Is Simon Gallup a Good Bass Player?

There are not many artists as iconic as bassist Simon Gallup from The Cure. But looking back, I found Simon has his critics when it comes to his bass playing. So, is Simon Gallup a good bass player?

Simon Gallup is an outstanding bass player whose distinctive tone and style of playing have helped lead The Cure to great success, and his bass lines are instantly recognizable. While he did briefly leave the band in 2021, he quickly rejoined.

Listening to Simon, you can notice some of the most gorgeous, isolated bass playing, especially noticeable on the track ‘Just Like Heaven’. His bass lines truly helped set The Cure’s exciting sound apart from all the others.

But as iconic as he’s become, he wasn’t the original bass player for The Cure, and he also left the band for a time in the mid-’80s, and again very briefly in 2021. He also has his critics.

So in this article, we’re doing a deep dive into Simon and all things bass in The Cure.

What kind of bass does Simon Gallup play?

Simon Gallup often plays a Gibson Thunderbird bass, but he has also used a Fender Precision bass, a Fender Jazz bass, and a few others. And in the video for Just Like Heaven, he can be seen playing a Gibson Memphis ES-335 Bass.

I have listed some bass guitars that Simon has widely used in concerts and studios for recording for your convenience. So let’s take a look at his top instruments.

Gibson Thunderbird IV Bass

Perhaps Gallup’s most favorite gear is his Thunderbird.

In fact, Gibson reverted to Gallup’s love for the brand by creating a special red Thunderbird bass for him to celebrate his 25th birthday.

Fender Jazz Bass

According to an article issued by Sound on Sound Magazine, Simon Gallup used Fender Jazz Bass during the making of The Cure’s Wild Mood Swings album.

Rickenbacker

During the making of the album Pornography, Simon Gallup used Rickenbacker 4003. He chose the bass primarily because of its shape. The tone was a secondary preference.

Simon once said:

“Rickenbacker has a great shape when you wear it up high and looks like shit when you lower it. It’s very punk. Thunderbird also has a fantastic shape.”

Schecter

In 2011, Simon started using the Schecter Simon Gallup bass, which they made under his direction. It was based on the company’s Ultra Spitfire bass.

From 2004 to 2011, Simon Gallup also used a number of bass guitars such as:  

  • Fender Precision
  • Music Man StingRay
  • Dick Knight Custom Bass
  • Semi-acoustic Washburn Bass
  • Ampeg 1×15 SVT Cabinet
  • Washburn AB10
  • Kramer Acoustic
  • Epiphone Jack Casady

Was Simon Gallup the original bass player for The Cure?

Simon Gallup was not the original bass player for The Cure. Michael Dempsey was the founding bass player in The Cure but left in 1980 after only playing on the band’s debut album Three Imaginary Boys. 

Prior to joining, Gallup honed his bass-playing skills in a local punk band called Lockjaw.

Simon worked at a plastic factory to survive and became the bass player for a local punk band Lockjaw to pursue his musical career. He played bass for Lockjaw from 1976 to 1978.

On 19 Feb 1978, Lockjaw collaborated with the emerging band Easy Cure for the first time.

From here, Lockjaw and Easy Cure frequently collaborated. This was also the year Easy Cure changed its name to The Cure. The following year (1979), Lockjaw also morphed into The Magazine Spies and worked on several projects with The Cure.

At this point, Michael Dempsey originally played bass for The Cure.

After their latest collaboration for Cult Hero, which was recorded in October 1979, Gallup and Matthieu Hartley left The Magazine Spies to join The Cure.

Michael Dempsey was dropped from the line soon after The Cure’s third single, “Jumping Someone Else’s Train,” due to:

“Dempsey’s cold reception to material Smith has written for the upcoming album.”

Why did Simon Gallup leave The Cure after the Pornography album?

During the tour of the Pornography album in 1982, a series of events provoked Gallup to leave The Cure, including Gallup’s fistfight with Robert Smith at a bar and Smith hurling drumsticks at Gallup’s friend Biddles in a live show in Belgium. 

But the Pornography album, perhaps the Cure’s greatest album, also saw the band’s descent into drug and alcohol abuse sink to new lows. So it’s not surprising that tensions rose out of it.

But on May 27 of 1982, after performing at Hall Tivoli, Strasbourg, France, Simon, and Robert went to have a couple of drinks at the hotel’s bar. Following confusion over who hadn’t paid for the drinks, the duo broke into a clenched hand battle.

Remembering the incident, Gallup told a magazine:

“I was about to leave when some guy came up and told me I hadn’t paid for my drinks. He thought I was Robert. I was knackered, but the bloke took me up to the bar, and Robert appeared to see what was going on. I hit him, he responded, and we had a fight.”

Smith, on the other hand, said: 

“I was on the first floor of this club when they came up and told me there was a problem downstairs. Simon was wounded; he was screaming at the barman. He behaved the way he thought rock and rollers ought to and didn’t want to pay for his drinks. I told him to shut up, and he punched me. We had an enormous ruck, and I said ‘That’s it’ and walked out.”

To add to the pressure, a second infamous incident took place during a concert at Ancienne Belgique, Belgium:

During this concert which was organized to extend support for the album Pornography, Simon’s friend Biddles (a part-time roadie) joined the group. As soon as Biddles got on stage, he started singing, “Smith is a wanker, Tolhurst is a wanker, only Simon is worth anything in the band! The Cure is dead!”.

Furious by the abusive words, Smith threw drumsticks at Biddles’s head, and both stormed off the stage.

This incident finally resulted in Gallup leaving The Cure. He formed his band, The Cry, with Gary Biddles and Matthieu Hartley.

When did Simon Gallup rejoin The Cure after leaving in 1982?

Simon Gallup rejoined The Cure in 1984 when Robert Smith asked him to come back in time to make their hit album The Head on the Door. 

Hundreds of fans were left in shock when Gallup left The Cure following his scuffle with the band’s frontman Robert Smith.

Soon after leaving The Cure, Gallup formed another band with Biddles and Hartley, who also left The Cure in 1980. The band was called The Cry with Gary Biddles and original Cure keyboardist Matthieu Hartley.

The trio played their first gig at the Convent Rock Garden in 1983. The band later changed their name to Fools Dance and played two EPs; Fools Dance and They’ll Never Know.

The following year, i.e., in 1984, Robert offered Simon to join The Cure back, which Simon did not refuse.  Porl Thompson also rejoined the band around this time as well and remained until shortly after the 1992 album Wish.

Since then, the duo has remained on good terms. Simon was the best man at Smith’s wedding in the year 1988.

Why did Simon Gallup quit the Cure in 2021?

Simon Gallup left The Cure claiming he “just got fed up of betrayal.” He announced his departure from The Cure on Facebook on August 14, 2021. He did not elaborate on the claim nor has there been any comment from frontman Robert Smith. However, he rejoined a short time later.

So, unfortunately, we don’t know a lot about why he briefly left. The most recent news on The Cure’s website is months old, so nothing there either.

Robert Smith did say in the recent past the following regarding Gallup:

“We’ve had some difficult periods over the years but we’ve managed to maintain a very strong friendship that grew out of that shared experience from when we were teens. When you have friends like that, particularly for that long, it would take something really extraordinary for that friendship to break.

“You’ve done so much together, you’ve so much shared experience, you just don’t want to lose friends like that,”

But of course, that wasn’t addressing the current situation.

But it’s not like The Cure hasn’t been a revolving door of musicians. And many have come and gone a few times such as Porl/Pearl Thomson and now Simon.

All told there have been 12 members in the band aside from Robert Smith who is the only constant.

Does Simon Gallup use a pick?

Simon Gallup does play his bass with a pick as opposed to playing with his fingers. Specifically, he prefers the Dunlop Tortex pick or a Plectrum. 

Of course, this is where some criticism occasionally comes in, as purists say the best bass players use their fingers. But as a bass guitarist myself, I can attest that Gallup’s unique and driving sound could only come from him using a pick.

He is often seen to use a red/ orange pick identified as Dunlop Tortex in .50 or .60 size and a Plectrum.

Plenty of bassists, including Gallup, Paul McCartney, the late Chris Squire of Yes, and Matt Freeman of Rancid, use picks. As a complete aside, I DJ’ed Matt Freeman’s bachelor party!

And some well-known bassists use both methods depending on the needs of the song. Those bassists who use both picks and fingers include:

  • John Paul Jones
  • Sting
  • John Entwistle
  • Roger Waters

While a plectrum is more challenging to mute the strings you don’t want to play, a plectrum helps artists produce a great bass sound.

There are no rules, but a picked bass can often lend a sound foundation for a whole album.

How to sound like Simon Gallup of The Cure - Bass Habits - Ep 20

Conclusion

Simon Gallup has been the driving force behind The Cure’s greatest albums like Pornography, The Head on The Door, Disintegration, and many others.

He has been right by Smith’s side for decades and has been pulling praises from fans for his excellent bass-playing skills.

While not the original bass player for the Cure and conspicuously missing from the album The Top, Gallup remains the quintessential bass player for The Cure.


Photo which requires attribution:

Simon Gallup 2 by Matthew Robinson is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, color-adjusted, and had a text overlay added.

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