Seventeen Seconds is The Cure’s second album and was released in 1980. It is a very pivotal album in the band’s history; it almost never happened because the band almost came to end.
Robert Smith was growing at odds with bassist Michael Dempsey. At the same time he had met bassist Simon Gallup, who was in the band Magspies, and they were much more compatible musically. Smith and Gallup decided to record together along with local postman Frank Bell under the name Cult Hero. The two tracks from their single appear on the rarities disc here along with live performances of those songs.
The Cure was on tour opening for Siouxsie and the Banshees when the latter’s guitar player quit. Smith was enlisted to fill the role, playing in both bands each night. Following a gig on October 3 in Newcastle, Smith wrote many of the words that appear on Seventeen Seconds. He created demos and then played them for Dempsey who didn’t like them. Smith then took them to Gallup who loved them. Gallup was asked to join The Cure as was his band mate keyboardist Matthieu Hartley.
Although their debut album Three Imaginary Boys received critical acclaim, Smith was disappointed with elements of it and wanted to create something that he could be totally proud of. He says in the liner notes, “I’ve always thought of Seventeen Seconds as our ‘opening’ album. It was the first record I felt was really The Cure.” Engineer Mike Hedges “appreciated the musical direction – morose, atmospheric and very different to Three Imaginary Boys.
Seventeen Seconds is very good. The music and lyrics have matured and the mood of the entire album is balanced. The best-known songs off the album are “Play For Today,” which has become a classic sing-a-long in concerts and “The Forest” – one of my all-time favorite songs. The album has some instrumentals, “A Reflection” and “The Final Sound,” which is less than a minute because the tape ran out. “Three” is almost an instrumental with its incoherent ramblings, but it works here.
The second disc, Rarities 1979-1980 starts with the aforementioned tracks by Cult Hero. The Cure rarities begin with a couple of home instrumental demos: “Another Journey By Train” and “Secrets.” The sound quality isn’t that great, so they are only a must-listen for the serious Cure fanatic. Two tracks were recorded in Amsterdam 1/1980, including “In Your House,” which has been released previously on the Curiosity cassette. On an alternate version of “Three” Smith’s talking is louder, but not any more intelligible. “M” is live from Arnhem 5/80 and the remaining five tracks are from France 6/80. “At Night” is the only one from that show that has been previously available, also appearing on the Curiosity cassette.
The liner notes by Johnny Black are impressive and well written. They provide great biographical information about the band, the material and the recording process. Smith is quoted throughout, providing his insights as to what was happening.
If you are going to buy more than one Cure CD and would like to save money, go to the Rhino website.