Where did The Cure get their name from?
3 October 2020, 14:00
Robert Smith and his comrades played an acclaimed headline set at Glastonbury 2019 - but why did this unique band end up with that name?
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 Robert Smith, drummer Lol Tolhurst and bassist Michael 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 a couple more shows, before they decided on a name change. 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. Fed up of unreliable singers, Robert Smith finally decided to take over the mantle of vocalist by the summer of 1977, meaning 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."