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The Cure is an English rock band formed in Crawley, West Sussex in 1978. Led throughout ‘numerous incarnations’ by guitarist/vocalist Robert Smith, the band became known for its ‘slow, gloomy dirges’ and Smith’s ‘exaggeratedly gothic look.’ One of the bands credited with creating the foundations for goth rock,by the time the genre became popular in the mid-80s, the Cure had developed a more ‘polished and thoughtful’ sound which enabled them to cross over into the mainstream not only in England, but most of Europe and the United States.
In April 1973, the founding members of The Cure - Robert Smith, Michael Dempsey, Laurence ‘Lol’ Tolhurst, Marc Ceccagno and Alan Hill - played their first public performance at an end-of-year show at Notre Dame Middle Schoolas a one-off band named Obelisk. Three years later, renamed the Easy Cure (after a song by Tolhurst), the group was specialising in ‘dark, nervy pop with pseudo-literary lyrics,’ including ‘Killing an Arab’ - a song based on the climax of Albert Camus’s The Stranger - which became their first release in December 1978. By now known simply as The Cure, the band’s debut album - Three Imaginary Boys - was released in May 1979 and the band found themselves on tour supporting Siouxsie and the Banshees. When the headliner’s guitarist suddenly left, Smith stepped in and became a frequent collaborator with the band over the next ten years.
The Cure’s second album, Seventeen Seconds, was released in 1980 and displayed an expansion of the group’s sound through the addition of a keyboardist. More experimental and filled with ‘slow, gloomy dirges’ alongside pop hooks, the album’s success enabled the band to launch its first world tour. Their third album, Faith (1981), increased their popularity, but it was their fourth album - Pornography (1982) - which expanded their audience beyond cult followers and cracked the UK Top Ten. Fuelled by heavy drug use, fighting amongst band members and Smith’s depression, the album’s musical and lyrical content was described at the time by Melody Maker as being ‘downhill all the way, into ever-darkening shadows ... passing through chilly marbled archways to the final rendezvous with the cold comfort of the slab.’ Pornography was, naturally, a hit and would later be recognised by Spin magazine as a ‘high-water mark for goth’s musical evolution.’
As an ever-changing lineup of band members continued, the band released The Top in 1984. This was followed by The Head on the Door in 1985, which produced hits both in the UK as well as on underground and college radio lists in the US. In 1986, The Cure released Standing on a Beach: The Singles, a critically-acclaimed compilation of album and non-album singles released over the previous decade. Considered by AllMusic as one of the ‘finest albums of the ‘80s,’ it reached number four on the UK charts but - more importantly for the band’s success - established The Cure as a ‘major cult act’ in the US. The resultant success of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987) and its first American Top 40 hit ‘Just Like Heaven,’ and the massively popular Disintegration (1989), only served to cement the band’s musical reputation.
Though other studio and live albums would follow, and the band continues to tour live today,the late-80s are considered to be the high-point of The Cure’s career. Nevertheless, the band’s influence opened the door for groups as diverse as The Jesus and Mary Chain, Interpol, The Smashing Pumpkins, Blur and the Chemical Brothers. Of course, the best way to get to know The Cure is to listen to their music, and today’s Playlist has five of my favourites tracks to get you started.
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Today’s Detour is to a short (1:41) video from Art of Fold, in which an origami expert creates a giant dragon’s head from a single large sheet of paper - a task that takes him over 15 hours in what appears to be his kitchen. Amazing. Especially if, like me, you have a hard time just accurately folding a piece of paper in half.
Today’s Recommendation is The Breakfast Club (1985). Written, produced and directed by John Hughesand starring Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy and Paul Gleason, it’s the story of five very different teenagers who find themselves in an all-day Saturday detention overseen by an authoritarian vice-principal. Dealing with themes such as stereotyping, peer pressure, parental expectations and teenage rebellion, the film encapsulates the 1980s in many ways - and while it can feel a bit dated in places, it’s still worth a watch. If you’ve seen it before, watch it again. If you’ve not seen it, there are worse things you can do with a couple of hours.
The Breakfast Club streams on various platforms.
Today’s playlist is a selection of five of my favourite Cure tracks:'The Figurehead' (Paris, 1993), ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ (Three Imaginary Boys, 1979), ‘Like Cockatoos’ (Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, 1987), ‘Let’s Go to Bed’ (Staring at the Sea: The Singles, 1986) and ‘Fascination Street’ (Disintegration, 1989). Enjoy!
Today’s Thought is from my 1980s high school chemistry teacher, Ned Steadman. One of the best teachers I ever had (and that’s saying a lot because I was privileged to have many), Steadman was that teacher - the one who’d support you 100% but cut you no slack, the one who was always up for a joke but for whom his subject was no laughing matter, the one who had no shame when it came to doing whatever it took to get a bunch of teenagers to understand his subject - and, of course, he came stacked with many memorable quotes. This one he’d haul out whenever one of us would say something to the effect that we’d do the assignment later or maybe even tomorrow, instead of in the moment, when it was set. And he’d always, always emphasise the verb and pause a beat afterwards:
‘Procrastination IS … the thief of time!’
If you have a thought on this Thought - or any part of today’s issue - please leave a comment below:
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Until the next Stop …
Goth Rock is an interesting topic in itself. Characterised by a darker sound created through the use of minor chords and lyrical themes focussed on melancholy, morbidity, nihilism and tragedy, the genre - essentially begun with bands such as The Cure - continues to be extremely popular today and will be a topic for a future Bus Stop. I’ve been a fan for years, though I came to The Cure a bit later than I probably should have - if only I’d listened to those tapes my friends pressed on me in high school! Sources for today’s Stop include The Cure (AllMusic), The Cure (Wikipedia), Robert Smith, and The Cure's Influence on Music.
Smith had just turned 14 at this point, when he had a ‘road to Damascus moment … at the bottom of a glass’ which inaugurated years of heavy alcohol and drug use. Notre Dame Middle School no longer exists.
Their 2023 North American tour - playing at venues such as Madison Square Gardens, Hollywood Bowl and Atlanta’s State Farm Arena - is almost entirely sold-out and requiring extra dates to meet demand.
Hughes (1950-2009) directed many classic 1980/90s films, including National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Out and Home Alone, among many, many others.
There are many great tracks from this band I considered putting on the playlist, but these five stand out. Of course, as soon as I made a decision another one popped up - and my daughter was suggesting new ones as recently as Sunday afternoon. Ugh. The problem with great music! Paris is one of my all-time favourite live albums - it soundtracked some great evenings in the mid-90s, and while Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me is rightfully known for tracks such as ‘Just Like Heaven’ and ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’, ‘Like Cockatoos’ is the real star. I’d suggest putting The Cure on rotation - there’s nothing like them.