It may be odd for people to not imagine The Cure, most notably the band’s dynamic lead singer Robert Smith, in full goth-tastic garb. Eyeliner, large and in charge hair, and a morose expression, has often been seen as the archetypal Cure style. Their image is almost as strong as their musical output, synonymous with a particular time in history. But what many people won’t know is that before the uber-popular 1987 hit Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me thrust the band more prominently into the mainstream, The Cure was part of a very particular post-punk subset — their first-ever TV performance in 1979 is a testament to that.
The performance took place at Theatre de l’Empire in Paris on December 3rd of 1979, a time when the band had already been together for several years despite their young age (Smith was only 21 at the time of filming), with their debut LP Three Imaginary Boys already under their belt and gaining some attention. They rightly perform as such; with a certain swagger but an appreciation for the opportunity and the enthusiasm to go and grab it.
During the clip, the band demonstrate a mood and spiky edge associated with the punk scene during this time. It’s a mood which Smith and Co. would later go on to develop into their signature new-wave pop look as they tore through the charts in the ’80s with hits like ‘Just Like Heaven’. The reality is, however, that The Cure took a fairly long time to become the chart-toppers we know them as today.
Robert Smith and The Cure in 1979, were firmly set in the post-punk genre, mirroring bands like Siouxsie Sioux and The Banshees and Joy Division, they demonstrated the grit and vitriol of punk but delivered it in a far more measured and cultured way. Opting for musicianship over mentality and craft over crazy behaviour.
The band may have still been a long way from their goth look but the darkness of their sound and their attitude was still there. Playing three tracks, they featured their controversial Albert Camus-inspired song ‘Killing an Arab’ as well as ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ but opened the performance with a song from their next album ‘At Night’ which would become the brilliant ‘A Forest’ with different lyrics.
It is in these early performances that we see the beginnings of what would become synonymous with the band. Their brilliantly angular guitar sounds, their cultured atmospherics and Smith’s somewhat tortured vocal are in development. From their vicious roots to their gloriously growing goth flower sound, The Cure may be the goth poster boys, but they started as pure punks.
Watch the full performance below and get a taste of the early days of Robert Smith and The Cure.