Watch The Cure’s First TV Appearance in 1979 … Before The Band Acquired Its Signature Goth Look

Many fans of the Cure first encoun­tered them with 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, a dou­ble album filled with boun­cy pop con­fec­tions like “Why Can’t I Be You?” and “Just Like Heav­en,” or with Dis­in­te­gra­tion, 1989’s swirling atmos­pher­ic mas­ter­piece that nails the sound of severe depres­sive episodes. On these albums, Robert Smith & company’s cov­er­age of each “point on a bipo­lar scale” wasn’t an affectation—it was a lifestyle. Or so it seemed to the aver­age lis­ten­er giv­en the band’s pecu­liar look: pan­cake make­up and weep­ing wil­low hair that gave them the air of stage clowns in a Restora­tion mad­house.

So asso­ci­at­ed are they with an art­house look and new wave pop-to-tor­tured goth sound that many peo­ple find it jar­ring to dis­cov­er just how punk they once were. Though able from the start to rip out pop gems like “Boys Don’t Cry,” the band inhab­it­ed a hard­er-edged ter­ri­to­ry in their first few years. In the late 70s, along with The Damned, Joy Divi­sion, and Siouxsie and the Ban­shees, they carved out the space of British post-punk and new wave before there was any such thing as “goth.”

As you can see from their first TV appear­ance, at the top, the spare, spiky hooks and atmos­pher­ics that form the basis of their sound pre­dat­ed the dis­tinc­tive look, one so eas­i­ly pack­aged, copied, and par­o­died lat­er on—and turned to excel­lent cin­e­mat­ic account by John­ny Depp in Edward Scis­sorhands and Sean Penn in This Must Be the Place.

The tele­vised per­for­mance took place at The­atre de l’Empire in Paris on Decem­ber 3rd of 1979, by which time the band had been already been togeth­er for sev­er­al years, though they were still very young (Smith only 21), and had only just released their first stu­dio album, Three Imag­i­nary Boys. In the full per­for­mance, above, see them play the title track and their con­tro­ver­sial, Camus-inspired, first sin­gle “Killing an Arab.” They open, in the first clip, with a new song that would appear on the next record, Sev­en­teen Sec­onds. It’s one that presages the supreme­ly moody ambiance of Dis­in­te­gra­tion, but with­out that album’s lyri­cal focus. Here, what would become “A For­est” is played as “At Night,” with entire­ly dif­fer­ent lyrics.

In these ear­ly per­for­mances, we see how for­mi­da­ble The Cure was as a min­i­mal­ist punk band, and how effec­tive is Robert Smith’s angu­lar gui­tar work, which earned him a spot in the tour­ing ver­sion of Siouxsie and the Ban­shees that year as well.  (See him play “Love in a Void” with them above in a ’79 tele­vi­sion per­for­mance.) Like that band’s ear­li­est work, The Cure drew direct­ly on the raw ener­gy of punk in both their musi­cal and sar­to­r­i­al choic­es. Only lat­er did they devel­op into the glo­ri­ous­ly mopey goths fans know and love, as the 80s made more flam­boy­ant demands on music fash­ion, appar­ent­ly, and Smith became a more eccen­tric ver­sion of him­self, turn­ing his extreme intro­ver­sion into a series of the­atri­cal, tragi­com­ic per­sonas.

via Laugh­ing Squid

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Three-Hour Mix­tape Offers a Son­ic Intro­duc­tion to Under­ground Goth Music

Stream 15 Hours of the John Peel Ses­sions: 255 Tracks by Syd Bar­rett, David Bowie, Siouxsie and the Ban­shees & Oth­er Artists

A His­to­ry of Alter­na­tive Music Bril­liant­ly Mapped Out on a Tran­sis­tor Radio Cir­cuit Dia­gram: 300 Punk, Alt & Indie Artists

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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