I am of the age where I can recall the eighties from personal experience, rather than from the mis-slantings of other writers, listening to the hordes of recent regurgitations or from watching 24 Hour Party People. I came into the decade with the view that the punk movement was prematurely losing momentum, the new Thatcher government were muscling up to stamp on us and the future looked pretty bleak. Music can always provide the shroud to shelter under such adversity, but oh how it failed me then! To this day, I believe it to have been the weakest musical decade in history and without a few notable shining lights, would have been a complete write-off.
The Cure entered the eighties on the back of a debut album that had cut against the punk grain and created a stir of optimistic expectancy. It was nothing more than an underground movement at that stage, but the band went on to, not only become the most prolific and engaging act of the decade, but for this writer at least, the absolute finest rock n roll venture ever to capture my imagination, soul and passion. This then is the story of The Cure’s decade.
In spring 1980 ‘Seventeen Seconds’ was released, it was a mysterious, dark album, more subtle than the debut and a drop in pace. It became the perfect antidote to the developing ‘new romantic’ scene and could easily have alienated the growing fan base, but instead it merely extended it. Surprisingly, the single ‘A Forest’ provoked their first Top Of The Pops appearance.
Album number three was a natural extension this time and â€œFaithâ€ was released just a year later. The sound had matured though and was richer and more intense. An ever increasing fan base secured the band’s first top twenty entry. They embarked on the ‘Picture Tour’ and found themselves playing to packed houses. Still shrugging off commerciality, the band released just one single from the album then a fresh song, ‘Charlotte Sometimes’, in the autumn, neither of which bothered the top 40.
Enthusiasm undampened, they hit the studio again in early ’82 to create ‘Pornography’. Possibly the band’s darkest moment, evoking despair and a morbidness that amazingly drew supporters in closer. A cult was developing. The album went top ten and the single ‘The Hanging Garden’ shot to 34! However, the tour became a bridge too far for Simon Gallup and so he walked, and not the first member to do so in the band’s short history.
Whether this was a final straw breaking on Smith’s back is debatable, but what followed was a lifting of the darkness. An unprecedented attack on the singles market was just around the corner. ‘Let’s Go To Bed’ came as a shock, then ‘The Walk’ started to get extensive radio airplay and it hit the chart at number 12. The band were rising from the underground, so Smith followed up hard with ‘The Love Cats’ and top ten was penetrated at last. Packaged together as ‘Japanese Whispers’ at the tail end of 1983; the radical switch seemed to have been effective. New fans and old found an inevitable allegiance and waited with baited breath for the next masterstroke.
By now, Smith was operating more solo than ever before and whilst he utilised Lol Tolhurst and drew Porl Thompson back into the fold, essentially The Cure was now him. The result was 1984’s ‘The Top’ slightly less commercial than the previous two years, yet decidedly listenable with hints of pent up aggression. By the end of the tour that followed, Gallup was also back in tow and they were ready to take on the world. Boris Williams was drafted in on drums and Smith set about the next phase.
In July 1985 the band released the perfect three minute pop song, ‘Inbetween Days’, yet it was the album that followed that the fans craved. Along came ‘The Head On the Door’; a choice blend of pop, melody and depth. The first real dent was also made in the U.S., with the album popping up just inside Billboard’s top 60. Where to now? Why, a greatest hits collection of course! ‘Standing On A Beach’ was such and drew in all those who really hadn’t made their minds up – number four in the UK and top 50 in the US. A headline spot at Glastonbury followed and after seven years, everybody had heard of The Cure!
In 1986, Tim Pope captured the band live on video in ‘The Cure In Orange’. A superb piece of footage that was an immaculate portrayal of the band on stage, in the perfect setting of the ancient grounds of L’Orange.
For once, the line-up stuck together and in 1987 produced possibly their most complete recording. ‘Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me’was released as a double album. It was a kaleidoscopic work of genius. Opening with the rage and frenzy of ‘The Kiss’ and then folding away into the pure popdom of ‘Just. ‘Just Like Heaven’ remains one of Smith’s finest compositions and deserved far better than merely scraping the top 30 singles chart. Recorded jointly in Provence and Nevada, it was clearly Smith unleashing all that he had stored up, almost as if it were his final offering.
It was, however, merely time for a short break. Smith married childhood sweetheart Mary Poole and Tolhurst was finally ejected from the band for good. Smith returned to writing and decided that it was time to revisit the morose. Goth was riding high and had attached allegiance to earlier Cure works, so it was time for a refresher. ‘Disintegration’ was released in May 1989, deceptively preceded by the single ‘Lullaby’; it remains to this day their finest hour. Incorporating the widescreen majesty of ‘Pictures Of You’ and ‘Prayers For Rain’, the album possessed much of the depth not seen since ‘Pornography’. Yet now it was more mature and with real emotion. Is this what marriage is supposed to do to you?!
Ten years then, nine albums released and a band that rode the crest of every wave that followed them. The Cure are as an important British contribution to music as The Beatles, The Clash or Radiohead. and for one ageing fan at least, the most important band ever. I survived the eighties thanks to Bob (despite Maggie!).Thankfully ‘Friday I’m In Love’ came along in the nineties!