Why Are The Cure Called The Cure?
On 2 May 1989, Robert Smith and his comrades released their epic album Disintegration. But why did this unique band end up with that name? And what were they known as BEFORE they were The Cure?
2018 sees The Cure celebrate their 40th anniversary with a huge show as part of Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time in London’s Hyde Park. Taking place on Saturday, 7 July, the bill also features the likes of Interpol, Editors, Goldfrapp and Ride. Fans can expect hits like Boys Don’t Cry, Pictures Of You and In Between Days in a glorious celebration of one of Britain’s most unique bands.
— BST Hyde Park (@BSTHydePark) April 27, 2018
Frontman Robert Smith remains the only member to have been present in The Cure’s constantly-changing line-up. The activity comes around the time of Smith’s first shows under the name “The Cure”. But did he come up with that name… or did the band have another identity altogether at the beginning?
The first band that featured the future members of The Cure was called The Obelisk, who played an impromptu show at their school in Crawley, West Sussex in 1973. This school band got a bit more serious by the summer of 1976 and Smith, Tolhurst and Dempsey were joined by guitarist Marc Ceccagno and future Cure member Porl Thompson, who fancied himself as something of a local guitar hero. This band were known as Malice, and featured a number of vocalists, including local journalist Martin Creasy, who performed at the band’s debut gig at a place called Worth Abbey on 18 December 1976.
Spurned on by the wave of punk that was breaking at the tail end of ’76, Malice played another show at St Wilfred’s School on 20 December, reportedly playing covers of songs like Bowie’s Suffragette City and Foxy Lady by Jimi Hendrix. According to Smith, the gig ended in a riot and Creasy left the band shortly afterwards.
Fed up of unreliable singers, Robert Smith finally decided to take over the mantle of vocalist as 1977 dawned, and with it a new name for the band.
Tolhurst recalled in his memoir, Cured: “Robert had seen something about Bowie or William Burroughs cutting up phrases from their writings into strips and reassembling them into new prose or song lyrics.
“So we cut all our own lyrics up and put them into a hat. The first fragment we pulled out would be the name of the band. It seemed both democratic and punky all at the same time.”
To Smith’s disappointment, the scrap of paper pulled out said “Easy Cure”, from a song partially written by Lol. This was the name that they used throughout the rest of 1977. The line-up was now Smith (guitar and vocals), Thompson (guitar), Dempsey (bass) and Tolhurst (drums).
In May 1977, Easy Cure sent in a demo tape to the German label Hansa, who had advertised in the UK press for new talent and were having huge success with Boney M of Rasputin fame. The label signed Easy Cure and brought the group to London to record some sessions, but Smith grumbled that they seemed to be more interested in how Easy Cure looked – the singer was only 18 at the time.
Hansa didn’t like the original songs Easy Cure were writing – stuff like Killing An Arab and Plastic Passion seemed a bit avant garde for the label, and they famously told the band “Even people in prison wouldn’t like this!” Hansa let Easy Cure go – but not after Robert Smith asked them to return all the rights to their early tracks.
“We could have lost a lot of good songs,” Lol told Radio X. “And they could have probably made a lot of money out of something they really didn’t want. So it probably worked out best for both of us. But to lose songs like Boys Don’t Cry… that would have been a terrible, terrible thing.”
Now free to look for a new record deal, there was one last bit of business to attend to. Smith had become frustrated with Porl Thompson’s flashy “rock” guitar playing, which clashed with the stripped down, post-punk songs he was now writing. He was also annoyed that Thompson seemed to spend more time hanging around with Smith’s sister Janet. So, the guitarist was quietly “let go”.
Now down to the trio of Smith, Dempsey and Tolhurst, the frontman made one last change: the name. The frontman remembered in the band’s official biography, Ten Imaginary Years:
“I had always thought Easy Cure was a bit hippyish, a bit American-sounding, a bit West Coast, and I hated it, which put Lol’s back up as he’d thought of it.
“Every other group we liked had ‘The’ in front of their name but The Easy Cure sounded stupid so we just changed it to The Cure instead.
“It upset a few old fans but I thought The Cure sounded much more it.”
It’s a long way from a Crawley pub to Hyde Park… but the band’s spirit and attitude have remained the same across four decades.