Photo: wikipedia

The Cure, Papp László Budapest Sportaréna, October 26, 2022

One goth band prescribed in case of musical ills

Even teenage-mania-inducing groups such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones thought that once they’d “made it” they’d have a year or two at the top and that would be it. But in many cases their talent proved to be more enduring and their fans to be less fickle than thought. Rock ‘n’ roll rolls on, to a degree, and only the grave has halted some. Case in point, The Cure.

The Cure, who formed in 1976, will be on a 46-date European tour taking in 22 countries this year that will include Hungary. The band played its first show in 1978, by which time the wild rocking pioneers of the 1950s, the pop and r’n’b sensations of the early 1960s and then the underground/progressive/psychedelic/glam scenes of the late 1960s-1970s were giving way to the anarchy of punk.

Punk was primitive but perfect for re-energising a modern music scene perceived to have grown stale and overblown in some quarters (mention no names – prog).  But punk needed gobbing, pogoing and safety pins to bolster its thrills. Only the best survived, and punk was swept away by the greater maturity of new wave, and this is where The Cure came in.

If the figures are right, by now The Cure has performed around 1500 shows and released 13 studio albums, several concert films, a few live albums, some soundtrack songs, more than 40 singles, a couple of box sets, a couple of books, a Greatest Hits thing, a handful of covers and various other stuff. They entered that credibility-questioned American institution the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.

There have been 13 members over the 40-plus years but the band is absolutely synonymous with co-founder Robert Smith, he of the bird’s nest hair, black outfits and smeared make-up. Smith is the one constant, the singer, the guitarist, the songwriter and the look. The ultimate goth. Who can fail to recognise him?

It all began in Crawley, Sussex, 1976 as Easy Cure, formed by Smith, singer and guitar, along with schoolmates Michael Dempsey on bass, Lol Tolhurst on drums and local guitar hero Porl Thompson. They began writing and demoing their own songs almost immediately, playing throughout 1977 in southern England to growing audiences.

In 1978 the “Easy” was dropped, as was Thompson, and the enthusiastic trio now known simply known as The Cure was signed to the new Fiction label. In May 1979 their debut album “Three Imaginary Boys” was released to acclaim, with “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Jumping Someone Else’s Train” extracted as singles.

The Cure toured extensively around the UK, though Dempsey left at the end of that year, being replaced by Simon Gallup on bass plus the addition of Matthieu Hartley on keyboards.

In early 1980 The Cure embarked on an exploration of the increasingly darker and tormented side of Smith’s songwriting. They emerged with the more minimalistic album “Seventeen Seconds”, which included their first bona-fide hit song, “A Forest”. The band’s music was a staple of the emerging gothic rock genre, and their popularity increased as the decade wore on, with songs such as “Just Like Heaven”, “Lovesong”, “Friday I’m in Love” and “Lullaby”.

The forthcoming European excursion will be their first major tour of the continent since 2016. It begins on October 6 in Riga, Latvia, and finishes with three dates at Ovo Arena Wembley, London, on December 13 via Ireland, France, Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway and Hungary. The latter will see them at Papp László Budapest Sportaréna on October 26.

The band now is Robert Smith (voice and guitars), Simon Gallup (bass), Jason Cooper (drums), Roger O’Donnell (keyboards) and Reeves Gabrels (guitars). Gabrels, an American, is a name we recognise as a David Bowie sideman, including being a member of the Bowie spin-off band Tin Machine. He has been in The Cure since 2012. Gallup, as we have seen, goes back to 1978 and is the second-longest-serving member of the band after Smith.

Smith is 63 years old, Gabrels is 65, Gallup is 61, Cooper is 55 and O’Donnell is 66. Does it matter? Rock music was a young man’s game, and perhaps it still is, but now some stalwarts have grown old. Who is replacing them?

The Cure is selling a Ukraine charity T-shirt in three variations all with a blue/yellow logo, and all net proceeds are going to UNHCR, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The band also contributed to a White Label Auction in aid of The BRIT Trust in May last year, when two of their test pressing LPs from 2020/2021, with one signed by Smith, sold for £2700. The band has apparently made frequent donations to Amnesty International.

Smith and Mary Poole have been together since a 14-year-old Robert asked her to be his partner for a school activity in drama class. They married in 1988 and have no children, with Smith telling the Guardian: “I’ve never regretted not having children. My mindset in that regard has been constant. I objected to being born, and I refuse to impose life on someone else. Living, it’s awful for me. I can’t on one hand argue the futility of life and the pointlessness of existence and have a family. It doesn’t sit comfortably.”

Despite this, staunch atheist Smith loves Christmas, and it is alleged that he and his wife spoil mercilessly each of their 25 nephews and nieces.

The Twilight Sad will support on all the tour dates. They are described as a Scottish post-punk/indie rock band, comprising James Graham, Andy MacFarlane, Johnny Docherty, Brendan Smith and Sebastien Schultz. The band are signed to Rock Action Records and have released five albums, as well as several EPs and singles.

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