The Cure make their TV debut in 1979 with ‘Killing An Arab’
We’re diving into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you one of the fiercest and most ferocious performances from Robert Smith’s The Cure you are ever likely to see. It comes as they perform ‘Killing An Arab’ for French TV in 1979.
The performance took place at Theatre de l’Empire in Paris on December 8th, by which time the band had already been together for three years despite their young age (Robert Smith was only 21), with their debut LP Three Imaginary Boys already under their belt and a growing audience, things were on the up for The Cure. They rightly perform as such; with a certain swagger but an appreciation for the opportunity.
During their debut, the band demonstrate a mood and a spiky edge associated with the punk scene during this time but with a brand new fresh take. 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’. But now, in 1979, The Cure were as far from that as anybody.
Instead, the performance they give and the band they present to the French television show is one that is much darker, much more deeply fragmented and jarred, a band who were unlike anybody else. While The Cure would go on to perform post-punk stalwarts ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ and the incredible ‘A Forest’, the first song was the band’s 1978 debut single ‘Killing An Arab’—the band’s first performance on TV.
The track has always had a contentious journey, the title alone brought criticisms for promoting violence against Muslims and today feels a little crass, to say the least. However, the content of the song is largely rooted in the fictitious world Albert Camus creates in his novel The Stranger and sees the song’s protagonist reflecting the life of Camus’ own Mersault, all backed by Persian guitar patterns.
Robert Smith called the song “a short poetic attempt at condensing my impression of the key moments in L’Étranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus”.
The band were undeterred by any controversy though and pulled out their debut single for their debut TV appearance in 1979. In fact, it is in this, the performance of their controversial song ‘Killing an Arab’, that we see the sharpened lyrical wit and cutting atmosphere that the band would instil in all their work after this moment.
This was most certainly the beginning of The Cure’s scything personality, a trait that would carve out their path to stardom. 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 below as The Cure perform ‘Killing An Arab’ on French TV in 1979.