Did any of you catch the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on HBO this weekend? Well, since I have nothing better to do, with the Pacers eliminated from the NBA Play-offs and the Cincinnati Reds continuing to have a sputtering offense, I watched it a couple of times and continue to turn it off believing The Cure stole the night with their masterful performance.
Now, let’s back up to the Fall of 1980. I had read in Billboard magazine that I found at my high school’s radio station where Robert Stigwood, the mastermind of the Bee Gees’ mid-Seventies resurgence in addition to the release of films with brilliant soundtracks such as Saturday Night Fever and Grease, was releasing a new movie with a soundtrack compilation of punk and new wave artists called Times Square. When I read a listing of the artists to be included on this release, my teenage head was blown! Let’s see, there was The Pretenders, Roxy Music, Gary Numan, Talking Heads, Joe Jackson, XTC, Ramones, Lou Reed, Patti Smith Group, among many others, including a band that I had been reading about in rock rags of the day, The Cure. Until I purchased this soundtrack, I had no idea what to expect from this band. I had read that they were being touted as something of a punk Pink Floyd for the Eighties. What I heard was something completely different when I finally played their song “Grinding Halt.” There was something dark that appealed to my angst-ridden soul with tinges of some psychedelia and actually some hope sprinkled between the lines. I was smitten, but I never really pursued the band’s music for another five years when I found myself in Oxford, Ohio, for my first job out of college.
That first weekend we lived in town, several of my wife’s college friends road tripped down to visit us. On that Saturday, we all wondered into Looney T-Bird’s Records, perhaps the greatest record store I ever frequented. That day, after a month of listening to the local alternative rock radio station, I picked up two albums: Lifes Rich Pagaent by R.E.M. and Standing on the Beach, a compilation by The Cure. Both of those albums remain two of my favorites to this day. And, nothing grabbed me again like The Cure did when we listened to that dark yet comforting album.
The day after my mother passed away last February, I wrote how I listened to that compilation. And, in the midst of the tension between the dark lyrics and the upbeat music, or the converse, I found comfort. For a band associated with so much darkness and moping, as many critics would mention totally missing the point, their music helped me deal with Mom’s passing.
Yes, I was excited that The Cure got inducted into the RRHOF. For me, after the extremely long drought following the induction of R.E.M., I thought people would be reluctant to honor the college rock artists of the Eighties in favor of those damned hair metal bands who all sounded the same. Seriously, after Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe, they ALL sound and look alike, including the somehow beloved Bon Jovi. Anyway, I hope this opens the door for bands such as The Replacements, The Smiths, Pixies, Hüsker Dü, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, among others. But, if you go back and listen to The Cure’s catalog, you will hear strains of so many genres that followed, much as Trent Reznor listed in his heartfelt induction speech. Without The Cure, we might not have gotten Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Pixies, Nirvana, Ministry, as well as so many other darker sounding bands of the late-Eighties and Nineties.
Now, I love both leader Robert Smith’s lyrics and voice, both of which are unique in the rock world. Yet, I find myself drawn more to his long time partner, Simon Gallup’s bass sound, that always sounded so bottom-heavy and deep even during the trebly sound of Eighties rock production. It is his grooves that made the band sound, well, sexy, not unlike Echo & the Bunnymen or, I hate to mention them in the same breath, The Doors. Yet, the darkness and the sexiness combination that always sold the band to the ladies. Never forget that!
With that said, I would love to present my Top 20 list of my favorite songs by The Cure.
20. “10.15 Saturday Night” (Three Imaginary Boys, 1979)
19. “The Caterpillar” (The Top, 1984)
18. “Shake Dog Shake” (The Top, 1984)
17. “A Letter to Elise” (Wish, 1992)
16. “Let’s Go to Bed” (Japanese Whispers, 1982)
15. “Hot Hot Hot!!!” (Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, 1987)
14. “The Walk” (Non-album single, 1983)
13. “The Hanging Garden” (Pornography, 1982)
12. “Why Can’t I Be You” (Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, 1987)
11. “Friday I’m in Love” (Wish, 1992)
10. “In Between Days” (The Head on the Door, 1985)
9. “Disintegration” (Disintegration, 1989)
8. “Pictures of You” (Disintegration, 1989)
7. “Fascination Street” (Disintegration, 1989)
6. “The Love Cats” (Non-album single, 1983)
5. “Close to Me” (The Head on the Door, 1985). I prefer the original version over the 1991 remix, though there is no way this song could ever be ruined in my book.
4. “Boys Don’t Cry” (Non-album single, 1979). The song that ignited a whole new generation’s sound.
3. “A Forest” (Seventeen Seconds, 1980). Confirmed the brilliance of The Cure, plain and simple.
2. “Lovesong” (Disintegration, 1989). Robert Smith’s most direct love song is also his biggest American pop hit. It is his most accessible and sexiest song.
1. “Just like Heaven” (Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, 1987). Honestly, is there a more perfect pop song with the perfect instrumental opening? It gets me every time!