5 Things You Might Not Know About Robert Smith

Thursday, April 19, 2018
Robert Smith

Robert Smith of The Cure celebrates his birthday this weekend, but since we’re going to be busy with Record Store Day and, you know, just generally not being at work, we wanted to take a moment in advance of Smith’s special day to honor him, which we’re doing by delivering unto you a list of 5 things you may not have known about him. Give it a read, and then go listen to your favorite Cure album…or, hey, here’s an idea: you could listen to the Cure playlist we’ve put together for you! 

1.    He served as a member of The Stranglers for precisely two shows.

In 1980, Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell found himself behind bars, having been convicted of drug possession. Was it a fair cop? Find out by reading Inside Information, the book he wrote about his prison stint, which is reportedly a great read…provided you can find a copy! (It’s very out of print.) But we’re getting off-track: in order to salvage The Stranglers’ upcoming pair of dates at the London Rainbow, the band’s management decided to ask friends and fans of the band to step in and help them fulfill their obligations. The shows were recorded for posterity, and a collection of the highlights, THE STRANGLERS AND FRIENDS: LIVE IN CONERT, was released in 1995. You can hear Smith’s contributions on “Get a Grip” and “Hanging Around,” both of which were sung by Hazel O’Connor.

2.    He helped out on “I Want To Be A Tree,” the one-off single recorded by Tim Pope. 

If the name “Tim Pope” doesn’t ring a bell, we’ll help you out: he’s the man who directed just about all of your favorite Cure videos, not to mention videos by numerous other artists of the era, including The Psychedelic Furs, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Creatures, Soft Cell, the Style Council, Talk Talk, and The The, along with some less likely suspects, including The Bangles (“Eternal Flame”), David Bowie (“Time Will Crawl”), Paul McCartney (“This One”), and even Hall and Oates (“Adult Education”). But for one brilliant Syd Barrett-inspired 45 rpm record, Pope was a singer. 

3.    He was the visual inspiration for the lead character in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.

To be fair, this is one that you might already know, if only because of the fact that it doesn’t take much effort to work out that Dream – or Morpheus, or whatever you choose to call him – has a hairdo that’s unabashedly borrowed from Smith’s classic coif. Mind you, it’s also been said that the character borrows equally from dancer  Farukh Ruzimatov as well as from what Gaiman himself used to look like back in the day. Still, it’s worth mentioning, just in case you’d always wondered but weren’t sure. 

4.    He totally phoned in his performance on South Park. No, seriously.

“I stayed up all night and went into this radio station and recorded my words down a phone line,” Smith told Entertainment Weekly in 2007. “I had no idea what it was all about. I had one of them on the other end of the line directing me, saying, ‘Please sound more like Robert Smith. Come on!"’ About six months later I saw it and I was completely thrown by what they had done with it.”

5.    He covered a Bee Gees song with Billy Corgan.

Corgan hasn’t really done much under his own name, and even when he did so, he effectively self-sabotaged its success: the day he released his lone solo album to date, THEFUTUREEMBRACE, he also took out a full-age age in two Chicago newspapers to announce that he planned to reunite Smashing Pumpkins. Fair enough. If you’ve never heard THEFUTUREEMBRACE, however, then you haven’t heard an insanely good cover of “To Love Somebody,” one which switches the key of the song and turns it into something absolutely perfect for Smith. “It’s the same melody but sadder,” Corgan told ArtistDirect. “We finished the demo and my engineer thought it was one of the best things we’ve ever done – and that was just the demo! So I’m pretty good friends with Robert Smith from The Cure, who were a big influence on me. We’re not just rock buddies, we sort of have a loving relationship from afar. So I called Robert up and said, ‘Will you sing on my record?’ He said, ‘Sure, whatever you want.’ I said, ‘It’s a Bee Gees song.’ Over the Transatlantic line I hear Robert Smith going ‘The Bee Gees?’ I said, ‘Trust me, just do your thing and it will be fine.’ He did and it was great.”


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