Tag Archives: the stranger

J.D. Salinger’s Short Story Inspired The Cure’s Robert Smith

NineStoriesPJ Harvey wasn’t the only English musician to get inspiration from J.D. Salinger’s short story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.”

The Cure’s singer Robert Smith titled the song Bananafishbones with Salinger’s short story in mind. The song was released in the album The Top in 1984. The New Yorker originally published the story in 1948, but later collected in Salinger’s 1953 book Nine Stories.

“The title (for the song), for some no-reason, from ‘a perfect day for bananafish’ – a short story by j d salinger .. again me hating myself,” Smith said according to the Cure News, a 1990 fan-produced newsletter.

[audio http://a.tumblr.com/tumblr_mcvtnoFRIg1rzbts1o1.mp3]

As incoherent as that respond is, Smith had great respect for Salinger, who was a recluse. In an interview with French magazine Rock and Folk, the singer said he was impressed by Salinger’s lifestyle and writings.

The_Cure_-_The_Top“He’s a character that I admire and that intrigues me also; isolating himself from the world, living as a recluse in a monastery, giving up writing and refusing any contact with the outside, it’s fascinating,” Smith said of Salinger in 2003.

Smith continues: “Sometimes as I look back at myself as a teenager, reading Salinger…it makes me want to laugh. But it would be a pathetic reaction, typical of a mocking father facing his child’s first emotions. The amazement is too pure to be laughed at. Authors for teenagers are considered as caricatures.”

This isn’t the only literature-inspired tune that Smith has written. In fact, many of his songs allude to classic literature. For example, Killing an Arab’s lyrics retell french author Albert Camus’ story the Stranger.


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Albert Camus’ “The Stranger” Inspires The Cure’s “Killing an Arab”

When the Cure released the album “Boys Don’t Cry” in 1980 the English band always dealt with having to explaining a song that was deemed racist by many at the time.

The cries to censor the rock band’s first single “Killing an Arab” came from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a civil-rights organization, when a radio deejay confused the song with an anti-Arab anthem.


A 1946 first-edition cover to “The Stranger” by Albert Camus.

With incendiary lyrics “I’m alive…I’m dead…I’m a stranger…Killing an Arab,” a lot of music fans overlooked the fact that the tune simply retold a scene in the short novel “The Stranger” by French writer Albert Camus.

“If there’s one thing I would change, it’s the title,” lyricist Robert Smith told Chart Attack, a Canadian music online publication, in 2001. “I wrote it when I was still in school and I had no idea that anyone would ever listen to it other than my immediate school friends.”

But many did.


The disclaimer labeled on the album “Standing on a Beach.”

So, in order to clear the negative connotations from the song the record company labeled the 1987 album “Standing on a Beach,” which started of with the “Arab” song, with Smith’s statement:

“The song ‘Killing an Arab’ has absolutely no racist overtones whatsoever. It is a song which decries the existence of all prejudice and consequent violence. The Cure condemn its use in furthering anti-Arab feeling.”

Till the day, you can still find rare copies of the album with the disclaimer label.


Filed under Albert Camus