Greatest Songs, #483: “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure

Album: Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (Fiction Records)
Year: 1987
Written by: Robert Smith, Simon Gallup, Porl Thompson, Lol Tolhurst, & Boris Williams
Billboard Hot 100: #40

 From Rolling Stone:

“I’ve never been a big fan of irony,” Smith has said, which might explain why this reverie of love, cut at a vineyard in the South of France, is his favorite Cure song. Their girlfriends hung out at the sessions, which influenced the music. “The girls would sit on the sofa in the back of the control room and give the songs marks out of ten,” Smith said. “So there was a really big female input.” It was the Cure’s first U.S. Top Forty hit.

From Wikipedia:

In order to develop material for Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Robert Smith forced himself to write music for 15 days of each month. During this regimen, he developed the chords and melody which form the basis of “Just Like Heaven”. Structurally, Smith found what he had written was similar to The Only Ones‘s 1979 hit “Another Girl, Another Planet“. When he brought an instrumental demo of the song to the album recording sessions in Southern France, Cure drummer Boris Williams increased the tempo and added an opening drum fill which inspired Smith to introduce each instrument singularly and in sequence.

When the French TV show Les Enfants du Rock asked The Cure to provide a theme song Smith offered the instrumental version. As he explained, “it meant the music would be familiar to millions of Europeans even before it was released”. He completed the lyrics when the group moved the sessions to Studio Miraval, located in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. The band completed the song quickly, and at the time Smith considered it to be the most obvious potential single from the songs the band had recorded during their two week stay at Miraval

“Just Like Heaven” is written in the key of A major and consists of an A–E–Bm–D chord progression which repeats throughout the song, except during the chorus when the band plays an F#m–G–D progression. The song’s central hook is formed from a descending guitar riff which appears between song verses and in parts of the bridge and the last verse. This guitar line contrasts with the “fuzzier mix” of the rhythm guitars. Keyboards are also prominent in the song, and a piano figure is played during the second verse and the bridge.

According to Smith, “The song is about hyperventilating—kissing and fainting to the floor.” The lyrics were inspired by a trip with his then-girlfriend (and later wife) Mary Poole to Beachy Head in southern England. Smith said the opening line of the song (“Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick”) refers to his childhood memories of mastering magic tricks, but added “on another [level], it’s about a seduction trick, from much later in my life”.

From the original Rolling Stone review in 1987:

The Cure is trying to deepen and refine an existing sensibility rather than reach outward to expand it. On previous efforts, guitarist and singer Robert Smith has flirted with everything from conceptually orchestrated studio pop (The Top) to sarcastic dance tracks (“Let’s Go to Bed“); now that the Cure has evolved into an actual band, he’s able to consummate those eclectic desires. Kiss Me is a breakthrough all right. For the first time, the Cure’s music is relatively unfettered by pretension and indulgence, and the results are remarkable