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Sunday, June 12, 2011

21. The Cure: The Head On The Door


The Cure have taken their fans on a thirty year roller coaster ride. They've been at it since the mid-70s and have gone through numerous transitions...both lineup changes and musical output. Robert Smith and company have delivered a host of labeled music over the years: post-punk...gothic rock...new wave. I've had a lot of favorite bands in my time, but, for me, the 80s begins and ends with The Cure. This post highlights their 1985 album The Head On The Door.

In 1985, I began helping my brother, Jeff, at his nightclub called The Ferry Club in Staten Island, New York and everything fell into place for me musically. I'm not sure how much work Jeff got out of me in bewteen my runs to the DJ booth. I would literally drop what I was doing to go ask my musical guru, DJ Mark the Spark, what that song was and who this band is. Two important songs from that year helped alter my musical tastes forever...The Cure's "Inbetween Days" and "Close To Me".  

The Head On The Door is the sixth Cure album. It marked the return of bassist Simon Gallup to the band and was the first for drummer Boris Williams. Guitarist/keyboardist Porl Thompson also joined Robert Smith and keyboardist Lol Tolhurst as an official member of the band at this time as well. The Head On The Door follows a goth-gloomy group of releases from The Cure that are all absolutely wonderful: Seventeen Seconds (1980), Faith (1981), Pornography (1982), and The Top (1984). For THOTD, The Cure learned how to mesh the gloom and doom of the previous albums with a more radio friendly sound which increased their commercial success and fan base tremendously. 

The album opens with a quick drum-intro by Boris Williams, then barrels into the familiar, cheery guitar to create the perfect pop melody that is "Inbetween Days". It is a smile-inducing song through and through...in any company, at any time of day. It is also the perfect example of this gloom and doom meets "C'mon, Get Happy!" juxtaposition. Consider the lyrics to "Inbetween Days"..."Yesterday I got so old I felt like I could die/Yesterday I got so old it made me want to cry"...not quite happy times for Robert Smith. However, in spite of the melancholy, it remains one of the catchiest, most danceable Cure songs to this day.

"Inbetween Days" is followed by a few experiments. "Kyoto Song" has a far east quality to it, while "The Blood" employs a Spanish-flamenco sound. One of my favorite Cure songs, "Six Different Ways", has many layers of instrumentation giving it a light, airy, childlike sound. Side one closes with the epic "Push". It's "Push" that is the gateway to the continuing sounds of the band. With about two minutes of classic Cure sounding guitars before Robert Smith chimes in, you might recognize this as a track on any album hereafter.

The highlight of side two is "Close To Me". Prominently featuring xylophone-like keyboards and some garish hand clapping, "Close To Me" seems an unlikely club hit, but its quirkiness had people on the dance floor every night. "A Night Like This" is another strong track, although the saxophone solo seems a bit dated now. And harkening back to the days of black leather and ghost white faces, the album closes with the gloriously dark and dreary "Sinking".

The Head On The Door is a perfect album from the perfect time. The Cure had become the godfathers of goth and had taken it as far as they could. They were looking for a new direction and found it with The Head On The Door...a wonderful meld of old and new...of dirge and dance.

The video I've provided for you is from an old BBC2 rock music show called The Old Grey Whistle Test (catchy title, huh?).  The video contains two Cure performances. "Inbetween Days" begins about one minute in and is immediately followed by "Close To Me". The quality isn't wonderful, but I felt it was more important to show the band as it was in 1985. Enjoy!



2 comments:

  1. If you're unfamiliar with The Cure's B-sides, the few from this time period are about as good as they get. "The Exploding Boy" and "A Few Hours After This" are both from the 12" UK single for "Inbetween Days".

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  2. Also happy to say that this post got me thinking about The Ferry Club years and I got in touch with DJ Mark the Spark! Mi maestro! If you're on the Island, look him up for an 80s night.

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