they most certainly were not. "Everyone hated us and walked out," Smith recalled about that night in Melody Maker. Despite the initial aversion, they built up a fan base by playing in bars and clubs in and around London, and were eventually signed to Fiction Records, an offshoot of Polydor.
Now calling themselves simply The Cure, the band made their recording debut in the United Kingdom with 1979's Three Imaginary Boys; it was retitled in a slightly reworked form as Boys Don't Cry for its 1980 American debut; for its Stateside releases, the band would issue some of their early work on A&M, then move to Sire, and finally land on Elektra. "Wire-derived power pop" is how Rob Sheffield described the Cure's sound during this era in the Spin Alternative Record Guide. It was followed by a series of early eighties recordings that delved deeper into moodiness and near- minimalist sound at moments. According to Alternative Press's Dave Thompson, Faith, released in 1981, remains "the perfect Cure album." He termed it "a cathedral of dark sound." It appealed to disillusioned teenagers on both continents, and is considered at least somewhat responsible for launching the goth movement. Pornography, appearing the following year, is "the sound of a band tearing itself to pieces and taking everybody with them," according to Thompson, while Rolling Stone writer Michael Azerrad remembered it as "a monumentally depressing album that mentioned death in almost every song."
Such doom reversed itself with the single "Let's Go to Bed" in late 1982. It would become their breakthrough hit in the United States, winning over new legions of less depression-prone fans with its quirky, detached lyrics and upbeat hooks. Oddly, the track was only done as a joke by Smith and Tolhurst, who were trying to make a "disco" record. By 1983, Smith had become a rather semi-permanent member of Siouxsie and the Banshees, and would guest as a guitar player with the seminal British punk band--who also eventually took on a more pop persona--on several albums intermittently over the next dozen years. With 1984's The Top, the bridge between depressing post-punk and breezy eighties pop was somewhat unsuccessfully spanned--it took a beating in the British press and was virtually ignored in America, though "The Caterpillar" did receive airplay on fledgling modern rock stations. Rolling Stone's Azerrad noted that The Top--completed during a period of time when Gallup had left the band--is "generally regarded as a relative low point for the band."
The Cure's success in the United States was solidified, however, with their 1985 release, The Head on the Door, and the successful singles "In Between Days" and "Close to Me." The album's "zooming melodies," wrote Sheffield in the Spin Alternative Record Guide, "confirmed that Smith had pledged his troth to a new muse, one who was feeding him straight lines such as `I wish I'd stayed asleep today' and `Yesterday I got so old/It made me want to cry.'" An unlikely vehicle to introduce new legions of fans to their previous work appeared in 1986 with the singles collection Standing on a Beach. One track included from the band's first album was "Killing an Arab," a take on the Albert Camus novel The Stranger set in Algeria. Arab organizations took the song's title at face value and Standing on a Beach was pulled from record stores for a time that summer. The band, their label, and the anti-defamatory groups came to an agreement that subsequent copies would be sold with a disclaimer sticker on the record. "It was quite pathetic," Smith said of the debacle in the Rolling Stone interview with Azerrad. "I imagine Camus would have found it quite amusing."
In 1987 the band released a live concert film, The Cure in Orange, which had been shot in Roman amphitheater in France. It was directed by Tim Pope, who would create most of their videos until the mid-1990s. Resigning with the Fiction/Polydor label in England improved their bank accounts considerably, and they were able to complete their next record, the double LP Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, in the south of France at a studio with its own vineyards, as they had done with The Head on the Door. Fans of the band either embraced or wholeheartedly despised Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. "No, no, no," was Thompson's assessment in Alternative Press, but Melody Maker's Steve Sutherland called it "the Cure's richest, most exotic and most accessible album to date, a veritable treasure trove of experiments boldly attempted and beautifully performed." On it were definite pop songs such as the first single, "Why Can't I Be You"-- with Pope's lighthearted video showcasing the band in outlandish getups (Smith wore a giant bear suit) and offering somewhat of a milestone in alternative rock annals with footage of the Cure actually dancing. Another upbeat single, "Just Like Heaven," "is a song indie-rockers have been rewriting ever since," according to Sheffield in the Spin Alternative Record Guide. Yet Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me also offered several lovesick dirges and some arty lyrical forays, such as "How Beautiful You Are," which Smith penned after reading a short story by nineteenth-century French writer Charles Baudelaire.
Rumors had occasionally surfaced that the Cure were on the verge of disbanding, as they once again did following the release of the successful 1989 record Disintegration. Smith told Rolling Stone's Azerrad that it would be the group's last recording, and declared "nothing in the world will make me go out and tour again;" but Azerrad pointed out that such statements had been heard before from him and the band. However, they did fire longtime band member Tolhurst for his binge drinking, which had become increasingly disruptive; he was reportedly a terrible keyboard player, and Gallup explained to Azerrad that "it was fun to have him around, even though he didn't contribute much to the music. He was a part of the Cure." Tolhurst, however, sued, and in 1993 a court overturned his claim that he was entitled to more financial compensation for his longtime contribution.
Nevertheless, Disintegration was a phenomenal success--Azerrad contended that it "may be the Cure's best. It's a bleak record with no obvious singles"--and the band launched another serious world tour. By now, wrote Sheffield, "Smith settled into an enviable gig as a prophet of Shellyean isolation in one stadium after another, with a presold mass audience regarding itself as a cult." For their next studio effort, the band again returned to the double-LP format with Wish. It would be their first effort to reach the Number One spot on the British charts, and sold over a million copies in the U.S. as well with its mix of cheery pop tunes and morose paeans to love gone wrong. Two live releases from 1993, Paris and Show, would grow out of their Wish tour dates; though they posted unimpressive sales, fans continued their worship and imitation of the band. But Smith knew their appeal was greater than just the visible legions of teenagers at the shows. At one point, Polygram execs even commissioned a profile on the band's fan base, and were surprised to find that its scope was farther-ranging than morose teenagers. "The Cure are liked by some people I don't even like!" Smith told Reynolds in Melody Maker.
In decadent rock-star fashion, the band lived together for a year at Jane Seymour's manse in Bath, England, where they wrote two dozen songs for their 1996 release Wild Mood Swings. Fourteen of those made it onto the record, and despite the goth setting the songs evinced some expanded musical horizons. With far less gloomy moments than previous efforts, Wild Mood Swings dabbled in Mexican horns and percussion, a string section at one point, and even worked with an Indian orchestra. Sheffield reviewed the album for Details and gave it a mixed assessment, asserting it "whisks you off to a time zone where it's always the '80s."
Though the album failed to make a dent in the glut of alternative- rock releases that year, Wild Mood Swings nevertheless served to mark their longevity in the genre in a year that saw the reunion of the Sex Pistols, the return to the studio for Echo and the Bunnymen, and a release of cover songs of Joy Division. The Cure even had their own official Web site. Smith remained unmoved, however, by the rebirth of punk that year, as he told Alternative Press's Thompson--"If it were my choice, we would have ended ten years ago."
by Carol Brennan
The Cure's Career
Smith, Gallup, and Tolhurst founded the Easy Cure in 1977; Anderson had played in a band called Brilliant with Youth from Killing Joke; Ely was a member of the Psychedelic Furs; Williams once played with the Thompson Twins; O'Donnell played with both the Psychedelic Furs and the Thompson Twins; Bamonte was a former crew member for Cure tours.
- Selective Works
- Three Imaginary Boys, Fiction, 1979; released in the U.S. as Boys Don't Cry, 1980, Elektra, 1988.
- Seventeen Seconds, 1980, Elektra, 1988.
- Faith, 1981, Elektra, 1988.
- Pornography, A&M, 1982, Elektra, 1988.
- The Walk (EP), Sire, 1983.
- Japanese Whispers, Sire, 1983.
- The Top, Sire, 1984.
- Concert: Cure Live, Fiction, 1984.
- Concert and Curiosity, Fiction, 1984.
- The Head on the Door, Elektra, 1985.
- Standing on a Beach: The Singles, Elektra, 1986.
- Staring at the Sea: The Singles, Elektra, 1986.
- Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Elektra, 1987.
- The Peel Sessions, Strange Fruit, 1988.
- Disintegration, Elektra, 1989.
- Mixed Up, Elektra, 1990.
- Wish, Elektra, 1992.
- Show, Elektra, 1993.
- Paris, Elektra, 1993.
- Wild Mood Swings, Elektra, 1996.
April 21, 2004: The Cure signed with I Am/Geffen Records. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, April 21, 2004.
June 2005: Band members Roger O'Donnell and Perry Bamonte left the group after ten years. Source: Entertainment Weekly, June 10, 2005, p. 28.
- Spin Alternative Record Guide, edited by Eric Weisbard with Craig Marks, Vintage Books, 1995, pp. 100-101.
- Periodicals Alternative Press, June 1996, pp. 56-63.
- Billboard, March 30, 1996, p. 18; July 13, 1996, p. 87.
- Details, July 1996.
- Melody Maker, December 18, 1982, p. 18; May 24, 1986, p. 14; April 11, 1987, pp. 28-30; December 19, 1992.
- New York Times, May 26, 1996, sec. 2, p. 24.
- Rolling Stone, September 7, 1989, p. 47.
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