aka The Vinyl Villain incorporating Sexy Loser

#019– The Cure – ‚Primary’ (Polydor Records ’81)


Hello friends,

well, back to a band everybody knows and loves: The Cure. Obviously there are easily a dozen singles I could have chosen by The Cure, all of them are perfectly fine in many different ways. But if it comes to numbering them all down to just one, the choice has to be ‘Primary’, I would think.

Yes, at first sight, ‘Primary’ might seem rather an uncharacteristic song to go for – it is unusual in that both Simon Gallup and Robert Smith play bass, with the effects pedals on Smith’s giving the leads a unique sound. There are no guitars (other than bass) or keyboards played in the song. Still, at least to me, it is fascinating how Smith manages to mix this sparse instrumentation and the rapid tempo into something so wonderful. It is often said that his voice is easily his most incredible instrument, and ‘Primary’ shows that there is more than an element of truth in this. Combined with his songwriting ability, his lyrics and his music, his polarizing voice is what makes The Cure so special, so magical in fact.

Taken from The Cure’s third album ‘Faith’, ‘Primary’ seems to be a tale of unrepentant youth and the beauty thereof. The unknowing of just how awful the world and other people can actually be. Apparently Smith felt so strongly about this at the time, that with the lyrics he was, “toying with the idea that it may be better to die very young, innocent and dreaming …. or even to murder as a gift …”. Now, today, to me and you, this may sound complete bollocks of course: but, mind you, we’re approaching 60 very fast and used our old age to learn a little bit about life altogether – but Robert Smith was just 22 when he wrote this tune!

And because this series is also meant to have some educational aspect every once in a while, you’ll be pleased to learn that ‘Primary’ was listed on fan-recorded bootlegs as having the title ‘Cold Colours’, which was the original working title of the song’s demo. This is also known as ‘Primary (Yellow Version)’. The song’s original lyrics, as featured on John Peel’s 1981 Radio session, focus more so on the individual primary colours than in the final version. Basically the only line which survived from the demo version is the ‘Oh oh remember, please don’t change’ – refrain:



mp3:  The Cure – Primary

Of course there is the famous 12-inch single which features a slightly different version of ‘Primary’: it heavily extends the instrumental sections between the verses, which makes the tune even more enjoyable. But today it was the 7” (obviously), which, let’s face facts, wasn’t that bad either, right?





  1. A most enjoyable write-up about a grand single, Dirk. Did not know about
    the two basses.

  2. It’s well known that Smith used a Fender Bass VI (a baritone guitar) on Faith and other tracks back in the day, but he played a good old Fender Precision on ‘Primary’. There’s an adorable YouTube video of the boys on Top of the Pops miming along with matching black/maple Precisions. Still my favorite Cure song after all this time.
    Great pick, Dirk!

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