Primary is the only single from The Cure’s third studio album Faith, released in 1981 on Fiction Records. It was the first song by The Cure to be remixed as a separate extended mix for release on 12″ single. In fact, the original 12″ extended mix is, to this day, still only available on the original 12″ single, which has never been reproduced on any other album, making it quite a rare item.
The song is unusual in that both Simon Gallup and Robert Smith play bass, with the effects pedals on Smith’s giving the leads a unique sound. There are no guitars or keyboards played in the song.
Primary was first played during the Seventeen Seconds tour with completely different lyrics (aside from the chorus) and a slightly different bass-line. Bootleggers who released recordings of those shows named it Cold Colours and the name is still often used in regards to these early versions, although recordings from the time show that even then it was introduced by Robert as Primary.
A studio demo from September 1980 can be heard on the second disc of the deluxe reissue of Faith, and another recorded for the John Peel show on BBC Radio One in January 1981. The early version was sometimes dedicated to the late Ian Curtis of Joy Division when played live.
The song is still played live to this day, though less frequently than others from this era.