The Cure’s Boys Don't Cry – released in February 1980 – was technically the band’s first compilation album, despite coming only one year after their 1979 UK debut, Three Imaginary Boys. As the band were yet to secure a record deal in the US, Boys Don’t Cry was made up of several tracks from their debut album, along with other material from their 1978-1979 era, mainly intended to garner industry attention. Little did they know, the album’s title track would go on to become one of The Cure’s most enduring and iconic tracks, even now, four decades on.
Just last year, Robert Smith spoke to Rolling Stone about the timeless power of their classic track, “Boys Don’t Cry” and its continued ability to challenge gender norms, saying: “I was singing [“Boys Don’t Cry”] at Glastonbury and I realised that it has a very contemporary resonance with all the rainbow stripes and stuff flying in the crowd. When I was growing up, there was peer pressure on you to conform to be a certain way.”
– and on never being ‘goth’: “As an English boy at the time, you’re encouraged not to show your emotion to any degree. I couldn’t help but show my emotions when I was younger. I never found it awkward showing my emotions. I couldn’t really continue without showing my emotions; you’d have to be a pretty boring singer to do that.”
To celebrate 40 years since the release of Boys Don’t Cry, we’re taking a look back at some of the band’s early live performances, highlighting their bass-heavy, post-punk roots, along with the haunting and insistent quietude that danced closer and closer to a sweetly anguished edge of darkness that turned them into New Wave icons.
The Cure | “Boy Don’t Cry” [Live, 1992]
The title track is definitely the odd tune out of the collection, but the pure-pop-melancholy crooner struck a massive universal chord in the hearts of anyone who’s tried to put on a brave face in the wake of heartache – ie. everyone. In this live performance from 1992, one round of the song’s infectious guitar hook is all it takes to send the crowd of tens of thousands into a frenzy – their high-energy enthusiasm is rewarded with an equally electric performance from the band.
The Cure | “Jumping Someone Else's Train” [Live in Amsterdam, 1980]
“Jumping Someone Else’s Train” was the second single released from Boys Don’t Cry. The song’s dynamic variations highlight the group’s ability to draw power from empty spaces, making every drawn breath and note played fall distinctly and significantly with the sort of precession of a band that instinctively work as one.
This live cut is taken from Amsterdam’s Countdown, aired on Dutch TV in October 1980. There’s an intensity to Robert Smith’s delivery that proves, even before his big hair and heavy kohled eyes, he was always destined to be the poster boy for gloom.
The Cure | “Three Imaginary Boys” [Live, 1979]
Robert Smith’s pink pants truly steal the show in this very early performance of “Three Imaginary Boys” which had also been the title track from their UK debut album.
The Cure | “Killing An Arab” [Live, 1986]
“Killing An Arab” was the Cure’s debut UK single, released on December 21st, 1978. The song featured a Middle Eastern guitar motif that was inspired by the Siouxsie & the Banshees single “Hong Kong Garden”, released earlier that year. Lyrically, the song was based on Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger from 1942. It’s rare to pull off such a feat without being labeled pretentious, but the Cure’s masterful mix of sweet and low, hook-driven production turned an existential literary exploration into a transcendent post-punk-pop hit.
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