The Story Behind The Song: The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’ is Robert Smith’s love letter to his wife
Despite their post-punk beginnings and their goth visuals, The Cure actually wrote some of the world’s most iconic pop songs. During the eighties, Robert Smith and the band delivered an array of perfect material destined to make the mixtapes of all who heard them. Today, we take a look at the story behind the song of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’.
The track was written in 1987 and released on Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me seeing the band become more popular than ever across the globe. However, the foundations of the track come from a little closer to home and show off just how illustrative a writer Robert Smith is. It’s a track which acts as the perfect distillation of everything that’s great about The Cure.
‘Just Like Heaven’ was The Cure’s eleventh top 40 hit in the UK, staying n the charts for five weeks during October and November 1987, peaking at number 29. Clearly, Smith knew it was destined for big things from the very start. In an interview with Blender, Smith called the hit “the best pop song The Cure has ever done… all the sounds meshed, it was one take, and it was perfect.” It remains hard to argue with such an assessment.
During this fruitful period of poptastic triumphs for the band and a juxtaposing ability to appear both whimsical and tragic, the group were living and performing authentically. Behind the scenes, The Cure were in a moment of turmoil, Lol Tolhurst was drinking far too heavily (something that would later see him ejected from the band) and Robert Smith was following suit. The difference was that Smith had something Tolhurst didn’t — he had Mary.
“In 1987, my wife Mary and I lived in a small two-bedroomed flat in Maida Vale in North London,” Smith recalled. “The other room was my music room, Just about the only discipline I had in my life was self-imposed. I set myself a regime of writing 15 days a month, otherwise, I’d have just got up in the mid-afternoon and watched TV until the pubs opened, then gone out drinking.” It was a trope of rock ‘n’ roll that sadly too many great artists have fallen victim to.
However, with the help of Mary, an unwavering force for good in Smith’s life, the singer managed to put his mind to something meaningful and commit himself to songwriting. Eventually, the seeds were sown and the shoots of ‘Just Like Heaven’ grew into pattern chords that Smith instantly saw for their value. “I knew as soon as I’d written it that it was a good pop song,” he said of the track.
Though the iconic chord structure is so synonymous with The Cure, Smith later admitted: “Although I didn’t realise it at the time, the structure is actually very similar to a song called ‘Another Girl Another Planet’ by The Only Ones, which I can still vividly remember hearing on the radio late at night in the mid-70s.” It’s one of the forgotten songs of the decade but is certainly well worth revisiting. “The main difference,” Smith continued, “is that as the song progressed, I introduced some different chord changes which give it that slightly melancholic feeling.”
Robert Smith recorded a very rough demo but the band wrote most of the song during recording sessions in southern France in 1987. But while the music for once matched the sentiment (The Cure so often producing the darkest material in bright and colourful packaging) the song’s core was Smith’s lyrics and, ultimately, his love for Mary.
The famous opening line of “show me, show me, show me how you do that trick” is in reference to Smith’s early childhood hobby of magic. Smith took great joy in his friends marvelling at his basic magic tricks and clearly sought similarly sentiment when he stared, astounded, at the song’s central figure, his wife, Mary. It’s a wonderful lyric which allows the mind to wander while still being centred on the song’s core motif.
Smith said in the Blender interview, “On one level, that’s what ‘Show me how you do that trick’ is about that, but on another, it’s about a seduction trick, from much later in my life. It was something that happened on Beachy Head, on the South Coast of England.“ The song’s video was equally as beguiling, capturing the beauty fo Smith’s words.
“The song’s about hyper-ventilating – kissing and fainting to the floor. Mary dances with me in the video because she was the girl, so it had to be her. The idea is that one night like that is worth a thousand hours of drudgery.” And, after all, isn’t that what love really is? Knowing that aside from all of the mire that the modern world seems to spew at us every single minute, that we have some solace in someone else.
With that beautiful sentiment ringing around our ears listen back to The Cure’s 1987 pop-smash ‘Just Like Heaven’ below.