How Jimi Hendrix inspired The Cure’s Robert Smith to start a band
The Cure frontman Robert Smith, on paper, doesn’t appear as though he was moulded in the school of Jimi Hendrix. However, so far and wide was the guitarist’s influence that even the most iconic figures within the music industry have, in some way or another, become connected to his talent. While most fans of rock and roll can vividly remember the first time that they were introduced to the world of Hendrix, that moment for The Cure’s enigmatic leader was one that would significantly change his life forever.
Smith was hypnotised by Hendrix as a child and quickly became obsessed with his work from an early age and, after hearing the outlandish axe-wielding music, he knew that his career path had been laid out in front of him. Throwing himself in at the deep end, the first time that The Cure frontman would witness live music was far removed from the usual efforts in his local venue and, instead, Smith was in attendance for arguably the greatest concert that these shores have ever seen as Jimi Hendrix laid down absolute carnage at the Isle of Wight Festival, cementing his hero status in the annals of history.
The future leader of The Cure was, somewhat remarkably, aged just 11 when he was in the audience for an evening with Hendrix at that famed show. Taking place in June of 1970, the performance from Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox is one of the final shows that the icon would ever partake in before his untimely death on September 18th. It adds even more gravity to an event that would weigh heavily on all those in attendance—and Robert Smith was one of them.
“Hendrix was the first person I had come across who seemed completely free,” Smith once said about his childhood hero. “When you’re nine or 10, your life is entirely dominated by adults. So he represented this thing that I wanted to be. Hendrix was the first person who made me think it might be good to be a singer and a guitarist — before that I wanted to be a footballer.”
Admittedly, the combination of Jimi Hendrix and Robert Smith doesn’t appear to read from the same hymn sheet in a musical sense but, on reflection, it is the priceless carefree approach to artistic creation which combines the two. Smith, still creating new music today, possesses the very same burning desire he acquired as a child while listening to the guitar god.
While the tangible links between Smith and his idol remain fleeting, The Cure did, once upon a time, put their own unique spin on Hendrix’s classic track ‘Purple Haze’ in a fuzzed-out, disorientating tribute to the psychedelic rock star. The band were part of a group of artists joined forces in 1993 to celebrate his music by creating the tribute album Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
Instead of opting to run with a traditional cover of Hendrix’s now-iconic track, the second single released by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1967, Smith and the group instead decided to give it the full Cure treatment as the band added a splattering of their famed 1980s synth-style while sampling Hendrix and a whole bunch of otherworldly sounds. The cover both pays tribute to Hendrix while also not trying to rip him off at the same time, a decision which perfectly shows off the versatility of ‘Purple Haze’.