On McKinney Music, “the best independent music magazine in the UK“, editor Jonathan McKinney pays tribute to Robert Smith of The Cure on his 64th birthday.

Robert Smith

The Cure performing in Novi Sad, Serbia, 4th July, 2019
The Cure performing in Novi Sad, Serbia, 4th July, 2019

Robert Smith is one of the true icons of alternative rock. He is the primary songwriter, guitarist, and lead singer of The Cure, one of the bands that has had the most success and influence over the past four decades. Smith is well-known for his distinctive appearance, passionate vocals, and atmospheric, ominous songwriting.

Smith was born in Blackpool, England, in 1959. He started playing the guitar when he was young, and in 1978, he founded The Cure. In 1979, The Cure released their debut album, Three Imaginary Boys, and quickly established themselves as a favorite among underground music fans.

The Cure in Their Early Years

The Cure’s early sound was a combination of punk rock and post-punk, but they soon started experimenting with more styles, like goth rock, new wave, and electronic music. In 1980, the band released their second album, Seventeen Seconds, which established them as one of the leading goth rock bands (although Rob disputes that The Cure are a goth band).

The Cure performing in Rome, Italy, 29th February, 2008
The Cure performing in Rome, Italy, 29th February, 2008

The Cure’s third album, Faith, was released in 1981, and it denoted a defining moment for the band. The album featured some of their most well-known songs, including the energetic “Primary” and the slow, moody, almost vampire-movie-soundtrack-esque titular “Faith“. The album was arguably darker and more atmospheric than their previous work.

The Cure continued to evolve throughout the 1980s, releasing a string of successful albums, including Pornography (1982), Disintegration (1989), and Wish (1992). The band also toured extensively during this period, and they became one of the most popular live acts in the world.

Jonathan McKinney’s Love for The Cure

I can count on one hand the number of bands I’ve been obsessed with. The Cure were the first. I didn’t become a fan until the early 90’s when my big brother Chris (who, along with my other older brother Andy, gave me the blueprint for all the tunes I’d listen to through my teens) introduced me to them. Chris soon became disgruntled when my obsession outgrew his own. Sorry bro.

"Boys Don't Cry" by The Cure on vinyl
“Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure on vinyl

I was an embarrassingly romantic, sad-eyed kid. Even when I was as young as eight or nine years old, on a sunny summer holiday weekday, I’d set off on my bike to loiter around my crush’s house with my mixtape of 100% Cure songs feeding my needy little heart with poetic tunes about the soul-crushing pain of being desperately in love. (Yes, I would later identify with the annoying drummer kid from “Love, Actually”. Facepalm.)

The Cure performing live in Barcelona, Spain, 1st June, 2012
The Cure performing live in Barcelona, Spain, 1st June, 2012

In my early high school years I bought “Disintegration” on cassette and became absolutely obsessed. The album didn’t have bouncy (but still lyrically sad) pop songs on it like “Just Like Heaven” or “Inbetween Days” or even “Boys Don’t Cry”. Rather, lyrically and musically, it was relentlessly melancholy, much like me; like my distinctly solemn pre-adolescent soul had been turned into a twelve-song record, perfect for being played loud (as it said in the album sleeve) through headphones, as I stared emptily out my dad’s car window on a rainy motorway. The strings 75 seconds into “Homesick“, the nightmarish gothic ballad “Lullaby“, the accordion in the intro to “Untitled“–all of it resonated with me probably more than any other singular album has since.

The 90’s Onwards

In the 1990s, The Cure began to experiment with new sounds and styles, and they released a number of albums that were more experimental than their previous work. By this time, I was getting into heavy thrash metal bands like Metallica and Megadeth (again, courtesy of my brothers), so I drifted away from The Cure for a while. But I always come back.

Robert Smith is one of the true icons of alternative rock. He has had a significant impact on generations of musicians thanks to his talent as a songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist. Smith is also a passionate performer, and The Cure’s live shows are always unforgettable.

Happy 64th Birthday Rob x