We’re diving into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you one of the fiercest and most ferocious performances from Robert Smith and The Cure that you are ever likely to see. It comes as the band perform ‘Killing An Arab’ for French TV back 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. In fact, at the time of filming, Robert Smith was only 21. With their debut LP, Three Imaginary Boys, already under their belt and a growing audience in tow, 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. 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 1980s with hits like ‘Just Like Heaven’. However, by the time of this performance in 1979, The Cure could not be further away from that genre label.
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. The Cure, it goes without saying, were a band unlike anybody else. While the group 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 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 that 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. Later reflecting on the track, Robert Smith called it “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, pulling out their debut single for their first-ever TV appearance in 1979. In fact, it is in this performance of their controversial song 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.