Wiki advises that the discography of The Cure consists of thirteen studio albums, five live albums, ten compilation albums, ten extended plays and thirty-seven singles, together ten video albums and forty-three music videos.
It all began in December 1978 with a release on the indie label Small Wonder that operated out of a record shop of the same name in the east end of London.
It’s impossible to imagine a song with such a title being given any sort of release these days; let’s just say that any singer or band would likely find themselves at the rough end of some serious protests, on-line and in person at gigs or other personal appearances. Nobody would pay any attention to the explanation behind the title and subject matter, namely that it is concerned entirely with an incident in a famous French novel dating back to the 1940s, and instead the songwriter would be accused of stirring up racial hatred. Indeed, such is the emotion around the words ‘Killing An Arab’ that this very post might attract some nutters directed here via a search engine or two. If so, please go away….this is, as you can see, a blog about music and not a place where you get dodgy advice to further destabilise the world.
Robert Smith has, on a number of instances over the years, admitted he had rather given the song an alternative title. It was one he wrote while he was still at school and hugely influenced by the issues that abound throughout L’Etranger by Albert Camus, and as such is meant to be a high-brow and clever effort rather than any racist call-to-arms. Sadly, it has been hijacked as such by far too many people and it has also, understandably, been banished from the nation’s airwaves over the years as we go from one Middle-Eastern conflict to the next…..although, sadly, for every station that has banned it there seem to be just as many who rejoice in playing it having missed the whole point completely.
There was actually very little in the way of protest back in 1978, as can be evidenced by the fact that Fiction Records, to whom the band had just signed, would re-release the single three months later. It was a single that was well received by the critics, with a number of favourable reviews in the weekly music papers, but this didn’t translate into any huge numbers of sales. It would take until April 1980, and the release of their fourth single, A Forest, before there was real commercial success, after which there was no stopping them.
Killing An Arab came with an equally enjoyable track, one whose sound was akin to the post-punk minimalist-style that was being played by bands such as Talking Heads but with a lyric that captured the misery and frustration of being a bored teenager:-
Indeed, it was the b-side rather than the a-side that got The Cure signed to Fiction Records.
Is the debut their best ever single? I don’t think there’s many who would make that claim. But what is? I genuinely can’t answer that as it changes on a regular basis depending on my particular mood.