Cure, The (Robert Smith)/Robert Smith/ JLH/ Wrong Number
Hello there, awesome little nook you have carved out here. Down to business! I have been playing guitar for some years now, 23 years old so I have any to go if I'm lucky... Anyways, I was initially attracted by greats like Alvin Lee and Roy Buchanan, though I was and am huge on The Kinks as well... it wasn't until this year I sat and seriously listened to The Cure and my friend I am HOOKED. However, being as I'm not rich and in the 80's, I don't even know where to begin for equipment. I do have a digitech pedal that allows me to program custom tones... So as far as a "general" Robert Smith type-tone, what settings would you recommend? Details, please, kind sir! If I need to pick a song, let's go with the lead guitar in Just Like Heaven. What is my best bet for reciprocating that sound as far as guitar/amp/pedal settings go? Thank you so much!
Scratch that, I'll take two answers gladly! BUT, if I can only pick one song for advice on, I would rather ask you how the hell the guitar tone in Wrong Number was achieved. Reeves rolls a bit differently, and I just can't seem to figure out the settings!
To begin with, the main thing in a guitar sound is to choose the guitar you need to achieve the sound you want to hear... Might sound obvious, but as you don't mention the guitar you use (nor do you say the amp and effects) it's a bit hard to tell you if you are in the right direction.
Well, anyway, here is a path to reach the objective :
For "Just like heaven", I hope you mean "lead guitar" as the parts played by Porl Thompson. If not, feel free to ask for more. Porl certainly used a hollowbody guitar, and most surely his Gibson ES-345 Stereo to achieve the sound. During the recording, he also certainly used a tube amp and I assume it was his Vox AC-30. As for effects, a delay, an overdrive (or the amp cranked up) and a chorus will do. By this time, I doubt he used anything but Boss effects even in studio. So I'd guess either a DD-2 or DD-3 or DM-2 or DM-3 (could also be a DSD-2 or DSD-3). All these pedals are time relevant. Anything more recent just certainly was not used. Quite a short delay time will do. As for the overdrive, anything will do, but assuming this was a Boss, I'd say either a OD-1, OD-2 or SD-1 (provided it was used and not obtained with a cranked up amp). As long as the OD is not set to sound too harsh. Finally, for the chorus, a CE-2 or CE-3 (high depth, low rate).
For "Wrong Number", I really have no idea what Reeves used by then (I mean during the recording sessions). I can only tell you what he uses now : a Reverend Reeves Gabrels Signature guitar (not marketed, as far as I know) mainly based on Charger model, but heavily modified to his requirements including some extra features (such as a "High gain" switch that allows him to reach these unbearable "peeeep" sounds) and sets of odd pickups configuration, and a tremolo he uses more than sensibly...
As for amps, he uses Hiwatt stacks (2 Custom Hiwatt 100 plugged into 2 Hiwatt Custom 412 cabinets). It looks he also used an Orange AD stack (with 412 cab) during their last tour.
As for effects, wow, good luck. It mainly depends what pedal board he is using. I know he has used 2 setups with The Cure (sorry for you if you're not a billionnaire...) :
His June 2013 version includes : Ernie Ball Jr. Volume, Line 6 DL4 Delay, Boss DC-2 Dimension C, Timmy Overdrive, Bearfoot Model H 4K, Bearfoot Honey Beast OD, Creation Audio Labs MK 4.23 Clean Boost, Ernie Ball 6185 WAH Pedal, TC Electronic Flashback X4 Delay, TC Electronic Corona Chorus, TC Electrinic Hall of Fame Reverb, Electro-Harmonix Ravish Sitar, Bearfoot Baby Pink Booster, Maxon FL9 Flanger, TC Electronic Vortex Flanger, Source Audio Soundblox2 Orbital Modulator, Bearfoot Evergreen Compressor, ISP Decimator Noise Reducer, Boss TU-2 Tuner, Source Audio Soundblox2 Multiwave Distortion and GigRig QuarterMaster 6 Bypass Loop Strip.
His July 2012 version included : Danelectro Sitar Swami, Ernie Ball Jr. Volume, Boss TU-2 Tuner,ISP Decimator Noise Reducer, MXR M132 Super Comp, Boss LS-2 Line Selector (implying that the board is divided in at least 2 channels), Boss CH-1 Super Chorus, Jack Deville Mod Zero, a small unidenfied pedal (sorry, noone is perfect, but potentially a A/B pedal...), Creation Audio Labs MK 4.23 Clean Boost, Line 6 DL4 Delay (with a Line 6 control pedal).
Good luck to know what is used and when in such a mess... And as I'm not his guitar tech (fortunately, because I really hate the guy and his playing style...)
Best "Guitar / Amp / Effects" combination for The Cure ? Well, it really depends what you want to achieve. It was quite simple from 1980 to 1989, but things became a bit more complicated when money began seriously dripping in (gearwise, the inflation really began in 1992 when Smith began using Gibsons...). If you ask me what is my favorite rig, here is my answer : "Fender Jazzmaster / Roland JC-160 or Peavey Musician amps / All Boss effects" (including chorus, flanger, delay and overdrive). Basically all the stuff he used in 1984 / 1986. Which doesn't mean you may not achieve the same result with other stuff. But then again, playing "Seventeen Seconds" with a Les Paul plugged into a Marshall will certainly sound desastrous... Who am I to judge, as long as the player enjoys what he plays ? ;-)
Hope the answer helps.