Snubbed!: Why the Cure Deserves to Be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Guns N' Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just last week--but not fellow ballot finalist the Cure. Here's why goth's flagship group deserved to join them.

Last week, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced the winning inductees this year from a 15-name strong ballot. So congratulations are in order for rock icons Guns N’ Roses (a major band, if overrated), Red Hot Chili Peppers (quite underrated, given its accomplishments), Beastie Boys (the Hall never followed the strictest definition for the rock genre, but it’s a bit late to backtrack now and the Beasties are certainly musical heavyweights who have stronger rock credentials than most hip-hop acts), Donovan (ok, we’ll mark this as a pass for a few cracking singles), Laura Nyro (uh . . . really?), and the Small Faces/the Faces (these aren’t the same band, people . . .). Just as notable are the names that weren’t voted in, which include Heart, War, Donna Summer (whom you’ll hear about in detail tomorrow here at Sound Affects), and the most important proper rock band that didn’t make the cut in 2011: the Cure.

Why is the fact that the Cure only made the ballot this year after years of eligibility an egregious snub to be filed among the baffling ranks of current Hall non-inductees that range from Kiss to Donna Summer to the Smiths? Ok, the long-running British group (led by Robert Smith, its only consistent member) was by no means the first post-punk band or even the most influential, and Bauhaus created and defined goth, the genre the Cure is most associated with. What makes the Cure worthy enough to belong to alongside the ranks of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, and U2 is a combination of trailblazing inroads into the musical mainstream, an extensive influence over later musicians, and a diverse body of songs that could’ve formed the basis of the careers of four or five lesser groups.

While Bauhaus invented goth with its 1979 debut single “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” and the Cure didn’t begin to head in similar direction until the single “A Forest” in 1980, as the biggest act the genre ever produced Smith and his cohorts will forever remain the form and attending subculture’s poster boys to the greater public. Smith’s pale complexion, ghoulish makeup, and wild backcombed hairdo represent the face of goth, and his frequently gloomy songs and pitch-black wardrobe further enhance his already melancholic image, one that is an instantly recognizable cutltural archetype around the world. In the 1980s, goth was one of the bridges between the post-punk movement and what became alternative rock, and the Cure was right there at the juncture, representing both an elegy for rock with its splintered death dirges and a new means by which to perpetuate the style without relying on clichés cribbed from the Guide to Stardom According to the Rolling Stones. In the process, the ensemble became one of the largest fish in the immense yet little-illuminated pond that was that decade’s underground rock scene. A core artist of college and modern rock radio playlists, the Cure broke internationally just before R.E.M.—its only true commercial rival in ‘80s alt-rock—did, and by the time Nirvana and the grunge wave made alternative mainstream, Smith and Co. had already shifted millions of records around the globe all on their lonesome, with hit singles like “Just Like Heaven” and “Lovesong” the sublime garnish atop that success.

Just as Smith’s visage has left its imprint in the eponymous protagonists of the 1990 film Edward Scissorhands and Neil Gaiman’s landmark The Sandman comic book series, his group’s musical influence has disseminated throughout more than one generation of rock musicians. Be it the Smashing Pumpkins or AFI, Jane’s Addiction or the Deftones, Blink-182 or Korn, some of the most popular and innovative names in rock’s past three decades in a myriad of substyles bow at the altar of the Cure, taking cues from its ghostly guitar lines, mournful moodscapes, and darkly romantic lyrics. To even macho nu metallers, the Cure has been an exemplar of how to combine sadness with pop charms, and beautiful sonic textures with ferocious bite.

But where would the Cure be without the output to instigate that legacy in the first place? Quite simply, Smith is one of the finest songsmiths of the last 30 years. Though pigeonholed by the unfamiliar as author of punishingly grim soundtracks for angsty brooding and funerals, he’s a stylistic chameleon who dabbles in anything and everything, including psychedelia (his Glove side-project with Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Steve Severin), jaunty jazz (“The Lovecats”), synthpop (“The Walk”), uptempo horn-driven R&B (“Why Can’t I Be You?”), acid house grooves (“Never Enough”), and giddy guitar pop (“Friday I’m in Love”, “Mint Car”). Few bands since the classic rock era have sought to balance such a range over their bodies of work with a masterful command of how to craft the perfect pop song. Who else would make such an indelible hook out of a line like “Yesterday I got so old / I felt like I could die” in “In-Between Days”, or make the percussive slaughterhouse nightmare of “The Hanging Garden” so alarmingly catchy?

Mark my words: now the Cure has made the important step of making it onto a Rock Hall ballot and other ‘80s groups have paved the way, it will make it into the Hall itself someday, possibly soon. It’s just a matter of time. And once one begins delving into their astonishingly consistent singles compilations and essential albums like Pornography, The Head on the Door, and Disintegration, the scope and quality of the Cure’s songbook becomes refreshingly clear.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.