How a wedding gift gave The Cure their biggest US hit

14 February 2020, 20:00 | Updated: 11 February 2021, 18:18

Robert Smith of The Cure in 1989
Robert Smith of The Cure in 1989. Picture: lpo Musto/Shutterstock

Robert Smith wrote a heartfelt song that became one of his band’s most popular tracks. Here’s how it happened.

By Martin O'Gorman

Adele covered it. Good Charlotte have covered it. Death Cab For Cutie have had a crack at it. Lovesong by The Cure was the second single from the classic Disintegration album to be released in the UK… and it became their biggest ever hit in the United States. The meaning of the song has travelled a long way… and it all began with a simple declaration of devotion.

Robert and Mary Smith in 1986
Robert and Mary Smith in 1986. Picture: Richard Young/Shutterstock

Robert Smith married his long-term girlfriend Mary Poole in the summer of 1988. The pair had met at school when the frontman was just 14 and remained together as Smith became the iconic frontman of The Cure. The Smiths married when the band were enjoying some downtime during work on the album Disintegration.

Writing lyrics for the new material, Smith looked to the immediate world around him: he was about to turn 30; a fire at the studio made him worry about losing the photos in his wallet (leading to Pictures Of You) and the prospect of settling down and growing old weighed on his mind.

But it was Lovesong that had probably the simplest, yet most personal lyrics on the album. With a chorus that goes “However far away / I will always love you”, it’s Smith’s straightforward dedication to his wife.

The Cure 1990
The Cure 1990. Picture: Frans Schellekens/Redferns/Getty Images

“I gave Mary a tape of it for a wedding present,” Robert told Select magazine in August 1991. “She went away to the other room to listen to it, then smothered me with kisses.

“It’s the most upfront, true, frank and honest thing I’ve ever sung. It’s about love, but also the inability to ever really know someone.”

The track was accompanied by another video from The Cure’s long-term visual collaborator Tim Pope, which sees the band performing the song in a dark cave among the stalagmites and stalactites - but Smith was unhappy with the final product.

He complained: “The idea was of a fairy cave going on forever, but it looked very cramped and posed. The opening shot is terrible, this lingering shot of a huge phallus that makes no pretensions to be a stalagmite at all.”

The Cure at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards
The Cure at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards. Picture: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

Released as a single on Monday 21 August 1989, Lovesong spent seven weeks on the UK charts, peaking at Number 18. But it was the USA that took Lovesong to its heart.

The single was issued in the States just as The Cure began the North American leg of The Prayer Tour, which included huge stadium shows at Giants Stadium in New Jersey and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The Cure had crossed over from the “alternative” charts into the mainstream and Lovesong was an accessible entry point into the band's extensive back catalogue.

This was apparent when Lovesong slowly crept up the Billboard Hot 100 until it peaked at Number 2 in the week ending 21 October. Janet Jackson’s Miss You Much kept it off the top spot and ironically both Jackson and The Cure performed at the 2019 Glastonbury festival. Wonder if they met backstage?

“I have to admit that I was actually a bit upset that it stopped at No 2,” Smith later wrote in the sleevenotes to The Cure’s Join The Dots compilation in 2004. “I never got to see what I would really have done with a No 1 single!”

Actually, Lovesong DID get to No 1… in Poland, in September 1989. Smith’s comments on that aren’t recorded.

While Lovesong still had a proud place in The Cure’s setlist, Adele gave the track a new lease of life when she covered it on her 2011 album 21, where it sits before the epic Someone Like You. This time, Lovesong DID hit the top spot in the US: 21 made the No 1 position in the Billboard 200 album charts in March 2011.

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