Watch The Cure play on board The Orient Express in this vintage British TV footage

The Cure, on board The Orient Express
(Image credit: BBC TV / Scottish TeeVee YouTube)

For The Cure, 1986 would prove to be a memorable year. Having scored UK Top 30 hits in 1985 with singles In Between Days and Close To Me, Robert Smith's band were selected, alongside Psychedelic Furs and Level 42, to headline 1986's Glastonbury Festival: tickets for the weekender, which also featured The Pogues, Madness, The Waterboys and Simply Red were priced at £17, incidentally. 

That August, in acknowledgement of their growing popularity in mainland Europe, the group also filmed a 23-song performance across three nights at the 8,000-capacity Théâtre antique d'Orange, a first century Roman amphitheatre in the French countryside, for release as the 1987 concert film The Cure in Orange.

Before that, however, the quintet - Smith, guitarist/keyboardist/saxophonist Porl Thompson, bassist Simon Gallup, keyboard player Lol Tolhurst, and drummer Boris Williams - were booked to play a one-off show in Verona, Italy on May 22. Not having had a proper break in 18 months, the group decided to treat the booking as a mini-holiday, and rather than clambering aboard a tour bus with hairy-arsed roadies, they elected to travel to the show in a rather more elegant fashion, with their glamorous gothic girlfriends in tow, on the world-famous Orient Express. Joining them for the journey too was Mark Ellen, the former Smash Hits magazine editor-turned presenter of BBC music show Whistle Test presenter, who seemed rather tickled that a rock band should choose to travel in such a refined manner.

In the Whistle Test segment the group are first seen jamming the American folk-country standard Home on the Range on an acoustic guitar around a restaurant car table, while Ellen gamely pretends that his fellow passengers are outraged at the presence of these oiks in their midst. A boy-ish looking Robert Smith then offers up a comedy grumble of his own by politely moaning that his roll of Scotch smoked salmon stuffed with prawns was snatched away from him while he was doing another interview: he then threatens to make up for this indignity by going ham on the profiteroles incoming for dessert. Genteel, wholesome bants, for a more innocent time. 

One imagines that there may have been a genuine grumble or two aired when the party actually reached Verona, for they were to learn that their gig was off, at the insistence of an officious local fire chief. Booooo. Still, three free days in Venice post-cancellation with their loved ones likely took some of the sting out of this disappointment. Who said life was all doom and gloom for goths?

Watch the quaint report unfold below:

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.