Seventeen Seconds

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Seventeen Seconds
Seventeen Seconds.jpg
Studio album by The Cure
Released 22 April 1980
Recorded 1979–80 at Morgan Studio One, London, England
Length 35:40
Label Fiction
The Cure chronology
Three Imaginary Boys
Seventeen Seconds
Singles from Seventeen Seconds
  1. "A Forest"
    Released: 28 March 1980

Seventeen Seconds is the second studio album by English rock band the Cure, recorded at Morgan Studio and released on 22 April 1980 by Fiction Records. Seventeen Seconds established the group's gloomy sound that would continue until 1982's Pornography.

It is the only Cure album to feature keyboardist Matthieu Hartley.


Inspiration was very high for the album, as Robert Smith wrote the lyrics and music for most of the record on just two occasions. Most of the music was composed by Smith in his parents' home, on a Hammond organ with a built-in tape recorder. Interviewed in 2004, producer Mike Hedges does not recall any demo tracks, with the band generally playing the track in the studio before laying down a backing track to which overdubs were added.[1]

Two members of The Magazine Spies, bass guitarist Simon Gallup and keyboardist Matthieu Hartley, were added to the band's lineup.[2] Gallup replaced Michael Dempsey, which relieved Smith as he felt Dempsey's basslines were too ornate and that they weren't getting on socially. Hartley's synth work added a new dimension to the band's newly ethereal sound, although Smith and he clashed over complexity (Hartley enjoyed complex chords; Smith wanted single notes).[1] Hartley left the group after Seventeen Seconds.[1]

Due to budgetary restraints, the record was recorded and mixed in seven days on a budget of between £2,000 and £3,000, which resulted in the band working 16 or 17 hours a day to complete the album.[1] Smith stated that as a result, the track "The Final Sound" was actually planned to be much longer, but was cut down to 53 seconds because the tape ran out while recording, and they couldn't record it again.

The record, mostly a collection of downbeat tracks, features ambient echoing vocals and minimally-treated instruments,[3] with the album's sonic direction driven by its drum sound.[1]

Musical style[edit]

Seventeen Seconds has been considered an early example of gothic rock.[4][5] Jeff Apter, author of the Cure biography Never Enough: The Story of The Cure, wrote that, along with Faith, the band's next album, Seventeen Seconds' "gloomscapes" would be "a sonic touchstone for the goth movement."[5] The track "The Final Sound", in particular, he wrote, "[is] so positively gothic you could almost be fooled into believing that it was lifted from the soundtrack of some Hammer horror gorefest".[5]


Seventeen Seconds was released on 22 April 1980. It reached No. 20 on the British album charts.[1]

The record was repackaged in the US in 1981 (on the A&M label) with Faith as Happily Ever After, available as a double album or a single CD. Neither album was available individually in the US until 1986.[6]

Seventeen Seconds was reissued in the UK on 25 April 2005 as part of Universal's Deluxe Edition series. The new edition featured a remastered version of the album on the first disc, while the second contained demo and live tracks. On the rarities disc, four of these rarities were recorded by the one-off Cult Hero, a group that featured Smith's postman Frank Bell as lead singer and which performed '70s-style rock along the lines of Easy Cure. A one-disc reissue was also released on 5 September 2005 in the UK, containing only the original album and released in a standard jewel case rather than a digipak. In some countries, the Deluxe Edition has become a collector's item due to the phasing out of production, being replaced by the more economical one-CD version.

In 2005, the Cure re-recorded the track "Seventeen Seconds" (along with other title tracks "Three Imaginary Boys", "Faith" and "Pornography") for the album 4play.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[7]
Blender 3/5 stars[8]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[9]
Entertainment Weekly B[10]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[11]
Mojo 3/5 stars[12]
Pitchfork Media 7.5/10[3]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[13]
Sounds 4.5/5 stars[14]
Uncut 4/5 stars[15]

The album's songs are described by critics as bearing vague, often unsettling lyrics and "dark", spare minimalistic melodies. Some reviewers, like Nick Kent of NME, felt that Seventeen Seconds represented a far more mature Cure, who had come very far musically in less than one year.[16] The album was lauded by some critics, and panned as a "collection of soundtracks" by others. Chris Westwood of Record Mirror described the album as "sad Cure, sitting in cold rooms, watching clocks".[17]

Despite the mixed reception, the album was relatively successful when released, reaching No. 20 in the UK.[1] There was controversy concerning the band's "anti-image", established by the cover of Three Imaginary Boys, which this album contributed to by blurring the photos of the band's members and the cover art. This is the first Cure album that Smith was able to choose the art for.

Live performances[edit]

During concerts, songs from Seventeen Seconds are typically grouped together and mostly played during the encore, as it has grown to become a fan favourite, though this is not always the case. During 2011, the Cure performed the album in its entirety over nine separate dates, firstly two nights at the Vivid Live Festival at the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, then one night at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and then six dates in America (three in Los Angeles and three in New York), with the Australian performances, billed as The Cure: 'Reflections', being recorded for a potential DVD release.

The Reflections tour featured the first performances of several songs from the album for many years. "In Your House" hadn't been played since a charity gig at the Barfly club in London during March 2004;[18] "Secrets" since a gig in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in March 1987; and "Three", "The Final Sound" and "A Reflection" since the original Seventeen Seconds tour in 1980. Between 1981 and 2008, however the band sometimes closed concerts with "Forever", a lengthy, mostly improvised piece based on the music of "Three". "Seventeen Seconds" itself had not had a full performance since 1981, although it was used as the opening song to a festival gig in France in 2002 (though on this occasion, Smith played the song as a solo effort).

The remaining songs from Seventeen Seconds have been played more often than the others. "Play for Today" and "At Night" have invariably featured in either the main set of a gig or during the encore, while "M" is mostly played as part of the encore, though on rare occasions has made it into the main set of gigs. The most played song from the album however, is the lead single "A Forest", which has become the most played Cure song with over 1,000 appearances and counting, featuring invariably as either the last or second to last song of the main set, during the encore, or in the middle of the main set.[19]


In 2000, Q magazine placed Seventeen Seconds at No. 65 in its list of the 100 greatest British albums ever.[citation needed]

Seventeen Seconds was featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[20]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Robert Smith; all music composed by The Cure (Smith, Matthieu Hartley, Simon Gallup and Lol Tolhurst).

Side A
No. Title Length
1. "A Reflection"   2:12
2. "Play for Today"   3:40
3. "Secrets"   3:20
4. "In Your House"   4:07
5. "Three"   2:36
Side B
No. Title Length
6. "The Final Sound"   0:52
7. "A Forest"   5:55
8. "M"   3:04
9. "At Night"   5:54
10. "Seventeen Seconds"   4:00
Note: The US cassette version has "A Forest" on Side A and "Play for Today" on Side B. Also, the artwork is different, with some tree branches at left and a reddish blob at the bottom.


The Cure
  • Mike Hedges – production, engineering
  • Chris Parry – production
  • David Kemp – engineering
  • Martyn Webster – engineering assistance


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Buskin, Richard (December 2004). "Classic Tracks: The Cure 'A Forest'". Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  2. ^ Black, Johnny. "Seventeen Seconds [booklet - deluxe edition]", Universal, 2005
  3. ^ a b Abebe, Nitsuh (12 May 2005). "The Cure: Seventeen Seconds / Faith / Pornography | Album Reviews | Pitchfork". Pitchfork. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Thompson, Dave (2002). The Dark Reign of Gothic Rock: In the Reptile House with The Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus and The Cure. Helter Skelter. p. 70. ISBN 190092448X. 
  5. ^ a b c Apter, Jeff (2006). Never Enough: The Story of The Cure. Omnibus Press. ISBN 1844498271. 
  6. ^ Butler, Daren (1995). The Cure on Record. Omnibus Press. p. 29. 
  7. ^ True, Chris. "Seventeen Seconds – The Cure". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 January 2013. 
  8. ^ Wolk, Douglas (20 September 2005). "The Cure: Seventeen Seconds". Blender. Archived from the original on 23 November 2005. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  9. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-857-12595-8. 
  10. ^ Sinclair, Tom (11 April 2005). "EW reviews the latest album reissues". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 7 January 2016. 
  11. ^ Sweeting, Adam (19 May 2005). "CD: The Cure, Seventeen Seconds". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 November 2012. 
  12. ^ Perry, Andrew (June 2005). "Death became them". Mojo (139): 116. 
  13. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 205–06. ISBN 0-743-20169-8. 
  14. ^ Sutcliffe, Phil (24 May 1980). "Garden gnomes". Sounds. 
  15. ^ Martin, Piers (June 2005). "Power of three". Uncut (97): 124. 
  16. ^ Kent, Nick (26 April 1980). "Why Science Can't Find Cure for Vagueness [Seventeen Seconds - review]". NME. 
  17. ^ Westwood, Chris (26 April 1980). "Oblique Soundtracks [Seventeen Seconds - review]". Record Mirror. 
  18. ^ "The Cure – Barfly Show on March 5th, 2004". Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  19. ^ "The Cure Tour Statistics |". Retrieved 2016-06-03. 
  20. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2. 

External links[edit]