It’s hard to believe that it took until 1988 for The Cure to appear on television in the United States. In the United Kingdom, the band had been landing chart hits for years, starting with their 1983 single ‘The Lovecats’. But in the US, the band were underground, emblematic of college rock and the goth subculture that had a cult following but not a strong foothold in pop culture.
That all changed with 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. A bonafide commercial smash, the album found The Cure leaning harder into their pop instincts than ever before. It all culminated in the song ‘Just Like Heaven’, which gave the group something that had proved elusive for nearly a decades – a top 40 hit in America. Stadium tours were now the only appropriate venue that could hold the group, and it was only a matter of time before a broader American audience got their first look at the British rockers.
By the time the band arrived at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards, something completely different had taken hold. Just four months earlier, The Cure had released Disintegration, a far darker and more introspective record. Inspired by depression, fueled psychedelic drugs, and far more indicative of the band’s post-punk roots, the album was probably the least commercial direction the band could have turned after experiencing their first real taste of success stateside.
But even the sprawling bleakness of tracks like ‘Homesick’ and ‘The Same Deep Waters as You’ couldn’t distract from the fact that the band had another major pop hit on their hands. ‘Lovesong’ was rising on the Billboard Hot 100 at the time, and by the time the ceremony aired, it had already become the band’s biggest chart hit in the US.
For whatever reason, the band opted not to play ‘Lovesong’ during their appearance on the show. Instead, they went with their previous biggest hit, ‘Just Like Heaven’. It was no secret that Smith had already tired of the success that Disintegration had brought the band, and it could have been likely that he didn’t want to play any of the band’s recent hits at the ceremony.
Despite a possible attempt to ignore the success of ‘Lovesong’, the single only continued to climb. By October, it had reached number two on the Hot 100, the highest position the band would ever achieve. The only song keeping it from the top spot? Janet Jackson’s ‘Miss You Much’.
Check out The Cure’s performance of ‘Just Like Heaven’ down below.