‘Close to Me’ is a tuneful piece of toe-tapping pop perfection but, behind the melody, is a tale with a very dark backstory indeed. It might not seem like one of The Cure’s most morose songs, but the melody masks an account of horror that Robert Smith unfortunately endured.
Detailing the backstory, the singer told Q Magazine: “The words were actually about this sense of impending doom that I used to get. I had chicken pox when I was really young and it started there.”
The singer and wordsmith then went on to explain his chicken pox induced sense of dread and delirium, poetically adding, “I used to get these horrible, nightmarish visions of this head that used to hover in a chink of light that used to come when the bedroom lights were turned off and the door was just ajar.”
Continuing, he said: “The shaft of light that came from the hallway used to illuminate this patch of wallpaper and it would come to life and prophesise doom to me through the night whenever I put my eyes in that general direction.”
Quite why Smith continued to sleep with the door ajar is anyone’s guess, but it did spawn a beautiful piece of music and helped to coin the album title Head On The Door. Sadly for Smith during the album’s production, the nightmarish visions returned. The cause of its return is put down to overworking. At the time, Smith was fronting The Cure, playing the guitar in Siouxsie And The Banshees and recording his own side project The Glove. “It came back to me when I was writing the album,” Smith explained. “I was running myself into the ground a little bit and I started to suffer. I suddenly also started to get the same hallucinations, which was very odd.”
Smith used music’s transcendent power as a balm for his woes and illuminated his suffering in song, which might sound like a considered bit of poignant pining, but as Smith explains, the whole things came together quite hurriedly. “The song was essentially about those two things, but at the last minute I tried singing them over this jaunty bassline and drum pattern and it just clicked.”
In a quirk of fate that art often throws up, Smith’s suffering was transmuted into one of The Cure’s most successful and beloved songs. That being said, for a while, from the band’s perspective, the song was never a cut and dry thing. “It’s weird because of all the songs we’ve written, ‘Close To Me’ doesn’t spring to mind as one of our best songs,” Smith explains. “It was a slightly surreal moment on the record and it wasn’t even a definite album track during the recording. It was only when I did the vocal and got really extreme on the production, making it really claustrophobic sounding, that it came to life. Up till that point it was average.”
You can check out the iconic Tim Pope-directed accompanying music video, that brought the claustrophobic feel to life in a very literal sense, below.