The Formation of the Cure (Part One): From Obelisk to Malice, and Easy Cure to The Cure-Crawley Memories and Memorabilia 40

The Formation of the Cure (Part One): From Obelisk to Malice, and Easy Cure to The Cure-Crawley Memories and Memorabilia

Robert Smith and Lol Tolhurst were the first punks in Crawley, a town just 22 miles South of London, but as Lol Tolhurst said in his memoir Cured, The Tale of Two imaginary Boys ” It might as well be another planet. Crawley is a town with endless rows of suburban bleakness …a place where slate grey sky hangs over everything…..A suburban swamp built around shops schools and factories.” “A bit harsh, but no hard feelings,” said the Sussex Word. Tolhurst’s memoir exquisitely explains how “Coming of age in Thatcher’s Britain in the late 70s and early 80s was really tough, especially if you lived in Crawley. But against the grinding austerity, social unrest and suburban boredom, the spark of rebellion that was punk set alight three young men who would become one of the most revered and successful bands of their generation.”…and we couldn’t agree more.

Crawley has been the home of several success stories, but none as internationally renowned as The Cure. Fellow Crawley successes including England football player and manager, Gareth Southgate, Comic Romesh Ranganathan, Olympian Daly Thompson and even Stuart ‘2-D’ Pot- The Gorillaz fictional lead singer (voiced by Daman Albarn) who says he is from Crawley and “He was educated at St Wilfred’s School, just like the Cure” according to the Gorrillaz site. Three members of The Feeling band and Jeremy Cunningham of The Levellers also attended St Winfred’s, not to mention Chico Slimani of ‘It’s Chico Time’ Fame who went to Hazelwick school in Crawley with Gareth Southgate.

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Robert Smith echoed Tolhurst’s feelings about his hometown in 1981 saying, “In fact it’s a cultural desert where we live (Crawley ) you go back there for two weeks and suffer so badly that you’re soon forced to go out and do something new.” On the other hand, Crawley is also a place of respite. In a Smash Hits interview in 1986 he said, “When I get back to Crawley and away from all the vices that London has to offer, it is a real rest. A couple of days there is like a fortnight’s holiday. If I stayed in London I think I’d soon go under.” Perhaps it was this environment that both propelled their creativity and made them so relatable to so many outsiders in similar towns across Britain and the globe. Many Cure fans are likely to feel the same about their own home towns, ‘stuck in the shadow of austerity.’ In fact, the late Terry Hall and Brett Anderson made similar comments in relation to their respective homes.

Cure Archivist, Darren Guy, shared these witty postcards from Crawley, written by Robert Smith, echoing his views.

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Crawley Boulevard
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A Postcard of Crawley Library

When GIITTV went to Crawley Museum recently to investigate images of their Cure exhibition from their 40th Anniversary Exhibition 2018, the staff and people of Crawley couldn’t have be nicer, reopening images of loaned items and memories especially for us to explore, four years after it took place.

Curator at the time, Andrea Dumbrell,  spoke of how supportive Tolhurst had been of the exhibition showing a tweet saying “Congratulations and thank you for  your Cure Exhibition. I know that Cure fans will be happy.”  Similarly when a call went out for Cure Memories from the people of Crawley ahead of the exhibition, scores of people came forward, with stories and memories, from Robert Smith’s next door neighbour, Wendy Paton who heard them play in a studio that Smith’s dad built in the garden when he was 15, to Peter Selby, who worked with Robert Smith’s dad in the Pharmaceutical Company in town and spoke to GIITTV about the time that an early incarnation of the Cure played at his works Christmas party and a Science Technician, Angela,  who found a cast of Robert Smith teeth in St Wilfred’s School Science Cupboard to which Tolhurst tweeted, “I had forgotten about the teeth.”

Some spoke of how their early school shows cost between 25 and 30 pence and how Lol Tolhurst’s brother had cleaned their windows. The singer of early Cure incarnation, Malice, shared his memories, together with a member of Animation, a band that appeared on Robert Smith’s early record label, Dance Fools Dance. The majority of the objects came from Darren Guy who had been collecting since he was a teenager and even saw The Cure supporting Siouxisie and the Banshees as well as having several letters written from Smith himself. The Cure became ‘imprinted’ when he was a teen he said, when ‘”the music matches your hormones” describing their music as, “the most heartbreakingly excellent rock the world has ever known.”

The cure Exhibitions Crawley
Cure Memorabilia from Archivist Darren Guy including a letter from Smith to Darren saying ” I don’t know what happens next yet” and a ticket from a Souxsie and the Banshees gig, where he first saw the Cure supporting.

The posters were contributed by Cure archivist John Sanders. Instigator of the exhibition and life long Cure fan, Renny Richardson said:

“I remember when I first heard The Cure. It was March 1979. A friend played me ‘Killing an Arab’ and introduced it to me with the words ‘they come from Crawley!’ The local music scene at that time had certainly never seen or heard anything like it. I was amazed. They played . Places like Crawley College and of course the Rocket and slowly but surely their following grew until they were touring the country and Europe just like a ‘proper group’.

Whenever they had an album out people would have listening parties. In those days it didn’t seem to matter where you were around the area you were quite likely to bump into The Cure. I’ve been in the Kings Head with Robert Smith and waited for a Chinese takeaway with Lol Tolhurst. I went to school with Simon Gallup at Balcombe Road Comprehensive in Horley . I’m sure it must have been the same for many other people.

As the band started to become more and more successful throughout the 80s tales of their adventures would find their way home. They were the talk of the town when out of nowhere they released ‘The Lovecats’ a crazy pop song that broke new ground for them and introduced the band to a whole new audience. They were headlining Glastonbury by the mid 80s. I remember seing them as a huge thunderstorm came rolling in. Very goth!”

Crawley are proud of some of their most cherished sons and in the 2018 Exhibition, people came from China, Poland, Japan, Mexico, France, Spain, Australia and Texas especially to a town affectionately known as ‘Creepy Crawley’ to see where the Cure had formed. Some came with suitcases, ready to fly back home from  Crawley to Gatwick to Japan after making their pilgrimage to the Cure’s home town after their  65,000 capacity Hyde Park 40th Anniversary  gig.

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Crawley Museum proudly sells Lol’s Cured The Tale of Two imaginary Boys book in its foyer because of its strong links with Crawley and the band’s early days.

After the success of 2018’s exhibition, Current Museum curator Holly Parsons has said that GIITTV’s Cure week was an opportunity to renew their plea for a more permanent Cure Collection in Crawley Museum. “We would LOVE to have a permanent Cure collection because so many people ask for it ” Please get in touch if anyone has anything that they wish to donate [email protected].

Renny Richardson agrees, saying “They at least deserve a Blue Plaque” If fans are petitioning for a Statue of Gareth Southgate in Crawley, we think that a permanent Cure Collection in Crawley Museum would be a very valuable addition to Crawley, a town whose name fits The Cure’s gothic energy derived from the Anglo Saxon meaning ‘crow’s leigh’, or crow’s wood

An early NME article on the band wrote that the Cure “are like a breath of fresh suburban air on the capital’s smog-ridden pub-and-club circuit”, and noted: “With a John Peel session and more extensive London gigging on their immediate agenda, it remains to be seen whether the Cure can retain their refreshing joie de vivre”  

It is this outsider energy that misfits across the globe could relate to universally. It is these roots that they seem to never have forgotten.  In interviews, Robert Smith still often speaks about how absurd he finds the concept of fame for fame’s sake. Smith often talks about how off stage he is very ordinary.  In fact Smith still lives in a different part of Sussex, the same county where he went to school, together with Roger Daltry, Keith Richards, David Gilmour, Paul McCartney and Fat Boy Slim, Royal Blood and Rag’n’Bone Man all of whom have made this county home. Other Cure members have chosen to make Sussex their long term home too.

Smith and Tolhurst’s views on the town in which he went to school seems to echo that of Brett Anderson of Suede who grew up later in a fellow Sussex Town in nearby Hayward’s Heath which he described as , “ A drab dreary little  train stop.” In his memoir Coal Black Mornings he described his house as “poky and claustrophobic”….in a town where he wrote “Nothing ever really happens and nothing ever really will.” 

Whist reading his memoirs in Brighton, he described  how it was his wish to get out of there that propelled his creativity, giving them something to kick against and the almost physical urge to create and move. And our musical experience as a society is all the better for it and it is these feelings that so many people across the world can relate to, just like the sentiments expressed by members of The Cure.

Tolhurst describes how, like many teenagers, he was lonely and isolated in the holidays as he lived in Horley and went to school in the nearest Catholic School in Crawley 5.3 miles away. Lots of us across the globe can relate to finding solace, companionship and transcendence in music. Tolhurst magically says, ” in the summer of 1970 I obtained the keys to unlock the prison of my perpetual boredom” speaking of the library where he was taking home as many as 9 LPs a week, saying “I spent the summer listening to blues, folk anything I could get my hands on.” He also spoke of how he got a job in the local newsagents delivering papers and “The crème de la crème of jobs was the marking up of the papers..It meant I could stay dry …and had access to …the music papers; ” New Musical Express, Sounds and Melody Maker…..I shared stories with my friends specifically Michael (Dempsey) and Robert (Smith)”

He speaks about the 70s where the predominant genres were either “disco or horribly overgrown progressive rock” none of which resonated with them. He said that David Bowie‘s performance of ‘Starman‘ on the Top of the Pops TV show in 1972 “made such an impression on my teen self that he became an influence on my whole psyche. I’m pretty certain that he had the same effect on Robert….When Bowie sang ” I had to phone someone so I picked on you” ….I know he was singing that line to me and everyone like me . It was a call to arms that put me on the path that I would soon follow.

In a cultural desert so familiar to so many music can be such a welcome escape.

Although they were on the outskirts of the capital city punk came to them, with bands like The Jam, The Clash and The Stranglers visiting Crawley so they were able to keep their finger on the pulse that way. Tolhurst said, “Robert and I went to every gig We paid very close attention to not only to the way these bands sounded, but to the way they looked as well..what made the biggest impression was their attitude and we were quick to copy it.” Even now Tolhurst describes their sounds as Psychedelic Punk in his podcast, ‘Curious Creatures’. You can hear this punk influence in their Easy Cure incarnation at the Rocket Crawley on 4th December 1977-

Just before The Cure’s 40th Anniversary Exhibition in 2018 the Curator of Crawley Museum Andrea Dumbrell put a call out to the local people in the Sussex World saying:

“Can you help Crawley Museum celebrate The Cure? Perhaps you went to St Francis of Assisi  Primary School with Lol and Robert Smith, or Notre Dame(Middle)  School, where they met Michael Dempsey.”

“Were you at St Wilfrid’s School with them when they performed their first gig in December 1976 under the name Malice? Or were you part of the Wasps (Three Bridges) football team in 1975, for whom Robert Smith was a rather useful winger?”     

Luckily the community were very keen to come forward with memories…of their earliest gigs and rehearsals and even of Robert Smith as a young football player. As Tolhurst said of Smith “On one hand Robert is the dark brooding Melancholic sort…He’s also quite normal., someone who enjoys sitting down with a pint and watching football.” In the image below you can see the 15 Year old Smith ( top left lining up with The Wasps Football Team (Three Bridges)). The team line-up was taken in March of that year before Wasps were beaten 3-2 by Shoreham in the Sussex Minor Cup.  Those who were there said that the Wasps put up a good fight, with the report saying: “the devastating wing play of Robert Smith kept Shoreham under constant pressure.”

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15 Year old Robert Smith Lining up with The Wasps Football Team (Three Bridges) Top left
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Robert Smith( 1971 playing for Gratton Park Rangers, Pound Hill, bottom row-second from the right

Lol said that “ In my mind the Cure began in 1964″ speaking of how he and Robert got on the school bus together. In an interview with the Crawley Observer in 2008, Lol spoke about first meeting Robert when they were five years old.

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Scan of Lol Tolhurst from Ten Imaginary Years by Smith, Southerland and Barbarian

He said: “I grew up in Horley, but went to school in Crawley as my mother wanted me to go to a Catholic school. Me and Robert actually met on the first day of school at St Francis when we were five-years-old.”

Robert Smith had moved from Blackpool to Horley (the same town as Tolhurst ) aged three and then to nearby Pound Hill, Crawley when he was six. Smith spoke of how he still had a Blackpool accent at that stage. Tolhurst poetically writes about their first day, in his memoirs, “Robert took me by the hand and led me onto the bus, it was the first of many journeys together. If only in my imagination we are still those boys”

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Robert Smith as a child at St Francis School and some pics taken by Darren Guy in Birmingham

They then attended Crawley’s Notre Dame Middle School, which has, sadly, since closed down (in 1996 according to Crawley Museum, but both the infants, St Francis of Assisi and Secondary St Winfred’s still stands proud).

Tolhurst says, “When people ask when the Cure began I often point to that day in 1972 at Notre Dame (school ) when Robert Michael and I jammed for the first time-the very same line up that recorded  Our First Single ‘Killing an Arab’, in fact the cymbal that I use in that song was stolen from the old school kit.”

They then went up to St Wilfred’s Secondary School. Lol, in his Cured memoir said, “Personally, I consider the first gig we did as the band that became The Cure to be the one that we did on December 20, 1976, the Malice gig at our old secondary school, St. Wilfrid’s. True, we had done a gig of sorts a couple of days earlier in the minstrels’ gallery at Worth Abbey for Upjohn’s Pharmaceutical Christmas party, and a rather strange “performance” in 1973 as The Obelisk, but this was our first full-blown concert.”-

Peter Selby a volunteer from Crawley exhibition remembers the Christmas Party. He told GIITTV, “I was working for Upjohn Ltd a Pharmaceutical manufacturer in Crawley and Robert Smith’s father, Alex was the Managing director. It came to Christmas and they organised a party and there was this band playing and I didn’t take much notice of it, I was 30 at time and I thought ‘This is a bit noisy’ because I was bought up with the BeatlesThe kids used to come in for the Christmas parties, all the families worker’s kids and Father Christmas used to come…I didn’t realise that I’d been to a Cure Concert until the exhibition.. During the Cure exhibition in 2018 I was speaking to a girl who was off home to Japan after visiting and I spoke to a taxi driver from Germany, a bloke from America and Australia… we had hundreds of people come into the museum in Crawley it was the highest amount of people we ever had at Crawley museum in one day so they are obviously very popular, but I’d never heard of them .”

Malice rehearsed David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Alex Harvey songs in a local church-hall and their initial lineup was Marc Ceccagno, Robert Smith and Michael Dempsey with a boy called Graham and his brother on vocals and drums. By April of 1976  Lol Tolhurst took over on drums and the brothers left. Marc Ceccagno would later depart to form Amulet, with Porl/ Pearl Thompson stepping in to play guitar. Porl’s name was formally changed to Pearl in 2011. Porl/ Pearl had been working at the Crawley record store Cloake’s at the time, and brought in his former co-worker, Martin Creasy, to perform vocals for Malice at St Winfred’s school, making the full line up : Robert Smith, Michael Dempsey, Lol Tolhurst, Porl Thompson, and Martin Creasy

In Ten Imaginary Years’ Smith said of the gig at St Winfred’s “ I told the headmaster Malice were a pop group without telling him I was a member because he hated me! We got in this singer, Martin…… with whom we hadn’t had a single rehearsal, and he turned up in a three-piece suit, a Manchester United scarf and a motorbike helmet which he refused to part with because he was scared someone would steal it!…..He turned out to be a cabaret singer … did good impersonations of David Cassidy. We started playing; ‘Jailbreak’, ‘Suffragette City’, ‘Foxy Lady’ … but no-one could distinguish anything! It was just a screaming wall of feedback!”

“Three hundred people came, 200 left, and the rest got up on stage! Lol started singing ‘Wild Thing’, Porl felt so humiliated he hit him and Martin fled with the words ‘This is shit!’ No-one’s seen him since … We immediately broke up the group!”

A Poster from the Infamous Malice Gig:


Luckily singer on that day Martin Creasy was kind enough to give his own side of the story to the Crawley Museum Exhibition, as well as donating an poster from the evening. Martin explained how he had originally worked in the independent record shop, Cloakes with Porl/Pearl saying that “the shop was really important to the town. It was one of those where you could go into the booth and listen….and a lot of musicians worked there.” Martin explained that he was in a band called Impact which Porl/ Pearl played in occasionally saying “He was a really good guitarist.” In reference to the infamous Malice gig at St Winfred’s Martin said,

” Porl Came up to me and said can you sing in my mate’s band? He kept on at me about it and it turned out that it was Malice; Robert and the boys, so that was how I got involved I was already and established musician in the town The St Wilfred’s Malice gig was a bit of a nightmare, Robert discusses it in his book. He recalls me having a Manchester United Scarf on, which is accurate , that’s my team and a suit on which Lol recalled last year. I hate suits that’s the truth of it. I’d bought the suit for my brother’s wedding and I hated wearing it. I’d been in a pop group we had a manager and everything and everything was controlled including our behaviour and this lot appeared a bit wild so I did it really to get in with them. So I had a Man United Scarf, a suit and a motorcycle helmet which I tried to sing through with the visor down. There was a screaming wall of feedback and half the people tried to get on the stage and the biggest humiliation for me was that I knew a lot of the audience there were a lot of musicians in the audience. With Impact we’d rehersed for 9 months before we ever went to gigs and they just saw this complete SHAMBLES I remember waking up the next day and thinking, that’s it I need to leave town. It was humiliation to be honest “Robert at the end of the shambles(he did everything in a nice way, that’s my memory of it) instead of punching me out he simply said, “We’re going to have a meeting at my place next Wednesday…and I went there on Wednesday and he said that he’d just decided to break up and then of course he rang everybody he wanted which was everyone bar me . It was a very nice way of doing it and was obviously the right thing to do” .

The next thing I remember, I was back in Crawley (I’d left by then) at a friend’s house and was watching Top of the Pops and they honed in on the bass player and I thought ” I know him. Why do I know that bass player? And then I thought I know the drummer too. Why do I know him and then they went to Robert and I couldn’t believe it and I thought; that’s the bunch of scruffos I was knocking around with in probably the worst thing I’d ever been involved in and there they were. I was absolutely staggered. It tells you more about my lack of awareness than anything else really.” We are grateful to Martin for his honesty and insight in these memories

Easy Cure were then formed by Robert Smith along with schoolmates Michael Dempsey (bass), Lol Tolhurst (drums) and Porl (Pearl) Thompson in 1976. After auditioning a number of singers, Peter O’Toole took over vocal duties until 11th September 1977. Read more about Easy Cure’s early gigs and transformation into global trailblazers, The Cure, in Part Two.


Can you help Crawley Museum Create a permanent Cure Collection? Current Museum curator, Holly Parsons, said ,”We would love to have a permanent Cure collection because so many people ask for it ” Please get in touch if anyone has anything that they wish to donate relating to The Cure in Crawley [email protected] .

Cure Archivist Darren Guy is also looking for rare Cure records and memorabilia: [email protected]

With huge thanks to Cure Archivists: Darren Guy and John Sanders for their expertise and additional archives. Andrea Dumbrell, 2018 Curator of Crawley Museum for letting us revisit the 2018 archives. Holly Parsons, Current Curator of Crawley Museum, all at Crawley museum Peter Selby ,Wendy Patton, Renny Richardson, John Taw’s photos, Leon Muraglia, Martin Creasy. Thank you to all at Crawley Museum, Ref: Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys (2016) by Lol Tolhurst and Ten Imaginary Years, Southerland, Smith and Barbarian (1988), Sussex World, and Crawley Observer.

Part Two to follow.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.