by Steve Sutherland of Melody Maker
They almost blew it before they began. In April 1977, a group of recent school leavers from the Crawley area saw an advert in Melody Maker - Hansa Records, Germany's largest independent label, were seeking new bands. "Wanna Be A Recording Star?" it said. Easy Cure did. In one form or another they'd already been Obelisk, a way out of religious education at Notre Dame Middle School, and Malice, a punkier thing at St. Wilfrid's Middle School. But Easy Cure were writing their own songs so guitarist Robert Smith gathered novice drummer Laurence Tolhurst, Michael Dempsey, a remarkably eloquent young bass player, Porl Thompson, a local superstar guitarist, and singer Peter O'Toole, a Bowie worshipper, into his parents dinning room. There they made a rough tape for Hansa.
Within a month they'd auditioned in London and signed for one thousand pounds which they immediately spent on equipment, enabling them to play their ram- shackle pop at local venues like The Rocket in Crawley, where the band began to pick up a vociferous following despite O'Toole quitting to join a kibbutz. Smith took over on vocals.
During October and November they made two trips to London's SAV studios to record their first demos, but Hansa hated them and pressurised the band to tackle some cover versions. Smith refused and Easy Cure were dropped in March the next year with nothing released. It seems Hansa couldn't stand the song the band wanted as their first single, a spiky precis of Camus' existentialist novel, "The Outsider". The song was called "Killing An Arab".
So the band were back in the ranks of the unemployed - broke, down-hearted but not defeated. Thompson left, at odds with Smith's more minimal style, and they continued as a trio, Dempsey working as a porter in a mental hospital while Tolhurst took a job in a chemical lab. Smith did nothing but dream of not working and, on a whim he changed the name of the band to The Cure because it sounded less hippy. In a matter of months, they managed to scrounge 50 quid off a friend to record four original tracks - "Boys Don't Cry", "Fire In Cairo", "It's Not You" and "10.15" - in Chestnut Studios in Sussex and they sent a tape to all the major record companies.
By July they'd been rejected by everyone except Chris Parry, an A&R man at Polydor who'd signed and produced The Jam and who'd been instrumental in signing Siouxsie And The Banshees. He was looking for bands to form his own Fiction label and heard something naggingly awkwardly commercial in The Cure's early efforts.
He met the band, liked their attitude, despite their dogged lack of dress sense, and signed them, putting them into Morgan Studios in September and sending them out on what he called "toughening up" gigs where they began to accrue a wider following despite being heaved off a Gen X tour after Tolhurst caught Billy Idol in flagrante with a young lady in the bogs. By December they were in the papers - NME called them, "an abrasive light metal trio" and "a triumph of impulse and spontaneity" while the Parry produced "Killing An Arab"/"10.15" was released on Small Wonder, an independent label chosen when it was evident that Polydor, through whom Fiction were licensed were too inflexible to market any Cure product before Christmas. The band were in effect, sublet for 15,000 copies which, if they sold, would make enough to finance a further 15,000 on Fiction.
In an almost unprecedented display of good taste, the music papers unanimously made it single of the week, praising its "Moorish flavoured guitar pattern" and salivating over Smith's fashionably bleak outlook - "I'm alive, I'm dead...". Sounds were the first to grant them a front cover in January 1979 noting their "direction through indirection" and the band gained further notoriety in February when the National Front turned up at a gig at The Nashville and caused a ruck, convinced "Killing An Arab" was a racist anthem. The Cure have been talking that one down in interviews ever since.
The single was featured on "20 Of A Different Kind", a cash-in Polydor compilation album of Post-Punk greats including 999, The Jam and The Skids (The Banshees, wisely, refused to donate "Hong Kong Garden") and a month's residency of Sunday night gigs at The Marquee preceded the release, in April, of "Three Imaginary Boys", The Cure's debut LP, it immediately caused controversy because there were no song titles, just symbols, and its cover featured nothing but a fridge, a hoover and a lampshade. The critics just didn't know what to make of it, NME's Paul Morley lambasting the band for what he considered half-cocked pretentiousness. "Here was a band without an image but with strong music," says Chris Parry, "so I thought, 'Let's make it completely without an image, completely dispassionate. Let's pick the three most mundane things we can possibly find'."
The Cure, who had no say in the cover, hated it, just as they loathed the album which they thought Parry and engineer Mike Hedges had made too varied and poppy, completely at odds with the darker intent behind their skeletal version of Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" and the spirit of boredom which found Smith reading a special offer for a cake icing and food decorating set off the back of a sugar packet for the lyrics to "So What".
While Melody Maker praised the album and claimed "The Eighties Start Here", the band toyed with the idea of releasing "Grinding Halt" as the next single but radio reaction to the white labels was negative so they settled for playing it on a Peel session and changing the words to parody Paul Morley's prose style.
In June, "Boys Don't Cry"/"Plastic Passion" was released as The Cure's second single but, despite ecstatic reviews - Record Mirror called it "John Lennon at 12 or 13" - its rousing romanticism failed to make the expected impact on the charts and Smith took time out to start a small label called Dance Fools Dance. His first release was "Yeah Yeah Yeah" by The Obtainers, two 11 year olds who banged pots and pans, with a band called The Magspies on the B-side featuring one of his mates, Simon Gallup, on bass. Gallup had been in Lockjaw and had played a lot of the same early venues as The Cure, releasing one wretched single on Raw Records: "Radio Call Sign"/"The Young Ones". When Smith decided to record Frank Bell, a local postman, he called Gallup in for the bass parts and "Cult Hero" was born.
In August, The Cure played the Reading Festival and Smith met Steve Severin of The Banshees at a Throbbing Gristle concert at the YMCA. The pair got on and The Cure were invited to support The Banshees on a national tour in September. Hours before the Aberdeen date, John McKay and Kenny Morris quit The Banshees, claiming their ideals had been betrayed, and The Cure were forced to play an elongated set, Sioux and Severin joining them at the end for an impromptu "Lord's Prayer".
The tour was interrupted as The Banshees sought replacements. Budgie joined on drums from The Slits but they couldn't find a suitable guitarist and Smith was asked to join. He agreed so long as The Cure remained the support band and they resumed on September 18 at Leicester De Montford Hall with Smith playing both sets.
Naturally, resentment at Smith's new superstar status began to course rifts within The Cure, Dempsey and Smith drawing further and further apart and, after the release of "Jumping Someone Else's Train" (a rampant anti-fashion tirade aimed at the nouveau mods) /"I'm Cold" (with Sioux on backing vocals), Dempsey left for Fiction labelmates The Associates, to be replaced immediately by Gallup who, crucially, shared Smith's passion for curries.
In order that he didn't feel too out of place, Magspies' keyboard player and part-time hairdresser, Matthieu Hartley, was also asked to join and the new fourpiece Cure made a chaotic debut at Liverpool's Eric's in November, playing until the end of the year with The Associates and The Passions on the Future Pastimes Tour.
The Cure spent early 1980 recording their second LP, "Seventeen Seconds", with Mike Hedges producing. Inspired by Bowie's "Low" and Nick Drake, Smith was after a morose, atmospheric, hollow album to suit the lyrics he'd written while on tour with The Banshees. As Cult Hero, The Cure supported The Passions at The Marquee in March, playing a Top 10 from 1973 which they'd taped off Jimmy Saville's Sunday radio show and, in April, Smith added backing vocals to The Associates' album and took part in a benefit gig at The Rainbow for Hugh Cornwell, The Stranglers' guitarist who'd been jailed for possession of illicit substances.
"A Forest"/"Another Journey By Train" was released from the album sessions and, although Julie Burchill accused them of, "trying to stretch a sketchy living out of moaning more meaningfully than man has ever moaned before", the moody dream-like single was a hit and The Cure appeared on "Top Of The Pops"; a disastrous debut during which the DJ forgot who they were. Smith sported a huge bandage on his thumb after getting drunk and smashing it under a hubcap trying to mend a puncture on a brief American tour they'd recently undertaken. The single immediately crashed back down the charts.
"Seventeen Seconds" was released in the spring, the band's photos blurred unrecognisably on the cover, the songs all sad or angry because, says Smith, "We were all realising that we were no longer young". Touring Europe, they were arrested in Holland, attacked in Germany and tear-gassed in France and, by the time the band reached New Zealand, they were jaded, Smith and Hartley particularly on edge with one another. "At the beginning," says Smith, "we were supposed to be a democracy but it was often me who took the decisions."
"I realised the group was heading towards suicidal, sombre music," says Hartley, "the sort of thing that didn't interest me at all."
The differences exploded into a furniture-wrecking fight in a hotel which made the Antipodean press and, when the band returned from 24 gruelling club dates down under, Hartley quit.
"From here on," says Parry, "it just got more and more intense. It was bad - no one was gonna get inside that triangle. That was Robert being as incestuous and tight and mean-spirited as I've ever seen him."
Hartley was right about the direction in which Smith was taking The Cure. "I used to think about death a lot," Smith says of that time. "I used to think how easy it was to consider it something abstract until it turns up on your doorstep."
He took to visiting churches, watching the congregation praying for eternity, by turns pitying and envying their blind belief in an afterlife. "All of a sudden, I realised I had no faith at all and I was scared," he says, and his confusion, along with the fact that Tolhurst's mother was terminally ill, determined that the album the band began to record in February was fraught with difficulties.
"Most of the songs are songs to hang yourself by," said producer Mike Hedges, while Parry considers it, "Superb, the most streamlined and stylish of albums".
"We laid down the tracks in a completely disinterested way, as if someone else was doing it," explains Smith, who was influenced by the hypnotic repetition of Benedictine chants and Indian mantras. "But, whenever I started to sing, the atmosphere went black."
In March the wistful "Primary"/"Descent" single was released in a cover by Porl Thompson's newly formed graphic design company, Parched Art, and The Cure appeared on "Top Of The Pops" with their instruments dressed in costumes as a comment on the idiocy of miming.
The "Faith" album came out in another Parched Art sleeve which much to the record company's disgust, featured a hazy photo of Bolton Abbey, a childhood haunt of Smith's. Almost universally lambastered by the critics - Record Mirror called it "Hollow, shallow, pretentious, self-important and bereft of any real heart and soul; hackneyed doom-mongering that should have died with Joy Division" - the album achieved exactly what Smith desired - a feeling of defeated inertia - and it was with no little horror that it gradually dawned on the band what a strain it would be to tour this melancholy.
"The songs had a downward spiral effect on us," says Smith. "The more we played them, the more despondent and desolate we became. Most of the time I left the stage crying."
The critics likened the Faith Tour to a religious ceremony and the sombre atmosphere was enhanced by using a minimalist film by Gallup's brother Ric instead of a support band. "Carnage Visors" - an antonym for rose- coloured spectacles - featured a drunken Cure soundtrack which was made available on the B-side of the cassette version of "Faith". Audiences were further baffled when the band took to touring Holland in a circus tent to try to break from the depressing gig circuit.
On June 24, during a gig in Sittard, Tolhurst learned that his mother had died. The band flew back to England and the tape of the show was played at her funeral. Deciding work was the best remedy for his grief, Tolhurst insisted the band continue touring and the consecutive American dates are widely regarded as The Cure's worst ever, the band succumbing to a numbing drug intake that found Smith arriving to play in Australia without a clue where he was.
The crowds were largely hostile to the "Faith" material, gigs often disintegrating into fights between the band and the audience, and it was with some relief that The Cure returned to Britain and recorded the schizophrenic "Charlotte Sometimes"/"Splintered In Her Head" single, again with Hedges producing. It didn't do well but it gave the band their first experience of video, Mike Mansfield - who'd been responsible for Adam And The Ants' mini-pantos - fashioning an hilariously inappropriate ghost story from Smith's psychological chiller.
In late November, The Cure toured Britain again before retiring to The Windmill in Surrey to demo an album that Smith was determined would be called "Pornography", an ugly, angry, aggressive swipe at moral hypocrisy. Many of the lyrics were conceived on chemical vacations in the company of Steve Severin and early in 1982, Smith decided to dissolve the partnership with Hedges and plumped for Phil Thornalley to produce the LP at RAK studios.
The recording was even more tempestuous than the "Faith" sessions, Smith incapable of explaining his ideas, excluding the group from his schemes, growing impatient with their good-natured larking about (they built a mountain of beer cans in the studio) as he dug deep to drag the essence of horror from inside himself. More often than not out of his head but still fighting for control, he was reaching for dangerous extremes, sleeping rough on the floor of the Fiction offices, pushing himself further and further.
"I couldn't remember what I'd done or where I'd been," he says, "I really lost touch with what was real for a couple of months."
When the album was released, Parry thought it "a mess" and the press recoiled with phrases such as "Ian Curtis, by comparison, was a bundle of laughs", "Phil Spector in hell" and "An icy, tuneless road". And if the Faith Tour was tricky, the Fourteen Explicit Moments Tour which began in April was a nightmare, the atmosphere so heavy that even Smith and Gallup, previously the best of friends, were at each other's throats.
"It was like a rerun of the worst movies you've ever seen," says Smith. "We were more like a rugby tour than a Cure tour."
Tempers finally snapped in Strasbourg on May 27 when Gallup thumped Smith in a club and, although they resumed after three days cooling off and the doomy "Hanging Garden"/"Killing An Arab (Live)" single was released, when the tour was over, Gallup was out.
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.