"He's the only one that'll have us," Robert Smith joked about The Cure's relationship with director Tim Pope who shot nearly every video by the band between 1982 - 1992. Before Pope entered The Cure's world on "Let's Go to Bed," directors only wanted to play up the band's admittedly very dark image. “For ‘The Hanging Garden’ video we got two people who did Madness videos, but it was a really awful video," Smith said. "They wanted to make us look serious and we wanted them to make us look like Madness.”
Pope, on the other hand, not only allowed The Cure to be funny, but encouraged it. He also realized that underneath that tangle of teased hair was a face the camera loved, and he put Smith front and center of almost every video they made together, with many of them being just Smith miming playfully to the camera with a few props and clever lighting effects.
That decade when they worked closely together featured many classic albums and singles but you can't discount the effect Pope's videos had in The Cure's success. He brought out the best in the Cure and vice versa. Pope, or "Pap" as he was nicknamed by Smith, made tons of videos in the '80s, including many for Soft Cell, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Talk Talk and Psychedelic Furs, but few rivaled what he did with The Cure. "It was like an alternate world we created with Tim," Smith said in an interview with MTV.
Pope has, to date, directed 23 videos for The Cure, as well as two concert films -- 1987's The Cure in Orange and Anniversary: 1978-2018 which was shot at London's Finsbury Park for the band's 40th anniversary -- and most of them have held up remarkably well. We picked our 10 favorite of the collaborations and you can read our list below.
THE CURE'S 10 BEST VIDEOS DIRECTED BY TIM POPE
10. "Wrong Number" (1997)
"Wrong Number" was Tim Pope's first time working with The Cure in five years after a disheartening attempt at breaking into Hollywood with The Crow: City of Angels and working as a commercial director. Pope's sensibilities once again fit perfectly for the only new track on greatest hits comp, Galore. "I remember the band all saying, 'Thank God you're back,'" the director told The Quietus. For it he used the tried-and-true method he used on their first collab, "Let's Go To Bed": put the band in a whimsical set with a bunch of props, and follow Robert Smith around as he mimes and mugs for the camera. "Wrong Number" adds a party-full of wacky guests to the mix, including a man who looks like he could be a 1970s used car salesman and opens his jacket to reveal a bunch of flying heads who escape his body. "I pushed Robert in to start dancing with this guy, and the look of terror on Robert's face just makes me laugh every time," he told The Quietus. "Watch the video knowing that story; it is hilarious." "Wrong Number" is not the best cure single, but it's very mid-'90s video is a blast. It's also the last Tim Pope/The Cure video collaboration, though with a new album on the way there's always hope for more.
9. "Catch" (1987)
The videos for Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me are a mixed bag: "Just Like Heaven" is notable mainly for featuring Robert Smith's wife, Mary; "Hot Hot Hot" has The Cure as a soul band who you may not ever realize are shorter than usual via Dorf on Golf trickery; and the otherwise fun, highly choreographed "Why Can't I Be You" is marred irrevocably by the inexplicable decision to have Lol Tolhurst in blackface in a couple scenes. (Seriously what were they thinking?) That leaves us with "Catch," the understated and wonderfully romantic second single from the album, that gets the tone just right. Again at the seaside (a re-Cure-ing motif), they shot it in Nice, France at a once palatial estate that has fallen into decay -- shades of Grey Gardens -- which worked perfectly with the song's wistful nostalgia. The owner of the villa, Lady Kildare, makes a cameo.
8. "Never Enough" (1990)
The Cure followed up 1989's landmark Disintegration the very next year with remix album Mixed-Up that acknowledged the UK's acid house / rave scene that was all the rage then. Amongst the new spins on older songs the album included new single "Never Enough" that was set to a baggy beat worthy of The Stone Roses. For the video, Tim Pope put the band in a Cure-themed end-of-the-pier funhouse / freakshow in a seaside tourist town. This gave everyone involved lots to do, be it dressing up, shooting through funhouse mirrors, or using deceive-the-eye in-camera special effects, like the little room the band play in that made the band appear giant. By the way, that's Tim Pope near the start of the video as the swami head in the fortune teller machine that spits out coins.
7. "In Between Days" (1985)
In a mid-'80s interview, Robert Smith called "In Between Days" the "most dangerous video we ever made," but added "it compliments the song the best" of any video they'd made up to that point. As for the "dangerous" part, Tim Pope hung a camera from a trapeze wire and had Smith swing it around the room as they performed. "In Between Days" also features the first appearance of what would become a recurring theme in Cure videos: socks, which here come flying out of a piano in its opening seconds. "The only thing I've never understood about all the videos we've made with Pap are those socks."
6. "Boys Don't Cry" (1986)
When The Cure released singles compilation Standing on the Beach / Staring at the Sea, they made videos for three songs that never originally got them: "Killing an Arab," "Jumping Someone Else's Train," and "Boys Don't Cry." The latter is the best of the bunch, with three pre-teen boys miming in place of the band while familiar gothy silhouettes loom in the background, in particular one with wild hair, glowing eyes and eccentric dance moves. "The kids were really good," Smith said on series Video Killed the Radio Star, "much more professional than the band." According to Pope, the three kids are still friends and regularly attend Cure gigs together.
5. "Let's Go to Bed" (1982)
The first video Pope made for The Cure also signaled a transitional period for the band.. Having come off their two bleakest albums, 1981 Faith and 1982's Pornography, Smith disassembled the band to just himself and Lol Tolhurst and moved from darkness into the light. "Let's Go to Bed" was also their first fling with synthpop and they were looking for a director who didn't just see them as goths. “As soon as he walked through the door, I thought, 'brilliant,'" said Robert Smith in the late '80s, "because he had on a really horrible shirt and a really horrible, ill-fitting pair of trousers. One eye was going up there and one eye was going down there and I thought, This man must be a brilliant video director to get away with it. We’ve been with him ever since.” Pope let Smith and Tolhurst show off their innate sense of humor and it's the first example of many to basically just let Robert be charming.
4. "Friday I'm in Love" (1992)
One of the most unabashedly joyous Cure singles is paired with one of their best videos. In fact, Robert Smith has said it's his favorite, though maybe because it only took three hours to film. For Pope, though, it involved days of planning. Made as an homage to work of silent filmmaker Georges Méliès (A Trip to the Moon) and shot in a single take with multiple cameras, the video has The Cure performing in an old theatre as different painted backgrounds are dropped behind them and various props and costumes are thrown at them. Those props mirror the song's lyrics too: When Smith sings "It's such a gorgeous sight to see you eat in the middle of the night," a cartful of food appears. "Friday I'm in Love" also ended Tim Pope's uninterrupted 10-year run of directing Cure videos -- he wouldn't make another till "Wrong Number" five years later.
3. "The Lovecats" (1983)
Their third collaboration together, "The Lovecats" video was another turning point for The Cure that made the best use so far of Robert Smith's undeniable charisma, cementing his "hearthrob" status. The idea was simple, a couple of alleycats stumble onto a swingin' party populated by the band and other felines -- real, stuffed and a few Cure members dressed up in cat costumes. The location was a house in North London that was on the market -- the group convinced the real estate agent that they were interested in buying and to let them stay there overnight. Filming went to sunrise and was, in the words of Pope, a "party party party," much to the annoyance of the neighbors. Pope's use of light and shadows is particularly inspired here, and there are just so many wonderful little touches, from the way the milk bottles fall over in time with the percussion at the start of the song, to surprises (puppets, cats, etc) thrown into the foreground, and how everything is just a little sped up to feel pleasantly manic. You discover something new every time you watch it.
2. "Close to Me" (1986 original and 1990 remix)
"Pap always asks me what the song is about," Robert Smith recalled about the "Close to Me" video, "and I told him I wanted it to feel claustrophobic, like you're trapped in a wardrobe on the edge of a cliff." Tim Pope took that as the elevator pitch for the video, shoved the band in a wardrobe full of clothes and had them perform using combs and other things found inside as instruments. There is also some choreography via very cute Cure finger puppets. The band's attempts at escape send the wardrobe toppling off the cliff and into the sea below. Shot in tight closeups, the sense of claustrophobia is palpable -- with a few hours spent in a freezing water tank, Smith said it was "most unpleasant" Cure video to make -- but the discomfort just adds to the close quarters fun. A new mix for the song was created just for the video, adding lots of horns, and that version, including the creaking door intro, ended up being released as the single version. Speaking of mixes, when the song was given a shuffling Madchester makeover for 1990's Mixed Up, they made a sequel to the original video with the band performing at the bottom of the ocean.
1. "Lullaby" (1989)
The first single for 1989's Disintegration was a frolicking if pitch-black bedtime story about being scared of the dark, where the second the lights are turned off, the Spider Man (not the friendly neighborhood kind) was coming to have you for dinner. Pope took the concept for the video directly from the lyrics of the song, specifically the line, "I feel like I'm being eaten by a thousand million shivering furry holes." Pope ran with that and, rivaling his work on "Close to Me," he created an unsettling, claustrophobic, and surreal world out of Smith's bedroom which, over the course of the video, transformed into a spider's lair. "[Smith] assumed I was going to build a large spider's mouth," Pope told The Quietus, "but what I actually built was a rather large female organ instead, the one that you see him get sucked into." That scene, with Smith sinking into the spider, is one of many unforgettable, unsettling images in "Lullaby." It was all maybe too much of a creep-out, as The Cure got pushback from MTV over it being too scary. Meanwhile over in the UK it won Best Music VIdeo at the 1990 Brit Awards. More than 30 years later, "Lullaby" remains The Cure and Tim Pope's best video.
BONUS VIDEO: Tim Pope - "I Want to Be a Tree"
Around the same time The Cure were making "The Caterpillar" and "The Lovecats," Tim Pope recorded his own single, the whimsical, Syd Barrett-esque "I Want to Be a Tree," which he made with Robert Smith's help. For the video, he directed himself in a single take -- apparently a music video first -- as a half-man-half-tree creature standing 20 feet tall at the edge of a forest. There's also a second video which was made while Pope was on sets of other videos, featuring cameos/sing-a-longs with The Cure, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Soft Cell, The Style Council Freur, Paul Young, Talk Talk's Mark Hollis, and more.
The Cure are going on tour (lower ticket fees inclueded).