Friday, 22 April 2016
The Cure on LP
Back in 2011, I looked at the Cure’s back catalogue in terms of their singles, given that a sizeable chunk of them were “stand alone” releases, and how a number of compilation albums were later used to give a home to much of this material. I figured it was time to just do a quick albums recap - I won’t really go over the same ground in terms of how they sounded too much, you know all of that - but more to look at how the band’s original LP’s were issued, and their subsequent reissues.
After the usual “pre fame” shenanigans as Easy Cure, the Cure became a trio in time for the release of 1979’s “Three Imaginary Boys”, with Robert Smith joined by bassist Michael Dempsey and drummer Lol Tolhurst. The LP, suffering at times from a feeling of under-production IMO, was the first of several albums to feature the band logo (officially long gone, but occasionally resurrected in a retro style manner now and then) on the cover. However, the album title was completely missing, but there were three household objects on the front that seemed to be there as some sort of “visual” metaphor (a lamp, a fridge and a vacuum cleaner).
It was followed by 1980’s “Seventeen Seconds”, which seemed an altogether more coherent release, moving the band nearer to a more post-punk sound, with some very strong (albeit rather depressing) subject matter. The band had a new bass player, Simon Gallup, whilst for this album only, the post-punk chill was often provided by their new keyboard player Matthieu Hartley - although Hartley would be gone by the next album. The front cover was a piece of abstract art, the music has been variously described as “ethereal” and “goth”, and it really was a big leap forward. The Cure, despite being seemingly resolutely un-commercial, soon found themselves on ‘Top Of The Pops’ playing their latest hit, the minimalist classic “A Forest”.
With Hartley gone, the band’s next album was recorded as a trio, 1981’s “Faith”, although the ‘electronic’ sound of the previous album was retained, mainly by getting Smith to provide keyboard and synthesizer work on the record, with Tolhurst being credited as drummer and “programming”. This was the first of several Cure releases during the decade which appeared as expanded Cassette pressings - the album was included on the first side of the tape, whilst a lengthy instrumental called “Carnage Visors” appeared on side 2. This was the soundtrack to a film that was shown, in lieu of having a support act, on the band’s subsequent tour. A “Deluxe Edition” reissue campaign of most of the band’s back catalogue was started in 2004, and the reissue of “Faith” included “Carnage Visors” as one of the tracks on the bonus disc. The trio made another rather downbeat album, 1982’s highly acclaimed “Pornography”, before imploding at the end of the subsequent tour.
As mentioned in the last blog, the Cure did return relatively quickly, initially as a synth pop duo consisting of just Smith and Tolhurst, before quickly adding a new drummer in the form of Andy Anderson. 1984’s “The Top” was officially recorded as a three piece with former Easy Cure member Porl Thompson as an additional contributor, before he later joined on a full time basis, whilst a subsequent tour saw Phil Thornalley added as the band’s new bass player - Smith had recorded all of the bass and guitar parts on the LP himself.
The subsequent tour spawned the band’s first live album, “Concert”, culled from shows played in London and Oxford in May 84. The cassette version was issued as the band’s next “long play” release, with a series of ‘official bootleg’ recordings covering the band’s career from 77 up until the present day on the flipside. The second side of the tape opened with the previously unheard “Heroin Face” (from the Easy Cure days) and concluded with what was, at the time, a regular Cure set closer, “Forever” - the band never got around to releasing a studio version of the song. The reissue campaign saw everything from this side of the release get a second lease of life across the various “deluxe” reissues, with “Heroin Face” being added to “Three Imaginary Boys”, “Forever” being added to “The Top”, and the remainder being added to the relevant albums from inbetween, dependent on the ‘age’ of the song.
It was time for a line up change again - Anderson was ejected from the band for ‘bad behaviour’ and replaced by Boris Williams, whilst Gallup rejoined as bassist. Thus, we had what for some is the definitive Cure line up of Smith, Tolhurst, Gallup, Thompson and Williams. 1985’s “The Head On The Door” was a classic, avoiding the sometimes patchy, directionless sound of “The Top”, and managed to be a moment of indie-rock brilliance, despite being recorded slap bang in the middle of a decade full of musical horrors. “Inbetween Days” and “Close To Me” were moments of genius pop and the album, helped along by the likes of the anthemic guitar buzz of “Push”, and the atmospheric widescreen beauty that was the closing “Sinking”, was arguably the best Cure album to date. As mentioned in my previous Cure article, the album was followed by the multi formatted (and variously titled) 1986 “hits” set, “Standing On A Beach”.
1987’s “Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me” was seen as the band’s move into the world of superstardom, another toweringly brilliant effort, which this time saw them shift major units in the States. A double album, later limited pressings of the vinyl were technically a triple, as a free 12” was included featuring a selection of recent B-sides and remixes. The original running time was just a bit too long for the CD format, and so “Hey You” was removed from the compact disc edition. As a sort of apology, a remixed version appeared as the flipside to the “Hot Hot Hot” single. Technology has been revamped so that the most recent editions of the CD have the full track listing, as a result of pressings plants using ‘track pitch reduction’ to squeeze extra data onto the disc. Whilst the album was being recorded, there were internal band problems, as Tolhurst was starting to contribute less and less to the group - the spiteful “Shiver And Shake“ was reportedly written about Tolhurst, and appeared towards the end of the LP...I can‘t think of too many songs on albums which are attacks on existing band members who helped record the actual song. He was still with the band as they began work on their next record, but was eventually fired after seemingly recording no music for it, and was replaced by Roger O’Donnell, creating the next “classic” Cure lineup.
1989’s “Disintegration” was the band’s third near flawless effort on the trot, and confirmed their status as arena-filling alt. rock superstars. It was later described, lyrically, as the “follow up” to “Pornography”, even though the music often had a beautiful, airy, and poppy feel - unlike it’s so-called predecessor. Vinyl copies, as opposed to being issued as a double, were instead issued as single LP with several songs removed due to time constraints. The band took to performing the album in it’s entirety on the following tour, and put together a promo only album, “Entreat”, which featured live performances of eight of the songs. After bootlegs began to surface, the band counteracted by issuing “Entreat” as a regular album in a revamped sleeve, although I seem to recall it was done as a sort of limited budget release, to avoid accusations of ‘cashing in‘. The “Deluxe” version of “Disintegration”, along with it’s expected second disc of rarities, also features a CD called “Entreat Plus” - the entire “Entreat” album, and the four other songs from the album not on the original release, all in remixed form. It was followed by 1990’s remix set “Mixed Up”, a decent enough listen in it’s own right, with some of the re-workings being enjoyable enough excursions, as opposed to it being an unlistenable re-imagining of the material, which you do get with some remix collections.
For reasons that are not totally clear, the reissue campaign conducted in the mid-noughties stops here. All of the band’s pre-1990 studio albums appeared as 2 or 3 disc editions, and it is impossible to ignore the fact that multitudes of rarities from the 70s and 80s surfaced on these editions - but the stuff from the 90s onwards is not. Strange, when you consider 1992’s “Wish” - for which O’Donnell had quit, to be replaced by Perry Bamonte - is another piece of alternative rock genius, home to the swirling psychedelic opener “Open”, the bouncy pop thrills of “High” and “Friday I’m In Love”, the epic “From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea”, and the snarling goth menace of “Cut” and “End”. The band toured the smaller UK venues at the time of it’s release, before hitting the arenas in the fall, where the band played shows which drew heavily on the album. Although the songs were not featured in the same strict order as the LP, the likes of “Open” and “High” would usually appear at the start, with the likes of “Cut” and “End” played immediately before the encore. By now, the band’s encores themselves were usually as long as most band’s normal sets - The Cure was fast becoming a sort of big haired UK version of Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band.
The tour was documented with not one, but two live albums. Firstly, “Show”, a double CD documenting the basic setlist (minus encores) from a pair of shows on the US tour in July 92, and was then followed up with “Paris”, a single CD featuring a more esoteric setlist, compiled with songs that were either played in the main set on only selected occasions, or during the encores. As it’s title suggests, it was pieced together from three shows the band had played at the city’s Le Zenith venue in October. A headline performance at the “Great X-Pectations” festival in Finsbury Park the following summer should have cemented the band’s reputation as Kings of Gloomy Rock, but things started to unravel a bit instead thereafter.
The band’s 1995 headline slot at Glastonbury was slightly overshadowed by the two previous night’s headliners - new kids on the block Oasis on the Friday, on the cusp of mega stardom with the release of “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory” due in several months time, and Pulp on the Saturday, perennial underachievers who had been asked to step in for the unavailable Stone Roses, and subsequently put on the gig of a lifetime. The Cure, appearing here with yet another, newly reconfigured lineup, played some new songs from their unfinished next album, but it felt a little bit like some old gits gate-crashing the Britpop party. Their set, whilst good, lacked a certain special something that Oasis and Pulp had pulled out of their respective hats on the previous nights.
1996’s “Wild Mood Swings”, in some respects, represents the Cure at a sort of low point. The band had seen the departure of Thompson and Williams after conclusion of the “Wish“ tour, and the band had at one point consisted purely of Smith and Bamonte, with Gallup temporarily out of the band due to health issues. The Glastonbury show saw the band’s new line up being showcased, with Gallup back in, and new members in the form of old boy Roger O’Donnell and Jason Cooper.
The album lacked the energetic thrill of “Wish”, but still had some nice bouncy pop like “Round & Round & Round”, the shimmery post-Goth strum of “Jupiter Crash” and ‘Friday I’m In Love’ style ultra pop like “Mint Car”. It just didn’t quite have the “oomph” factor of “Wish”, lead single “The 13th” in particular, being a quite strange, slightly low-key choice of lead single - all juttering rhythms and not very Guitar-y at all. Some reviews of the album were less than complimentary.
Perhaps it was asking too much of the band, especially one going through major line up changes, to make a follow up album to even come close to “Wish”, but “Wild Mood Swings” did keep things going. The subsequent tour saw the band once again do the rounds of the arenas, and as a live act, The Cure were still quite epic - lengthy sets, an increasingly expanding back catalogue, I seem to recall the band’s gig at Wembley Arena in December 96 was one of the best shows I ever saw them play.
From here on, the band’s line up remained vaguely stable for a while. 1997’s “Galore” was a hits set celebrating the period from after the release of the 1986 best of, but unlike other “Part 2” hits sets, was actually a thing of pure wonderment - showing just how well the Cure navigated the choppy waters of the 1980s music scene. But the band were now starting to become more and more of a touring band, with the timeframe between albums increasing, and a feeling that their superstar days were kind of behind them.
2000’s “Bloodflowers” isn’t one I have listened to much, but apparently I should - it is described as the final part of the “Pornography”/”Disintegration” ’Misery’ trilogy. Fiction didn’t bother to issue a single in the UK to promote it, possibly sensing that the band’s days as hit single makers were over - the new song on “Galore”, the sparky fun that was “Wrong Number”, had stalled way outside the top 40. Japanese copies featured a bonus track not on the UK CD version, and copies were made widely available at the same time as the UK release - it did make it feel, to me anyway, like the UK version of the record, with it’s “no single” status, and “less songs than the Japanese one”, was being slightly cast adrift. It probably wasn’t, but it did feel like The Cure, arena filling stars who routinely used to dent the charts, were sort of being put out to pasture by their label, radio stations, and TV shows.
However, the band’s next label, Geffen, seemed to take a greater interest. The band’s time on Fiction was marked by the slightly pointless “Greatest Hits” set, and the arguably more interesting B-sides set “Join The Dots”, and once the band had moved to their new home, there seemed to be a real consensus in the record company promoting the band again. 2004’s self titled effort was hyped via a multitude of single releases, whilst the original pressings of the album came with a free DVD to try and encourage buyers to get in quick. The album sold well, and was critically acclaimed, it seemed to return to their noisier roots, taking the visceral attack of something like “Pornography“, but re-tooling it for the 21st century.
Despite being issued as far back as 2008, “4:13 Dream” remains the most recent Cure studio effort. Recorded by a new look four piece of Smith, the returning Thompson, Gallup and Cooper, the keyboard parts were handled by Smith. The band lined up a tour to promote the album but in the end, the album was pushed back and pushed back, eventually being pushed back so far that the LP was finally released after the completion of the tour! The “4 Tour”, a reference I guess to the new line up, ran from July 2007 to June 2008. The band played just one gig in the UK, at Wembley Arena, on 20th March 2008, where they rattled through 25 songs before returning for an encore, presented in 3 parts, which consisted of 16 - yes, count ’em - 16 songs. The third encore was a 7-song run through of material entirely from the “Three Imaginary Boys” period. Monumental. My sister was knackered by the time they finished. Four singles were released from the LP in the run up to it’s release, on a monthly basis from May to August, with each release being issued on the 13th day of that month.
So in terms of new, recorded, studio output, that’s it. But as a live band, it’s a totally different story. Whilst the pickings since signing to Geffen have been slim (indeed, I think they are label-less at the moment), the band’s touring escapades are quite intense. Following the release of “Bloodflowers”, the band conducted a tour in which the three albums from the trilogy were played in full. The idea of doing multiple albums, in full, in the same show has been repeated since. A 2011 tour saw the first three studio albums played in full (with former members rejoining temporarily to help out) which became known as the “Reflections” shows. The line up has fluctuated even more since their last studio outing, and 2016 will see the band head out on another tour where although new material is mooted, the tour is being billed as featuring “hits, rarities and favourites”, suggesting another set of 3 hour long shows that will undoubtedly delight the hardcore. The band seem to be quite proud of their past, and are more than happy to revisit it - a tour poster for the band’s run of Christmas shows at the Hammersmith Apollo from a few years back proudly used the original “Cure” logo as featured on “Three Imaginary Boys”. As I type this, the band are a five piece again - Smith, Gallup, O’Donnell, Cooper and former Tin Machine guitar mangler Reeves Gabrels. But it could easily have changed again by the time you read this.
So. When I was a kid, and those “expanded” Bowie albums came out in 1990, I was under the impression that the whole point of these releases were to make the album available on CD, with extra tracks taking up the otherwise ‘empty space’ that you had at the end of the LP, and that these releases were the ‘definitive’ edition.
Of course I was wrong. Every few years, something happens, and these so-called definitive releases get replaced by something else. A few years back, I had heard a rumour that the Cure’s deluxe ones had been deleted. From what I can gather, they dutifully were. And in their place came single disc, bonus track-less, reissues. Pointless. But the good news is Amazon now seems to be stocking double disc pressings from the EU with a 2012 copyright date, so it does seem as though somebody has seen sense, and that the expanded releases do now seem to exist in one form or another. The first wave were housed in fold out sleeves, the 2012 run in regular slim line cases.
Anyway, given that me and my sister got into the Cure years ago, and between us, bought all these records some 20 or 25 years ago now, I have decided to list the original discography because this is really what most of my collection consists of. I have then detailed the reissues separately, showcasing the cat numbers that were used on the original reissues from 2004/5- the 2012 ones seem to have more ‘generic‘ numbers, with about 20 digits each - too much to type out! The single disc versions, being cheaper, are still on catalogue as well.
Of course, the double (and triple) disc pressings are the ones to go for if you have the time and (little bit of extra) money to go hunting them down. A quick look while I was writing this suggests the 2012 copies are now doing the rounds at a tenner a go. Nice (although one or two albums seem to be "AWOL"). As an aside, what I will say, is that in terms of the original releases, the extra tracks on the double play cassettes have all resurfaced on the double disc releases, whilst the extra tracks from the MC version of “Standing On A Beach” and the material from the “Kiss Me” 12” are all on “Join The Dots”. The “bonus” track on the “Bloodflowers” album, “Coming Up”, was included on the vinyl edition, and later appeared on “Join The Dots”, it’s first time on a UK CD release.
ORIGINAL PRESSINGS DISCOGRAPHY
Three Imaginary Boys (LP, Fiction FIX 1)
Three Imaginary Boys (Cassette, Fiction FIXC 1)
Three Imaginary Boys (CD, Fiction 827 686-2)
Boys Don’t Cry (LP, Fiction SPELP 26)
Boys Don’t Cry (Cassette, Fiction SPEMC 26)
Boys Don’t Cry (CD, Fiction 815 011-2)
Seventeen Seconds (LP, Fiction FIX 004)
Seventeen Seconds (Cassette, Fiction FIXC 004)
Seventeen Seconds (CD, Fiction 825 354-2)
Faith (LP, Fiction FIX 6)
Faith (Cassette, Fiction FIXC 6)
Faith (CD, Fiction 827 687-2)
Pornography (LP, Fiction FIXD 7)
Pornography (Cassette, Fiction FIXDC 7)
Pornography (CD, Fiction 827 688-2)
Japanese Whispers (LP, Fiction FIXM 8)
Japanese Whispers (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 8)
Japanese Whispers (CD, Fiction 817 470-2)
The Top (LP, Fiction FIXS 9)
The Top (Cassette, Fiction FIXSC 9, unique p/s)
The Top (CD, Fiction 821 136-2)
Concert (LP, Fiction FIXH 10)
Concert (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 10)
Concert (CD, Fiction 823 682-2)
The Head On The Door (LP, Fiction FIXH 11)
The Head On The Door (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 11)
The Head On The Door (CD, Fiction 827 231-2)
Standing On A Beach (LP, Fiction FIXH 12)
Standing On A Beach - And Unavailable B-sides (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 12)
Staring At The Sea (CD, Fiction 829 239-2, with 4 extra tracks)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (2xLP, Fiction FIXH 13)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (2xLP + Orange Vinyl 12“, Fiction FIXHA 13)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 13)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (CD, Fiction 832 130-2)
Disintegration (LP, Fiction FIXH 14)
Disintegration (Picture Disc LP, Fiction FIXHP 14, in see through PVC sleeve)
Disintegration (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 14)
Disintegration (CD, Fiction 839 353-2)
Entreat (LP, Fiction FIXH 17)
Entreat (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 17)
Entreat (CD, Fiction FIXCD 17)
Mixed Up (2xLP, Fiction FIXLP 18)
Mixed Up (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 18)
Mixed Up (CD, Fiction FIXCD 18)
Wish (2xLP, Fiction FIXH 20)
Wish (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 20)
Wish (CD, Fiction FIXCD 20)
Show (2xLP, Fiction FIXH 25)
Show (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 25)
Show (2xCD, Fiction FIXCD 25)
Paris (2xLP, Fiction FIXH 26)
Paris (Cassette, Fiction FIXHC 26)
Paris (CD, Fiction FIXCD 26)
Wild Mood Swings (2xLP, Fiction FIXLP 28)
Wild Mood Swings (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 28)
Wild Mood Swings (CD, Fiction FIXCD 28)
Galore (2xLP, Fiction FIXLP 30)
Galore (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 30)
Galore (CD, Fiction FIXCD 30)
Bloodflowers (2xLP, Fiction FIX 31)
Bloodflowers (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 31)
Bloodflowers (CD, Fiction FIXCD 31)
Greatest Hits (Cassette, Fiction FIXMC 32)
Greatest Hits (CD, Fiction FIXCD 32)
Greatest Hits (2xCD, Fiction FIXCDL 32, with free “Acoustic Hits“ bonus disc)
Join The Dots (4xCD, Fiction 981 463-0)
The Cure (2xLP, Geffen 986 284-6)
The Cure (CD, Geffen 986 288-6)
The Cure (CD+DVD, Geffen 986 289-0)
4:13 Dream (CD, Geffen 06025 176 42256)
Bestival Live 2011 (2xCD, Sunday Best SBESTCD 50)
2004-2006 REISSUE DISCOGRAPHY
Three Imaginary Boys (2xCD, Fiction 982 182-8)
Three Imaginary Boys (CD, Fiction 982 182-9)
Seventeen Seconds (2xCD, Fiction 982 183-1)
Seventeen Seconds (CD, Fiction 982 183-2)
Faith (2xCD, Fiction 982 183-4)
Faith (CD, Fiction 983 074-5)
Pornography (2xCD, Fiction 982 183-7)
Pornography (CD, Fiction 982 183-8)
The Top (2xCD, Fiction 984 001-2)
The Top (CD, Fiction 984 001-3)
The Head On The Door (2xCD, Fiction 984 001-6)
The Head On The Door (CD, Fiction 984 001-7)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (2xCD, Fiction 984 008-0)
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (CD, Fiction 984 008-1)
Disintegration (3xCD, Fiction 532 456-6)
Disintegration (CD, Fiction 532 456-8)