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34 Years Ago: The Cure’s ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ Album Released

The Cure Three Imaginary Boys
Fiction Records

Like many British albums through the ages, going all the way back to the Beatles, the Cure’s debut album looked a lot different when it finally arrived in the U.S. a year after its original U.K. release. But unlike so many of those albums, the Cure’s ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ actually plays a little better as its stateside companion, retitled ‘Boys Don’t Cry.’ They’re mostly the same record, but with a few adjustments that give the edge to the LP that arrived in the U.S. in February 1980.

The album that was released in May 1979, ‘Three Imaginary Boys,’ featured 13 songs, including a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’ and a minute-long untitled hidden track tacked on at the end. ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ included a dozen songs, substituting the Hendrix cover for two recent singles, ‘Killing an Arab’ and ‘Boys Don’t Cry,’ which aren’t on the U.K. version. Otherwise, the albums share eight songs, which are better sequenced for moody post-punk glory on ‘Boys Don’t Cry.’

But ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ got there first, and for most fans, it’s the band’s debut LP. But even frontman Robert Smith has expressed his unhappiness with the album, claiming that the Cure’s record company decided on the lineup of songs used and their running order. (That Hendrix song wasn’t even supposed to be on there, according to Smith.) Still, the album’s best songs, like ‘10.15 Saturday Night’ and the title track, define the start of the Cure’s familiar sound – which they’d refine over the next few years — no matter how they unfold.

‘Three Imaginary Boys’ was eventually released in the U.S. in 2004 as part of a deluxe-reissue campaign. The album never cracked the U.S. charts, but the original did just miss the Top 40 in the U.K. No singles were pulled from it in the group’s homeland, but three non-LP singles – ‘Killing an Arab,’ ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and ‘Jumping Someone Else’s Train’ – are on the ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ album. Within a few years later, the band had enough clout to demand complete control of their records. But these tentative first steps are significant, no matter how you hear them.

Listen to the Cure’s ‘Three Imaginary Boys’

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