David Bowie is responsible for the first album that The Cure’s Robert Smith ever purchased, and the Starman remained an influential figure throughout his career. Bowie, it goes without saying, single-handedly changed Smith’s outlook on music.
The Ziggy Stardust LP was his gateway into the world of Bowie, and, from that moment, he’s never looked back. Smith once recalled: “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.”
He added: “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. 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.”
The influence of Bowie on his artistry is incredibly vast, and it can be felt across Smith’s canon of work, wherever he even consciously realises so because ‘The Starman’ is so deeply embedded into his creative psyche. However, there’s nothing subtle about how Bowie’s ‘A Letter to Hermione’ helped Smith sculpt ‘A Letter to Elise’ on Wish.
Smith later admitted he was struggling with his mental health when writing the track and fighting waves of depression. Despite being at his lowest ebb, he still managed to find a connection with Bowie’s track, which spoke to him and inspired him to deal with his demons in ‘A Letter to Elise’.
As well as Bowie’s effort, Smith was influenced by the Jean Cocteau novel The Holy Terrors, which helped him unlock his own vision. According to The Cure frontman, the heartfelt song is a “stream of consciousness piece,” and “the mood is generally resignation in the face of inevitable change.”
Similarly to Bowie’s song, ‘A Letter To Elise’ is written to a girl they desire, but they know they can never be together due to circumstances beyond the writer’s control. Both tracks have acceptance at their core and an understanding that you can’t always get your way.
Bowie wrote his track after his relationship with Hermione Farthingale came to a heartbreaking end for the singer. The couple first met through his dance teacher, Lindsey Kemp, and went on to live together for a period in 1968, but she left him for the dancer, Stephen Reinhardt.
Smith essentially used the blueprint that Bowie established with ‘Letter To Hermione’ and reimagined it in his unique way, pulling from his personal experiences to create a masterpiece for The Cure, thanks to Bowie pointing him in the right direction.