Killing an Arab

"Killing an Arab"
Single by The Cure
from the album Boys Don't Cry
Released 21 December 1978 (UK)
6 February 1979 (UK reissue)
Format 7" single
Recorded 20 September 1978
Genre Post-punk
Length 2:21
Label Small Wonder (1978)

Fiction Records (1979)
Writer(s) The Cure (Robert Smith, Michael Dempsey, Lol Tolhurst)
Producer(s) Chris Parry
The Cure singles chronology
"Killing an Arab"
"Boys Don't Cry"

"Killing an Arab" is the first single by The Cure. It was recorded at the same time as their first LP in the UK, Three Imaginary Boys (1979) but not included on the album. However, it was included on the band's first US album, Boys Don't Cry (1980).[1]


Composer Robert Smith has said that the song "was a short poetic attempt at condensing my impression of the key moments in L'Étranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus".[2] The lyrics describe a shooting on a beach, in which the Arab of the title is killed by the song's narrator; in Camus' story the protagonist, Meursault, shoots an Arab on a beach, overwhelmed by his surroundings. Meursault is condemned for his honesty about his feelings. He is considered an outsider (or "stranger") because "he refuses to lie" and "doesn't play the game".[3]

The track has a controversial history, since it has often been viewed as promoting violence against Arabs. In the US, the Cure's first compilation of singles, Standing on a Beach (1986), was packaged with a sticker advising against racist usage of the song.[4] Smith and Elektra requested that radio stations discontinue airing the song and saw the sticker as a compromise to prevent having to pull the album from sale entirely. It saw controversy again during the Persian Gulf War and following the September 11 attacks.[5] "Killing an Arab" was the only single from the Three Imaginary Boys era not to be included on that album's 2004 remaster although it remains available on the albums Boys Don't Cry and Standing on a Beach.

The song was revived in 2005, when the band performed the song at several European festivals. The lyrics, however, were changed from "Killing an Arab" to "Kissing an Arab". Smith added a whole new opening verse when the band performed it at the Royal Albert Hall, London on 1 April 2006 as "Killing Another". The "killing another" lyric was also used during the 2007-2008 4Tour. The band performed the song as "Killing an Ahab" with lyrics inspired by Herman Melville on 2011's "Reflections" tour.

This song lends two of its lines to the titles of one of the Cure's compilation albums, Standing on a Beach, and to its CD/video counterpart Staring at the Sea.

During live performances, the song is notably played with more energy making the song sound somewhat more anarchic and aggressive than originally recorded.


"Killing an Arab" has been covered by Frodus on the 1995 Radiopaque compilation Give Me The Cure, and again in 2004 by DJ Riton. Also, the Electric Hellfire Club copied it on their 2000 Cleopatra Records compilation Empathy for the Devil. Santigold covered the song at Lollapalooza. NYC band the Reign Released a cover of it as a single in 2014 on (F.R.O.G Records) [6] The Australian band Turpentine also covered the song as a B-Side to their single "Filthy Little Pervert" in protest of the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Track listing

7" single

  1. "Killing an Arab"
  2. "10:15 Saturday Night"



  1. De Muir, Harold. "An Interview With Robert Smith of The Cure". Eastcoast Rocket. Retrieved 27 April 2011.
  2. Cure News number 11, October 1991
  3. Camus, Albert, The Outsider, Penguin Classics, 1989, p. 118 (afterword by Albert Camus, 8 January 1955)
  4. Pareles, Jon (21 January 1987). "Rock Group Accedes to Arab Protest". Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  5. Robb, Sean K. (29 October 2001). "'Oh God, not again': Robert Smith on Killing An Arab". Chart. Retrieved 8 October 2009.
  6. "Killing an Arab - Single by The Reign on Apple Music". 2014-06-01. Retrieved 2016-10-13.

External links

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