The Cure are one of those artists whom many would call inimitable. The group evolved to produce such a singular sound and unique vision that it can feel impossible for any other artist to truly capture. But, just because the group defies copycats, it doesn’t mean that Robert Smith and his band can’t turn other songs into tracks that would feel totally at home on their albums.
The group have developed a trademark sound that continues to play tricks on itself, forever masking the dark and morose within candy-pop flavours, while sugar is drenched in the sweat and tears of gloomy goth rock. It’s a juxtaposing combination that has made The Cure quite possibly the ultimate cult band and the desire to hear other classic songs replicated in that unique vision is huge.
Below, we’ve gathered all our favourite covers The Cure have ever done, and it has some big names included on the list. While the eighties legends have never really put too much effort into covering other people’s work, much preferring to create their own expressions, the artists they have chosen to cover on occasion are some of the best, including everyone from David Bowie to The Beatles to Jimi Hendrix.
With their sensational visuals and their unique sound, the fact is that not everybody can sound like The Cure, but Robert Smith and his band sure can make every song sound like The Cure.
The Cure’s best covers:
‘Young Americans’ – David Bowie
Robert Smith, the iconic frontman of the post-punk group, has never been shy to discuss his admiration for the late, great David Bowie. 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.
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.”
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.”
‘Love’ – John Lennon
A joyous moment of homage from The Cure to The Beatles and their bespectacled leader, John Lennon, came in 2007 when Smith and the group were asked to provide a cover for the Make Some Noise campaign.
Organised by Amnesty International as part of a campaign to save Darfur, The Cure were asked to provide a cover of Lennon’s song from the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, and the group didn’t disappoint. While the resemblance to the original is faint, the powerful performance is correct and present.
Smith takes the song to a whole new distorted place and powers it through a heavy rock meatgrinder only to parcel it up in some trippy samples and a brand new breath of fresh air.
‘Purple Haze’ – Jimi Hendrix
Given the extraordinary legacy left behind by Hendrix, a group of artists joined forces in 1993 to celebrate his music by creating the tribute album Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
The record, which combined the likes of The Cure, Eric Clapton, Pretenders, Seal and a supergroup made up of Chris Cornell alongside Pearl Jam members Mike McCready, Jeff Ament and Matt Cameron, comprised 14 different cover versions of iconic Jimi Hendrix tracks. According to the liner notes, the “artists were encouraged to not only record one of their own personal favourites but to also place their stamp on Jimi’s songs.”
While a number of the musicians involved opted to do a more traditional version which matched more accurately the work of Hendrix, a select few decided instead to put together radically different interpretations which matched their own personal style more accurately. Enter, The Cure.
Opting to run with ‘Purple Haze’, the second single released by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1967, The Cure added a splattering of their famed 1980s synth style while sampling Hendrix and a whole bunch of otherworldly sounds.
‘You Really Got Me’ – The Kinks
Back in 1996, as The Cure prepared to perform a sell-out NEC Arena in Birmingham, Smith and his bandmates were in a relaxed mood despite the growing excitement following the release of Wild Mood Swings, their 10th studio album.
While the December performance became a huge success as the band rolled through a number of their hits, including ‘Disintegration’, ‘Lovesong’ and ‘Friday I’m In Love’, it is uncovered footage from their soundcheck that has caught our attention.
Those who were familiar with The Cure’s live performances in the ’90s will know that while warming up, Smith liked to run through soundcheck with casual renditions of songs like ‘Six Different Ways’ and ‘Plainsong’. However, this particular evening, on Monday 16th December, The Cure decided to have a little bit of fun.
While the band were in the midst of a transitional period, nobody could have expected Robert Smith to put his spin on Ray Davies-written Kinks 1964 hit ‘You Really Got Me’. Built around the power chords, which would later influence rock musicians for years to come, Smith couldn’t help but play around with it while he thought nobody was watching.
‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ – Joy Division
Entrenched in the mythology and the tragic sadness of Ian Curtis’ suicide, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ remains as a bastion of emotion. One band perfectly placed to reenact this feat of songwriting prowess is The Cure.
Recorded backstage at Livid Festival in Brisbane, Australia in 2000, the track is a perfect example of how two different vocals, music styles, viewpoints, and personalities can use the same song to display their individual art. It’s a triumph.
The beauty of this particular cover lies in the juxtaposing movements of each band. Although Robert Smith and the band pay tribute to the song’s artistry and Ian Curtis’ inspiring songcraft, they turn the song into something you’d expect to hear on The Cure’s next album.
‘Hello, I Love You’ – The Doors
There aren’t hundreds of different covers from The Cure to choose from but we were lucky enough to stumble upon this gem from The Cure as they cover The Doors’ classic track ‘Hello, I Love You’.
The song must be high up there on the list of ‘most covered’ songs. It has found a home in the hearts of many artists who have given it a red hot crack to try and make their own, but it never really has the same pizazz as the original. Bands like Eurythmics, The Letterman, Adam Ant, and so many more have given it a go, but nobody has quite sounded like The Cure.
It’s not surprising that this Doors song, in particular, is a favourite with the ’80s set of British artists like Adam Ant, Annie Lennox etc. as the track remains one of The Doors‘ only charting songs in the UK. When it was released in 1968 through the album Waiting for the Sun, it would’ve resonated deeply with a youthful Britain currently experiencing a wave of unshackled freedom following their straightjacket stiff-upper-lip of their parents’ generation.
Morrison, in particular, who sadly lost his life in Paris before reaching his full potential, was a huge influence on the young Robert Smith as the leading man of The Doors. Jim was unconventional in a fairly unconventional time and lived to subvert the norms. He was The Lizard King, a poet, a ruffian, a singer, an artist and everything in between. He was the kind of mercurial artist that encouraged everybody across the land to feel ok about themselves. It was clearly something that resonated with Smith.
‘Hello, Goodbye’ – The Beatles
Robert Smith and the band joined a project entitled The Art of McCartney, a full record of tribute covers in appreciation of the work Paul McCartney’s solo, Beatles and Wings material. Given that today marks Macca’s birthday, we could think of no better moment to explore a collection of songs recorded in homage to his efforts.
The record, released back in November of 2014, was an idea dreamt up by producer Ralph Sall who had been working on the project for eleven long years. Not only did Sall manage to recruit The Cure for the tribute album of all tribute albums, but the producer also managed to convince the likes of Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Brian Wilson, Alice Cooper, Kiss and plenty more.
With The Cure at the forefront of everyone’s playlists at the moment given the activation surrounding their eagerly-anticipated new studio album, we decided to focus our attentions on their rendition of The Beatles number which was originally released way back in 1967.
About 15 years ago Cure frontman Robert Smith was asked by Rolling Stone what type of music influenced him as a child and, perhaps unsurprisingly, he references Macca and his band from Liverpool: “When punk came along, I found my generation’s music,” he began.
“I grew up listening to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, ’cause that was what got played in the house. But when I first saw the Stranglers, I thought, ‘This is it.’ And I saw the Buzzcocks the following week, and I thought, ‘This is definitely it’.”
‘Foxy Lady’ – Jimi Hendrix
Of course, the most famous cover from The Cure came on their 1979 album Three Imaginary Boys, which saw the group share some love for the mercurial musician and generational talent, Jimi Hendrix. The poster boy for the counterculture has plenty of defining anthems, but there’s something particularly ground-shaking about ‘Foxy Lady’.
The cover is a naturally affected piece of Cure iconography and sees the band take the song into brand new areas of intrigue. It also showed that, unlike the punk scene the group had grown up in, The Cure were happy to look back to the past for inspiration.
It may not be the best of the band’s covers but it certainly has a punch of post-punk brilliance.