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From David Bowie to Kate Bush: The Cure's Robert Smith picked his 30 favourite songs from the '80s


“I lose myself in music because I can’t be bothered explaining what I feel to anyone else around me.” — Robert Smith, The Cure.

The 1980s were a crazy time for music. The decade was piled high with wonderful musical contradictions, full to the rafters with high concept creations as it was low rent sleaze. Heavy metal rose simultaneously as the sugariest pop known to man became a worldwide addiction and catwalks turned into arthouses. One band synonymous with this time in music was The Cure, so imagine our delight when we found leading man Robert Smith’s 30 favourite songs from the decade.

Smith himself is one of the most recognisable faces from the ’80s, a period which dominated the newly found Land of the Free for music; MTV. His goth look would go on to inspire millions, while his music gave emotion and solace to a generation of disenfranchised youth. He and his band effectively changed the face of pop and gave it a whole new gravitas with a discography chock full of blissful love songs and treacherous despair.

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He wasn’t alone in his quest for pop music with a point. Smith’s favourite tunes of the decade reflect that. The singer found spots on his favourite list for incredible alternative acts such as Kate Bush and her magnificent ‘Cloudbusting’, The Jesus & Mary Chain track ‘Some Candy Talking’, Pixies’ ‘Gigantic’, the lesser-known ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ by New Order and My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Lose My Breath’.

It must be said, Smith does have a special place in his heart for some shiny pop gems—we’re looking at you Bananarama and Mel & Kim—but the singer still champions the alternative over anything else, even 30 years later. His selection of London pop group Bananarama might have something to do with their notorious drinking sessions.

Not only is the list a great reminder of the more cultured side of music in the ’80s, such acts as Cocteau Twins, Joy Division and Depeche Mode always operated in the peripheries of the mainstream. But it also allows us all to dream about the scenario in which Robert Smith, eyeliner and all, is dancing in his bedroom to Chaka Khan’s ‘I Feel For You’. The playlist makes for a truly engaging listen and one of the best representations of the 1980s music scene you’re likely to see.

The list was conducted as part of a past interview with Sirius XM and luckily kept in the vaults by The Cure TC. It should come as little surprise to those that have followed The Cure that David Bowie has spearheaded Smith’s list of 1980s favourites.

Bowie, whose ever-developing career and repeated character changes propelled him to the top of popular music, had impacted Smith’s vision of music and helped formulate his understanding of the type of music he wanted to create within his band.

While The Cure are undoubtedly a band who verge closer to the darker side of proceedings in their earlier material, a conscious decision by Smith to lighten the mood by introducing a more significant pop sensibility to the band’s sound resulted in hits such as ‘Friday I’m In Love’ and ‘Lovesong’.

Once drawn into a conversation about how Bowie had influenced his approach to music, Smith answered: “I listened to music before Bowie, obviously. I have an older brother and he played me Hendrix, Cream and Captain Beefheart… all that type of stuff from the 1960s but David Bowie was probably the first artist that I felt was mine. He was singing to me.

“He [Bowie] was the first album I ever bought, Ziggy Stardust was the first vinyl album I ever bought. I always loved how he did things as much as what he did. I love that idea of being an outsider and creating characters. I look back at some the things we’ve [The Cure] done and I can see echoes of some of Bowie’s stuff in it.”

He added: “I got my dream come true when he invited me to sing with him at his birthday in New York. That was a fantastic night, unreal actually for something like that to happen.”

It doesn’t end there. Smith also picks out a song from Björk’s former band The Sugarcubes, the experimental sounds of Dinosaur Jr as well as Tom Waits showing that, for Smith, experimentation was seemingly at the heart of the decade.

It truly is the kind of playlist that can please the entire room, from the new wave to the synth-wave and pop sheen to post-punk grit. Listen to Robert Smith’s favourite songs of the 1980s below.

Robert Smith 30 favourite songs from the 1980s:

  • ABC – ‘The Look of Love’
  • The Associates – ‘Tell Me Easter’s On Friday
  • Bananarama and Fun Boy Three – ‘It Ain’t What You Do It’s the Way That You Do It’
  • David Bowie – ‘Let’s Dance’
  • Kate Bush – ‘Cloudbusting’
  • Cocteau Twins – ‘Persephone’
  • Cristina – ‘Things Fall Apart’
  • Daf – ‘Sex Unter Wasser’
  • Depeche Mode – ‘Personal Jesus’
  • Dinosaur Jr – ‘Freak Scene’
  • Echo and the Bunnymen – ‘The Killing Moon’
  • Peter Gabriel – ‘Red Rain’
  • The Human League – ‘Human’
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain – ‘Some Candy Talking’
  • Joy Division – ‘The Eternal’
  • Chaka Khan – ‘I Feel For You’
  • Madness – ‘Return of the Los Palmas Seven’
  • Mel and Kim – ‘Respectable’
  • My Bloody Valentine – ‘Lose My Breath’
  • New Order – ‘Everything’s Gone Green’
  • Yoko Ono – ‘Walking on Thin Ice’
  • The Pixies – ‘Gigantic’
  • The Pretenders – ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’
  • Prince – ‘Starfish and Coffee’
  • Psychedelic Furs – ‘Heaven’
  • Siouxie and the Banshees – ‘Dear Prudence’
  • Soft Cell – ‘Tainted Love’
  • The Sugarcubes – ‘Birthday’
  • Suzanne Vega – ‘Small Blue Thing’
  • Tom Waits – ‘In the Neighborhood’