My love affair with The Cure began fairly late in life. I wasn’t very aware of The Cure until 1985 or so when WBCN began playing “In Between Days.” It wasn’t in strict rotation; the radio station had what amounted to a B cut bin designed to ferret out new music and to give a push to local bands. Once an hour, just before the half hour break, you could play something from this particular stack of records. It was always my favorite stack to be honest. There were always great chestnuts in there.
The DJs also had a “O” bin at just before the :50 hourly break where they could play whatever they wanted. Every now and then the DJ would throw us producer types a bone and let us play whatever we wanted. I’d try to stay on the beaten path whenever my chance came…don’t misunderstand; this only happened once every three months or so…but I’d end up playing something like Yes’ “Changes” from 90125 and get a sideways look from Mark Parenteau or whomever else might be filling in on his shift. 90125 was actually attended to very well by the station. They played “Owner of a Lonely Heart” which to me was a throwaway track, but it did gain them some traction. “Leave It” and “It Can Happen” are songs I still love to this day, but I didn’t come here to profess my love for Yes. The point here is that, even as good as a song like “Inbetween Days” was, we really only had one chance every four to six hours to play it. Once it cleared the B bin, it might have made it into the core library, but more often than not it disappeared into the back library only to be resurrected about once a decade…still that is better than the fate it may have suffered at other lesser radio stations. History tells us The Cure never suffered that fate at WBCN.
I didn’t know much, if anything, about The Cure prior to their 1985 release The Head On The Door. They aren’t your straight ahead Classic Rock band like, say, The Allman Brothers Band. Lead singer Robert Smith wore eyeliner and makeup. Not exactly my cup of tea give or a take An Aladin Sane, but there was something special about these guys. I hadn’t yet been exposed to so called Gothic Rock and funds were limited back in the day. You couldn’t really afford to buy many records based solely on the album artwork and the buzz from one song. I did finally secure a copy of the LP Standing On a Beach (or Staring at The Sea if you preferred the cassette or CD version), which was an excellent greatest hits package and a great starter kit for my Cure fandom. Sandwiched between 1985′s The Head On The Door and their 1987 smash Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Standing On a Beach was the perfect stop and reflect album. The masses, including yours truly, got hit with “Let’s Go To Bed, Close To Me, Boys Don’t Cry, Love Cats, and one my personal favorites, A Forest” one one extraordinary record. It didn’t catch everything, but The Cure were about to ascend to their commercial peak. I had to fine out more and it had to be yesterday.
It turned out, upon further review, that The Cure had been around a while by 1985. Formed in 1976 in the UK’s West Sussex region, the band already had five studio records on the market by the time I figured out they were great. Now I own them all, but back then all I had was one tune and no Internet access. Sounds prehistoric doesn’t it? You had to painstakingly take in a band in those days one used record at a time. I began buying them, mostly from Nuggets in Boston’s Kenmore Square, at something like $2.99 a pop and digesting them one by one. Still, I had no idea that 1989′s Disintegration was going to change my world forever. The singles from this record were flat staggering; “Pictures of You, Lullaby, Lovesong, and Fascination Street” were brilliant. Everybody I know loved it. Radio loved it. I am loathe to boil that era down to three records, but if I had to they would be Disintegration Street by The Cure, Pearl Jam’s 1991 release Ten and Nirvana’s 1991 release Nevermind. The Cure got the jump on those other two releases, but The Revolution Would Not Be Televised to semi quote Gil Scott-Heron. Whoa. These were and are GIGANTIC records. According to Wikipedia, Disintegration Street sold 3 Million copies worldwide by 1992, but it felt 13 Million to me. Pearl Jam and Nirvana easily eclipsed those numbers, but make no mistake…this record was HUGE. My musical tastes went haywire after this. I was literally Jumping Someone Else’s Train.
The Cure’s early records are just as tremendous if not better than their later stuff, but after Disintegration they just never really were able to climb that hill again. I loved Mixed Up, their reworking of their previous material into extended plays, but their work was never quite as impressive after the 80′s ended. I will say that I picked up a copy of 2008′s 4:13 Dream and was very impressed. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it as much as I would have liked so far, but I wasn’t expecting much and really got a jolt from that record. It probably should have been in my Top Twenty year end last year, but I just hadn’t heard it often enough at the time. If you are a true Cure fan and not someone who only likes the hits, check out 4:13 Dream.
I’m leaving you with a couple of my favorite B tracks by The Cure. The first one is “A Night Like This” from The Head On The Door. The other is “Fire in Cairo” from their 1979 debut Three Imaginary Boys. I hope you like them.
Buy or download The Cure’s Staring at The Sea from Amazon here.