New York in the early 1980s, the New York of Mayor Ed Koch, was not beautiful. Run-down, covered in graffiti, and plagued by violence and crime, it was a gritty place, to say the least. We had arrived a few months before John Lennon was gunned down outside the Dakota by Mark Chapman. The era of Peace and Love was definitely over and, as in the UK, the punk scene had emerged from the maelstrom. You can see the tension in Allan Tannenbaum’s beautiful photo of The Cure standing on Columbus Avenue, being eyed uncomprehendingly by some of New York’s finest out on their beat.
The first gig we ever played in the United States was not in Manhattan but at Emerald City in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on the edge of Philadelphia, on April 10, 1980. To us it could have been Mars. It was that different from our own experience. A former disco club, its patrons spent most of the gig with their plaid-shirted backs to us while nursing their drinks. Robert bravely tried to rally the troops.
“We’re The Cure and this is our first time playing in America!”
Although it could have been a disaster, we won them over eventually. Polite applause turned into whoops and hollers by the end of the set. It was a very small, almost minuscule beginning to what was to become The Cure’s huge success in America.
In Washington, DC, we experienced the sharper side of American life. We were shocked when we pulled into town and realized it was divided into the haves and have-nots, ghettoized in a way we had not experienced before. It was an eye-opening experience. In London it appeared to us that all the races mixed together, but here it felt distinctly different to us in a way that was immediately apparent.