Since the band’s inception in 1978, The Cure have been revered for their gothic look and ever-changing but always distinctive sound. From the gloomy ‘A Forest’ in 1980 to the iconic jangly pop riff of ‘Friday I’m in Love’ in 1992, Robert Smith crafted hit after hit, somehow appealing both to subcultures and mainstream charts. But one of those hits almost didn’t make the cut.
By the mid-1980s, The Cure were expanding their sound further into pop and gaining traction commercially. The Head on the Door, released in 1985, illustrated their move into the realm of pop music. The jangly ‘In Between Days’ was released as the record’s first single, followed by the equally catchy and groovy, though somewhat eerie, ‘Close to Me’ – but the latter nearly didn’t make the album at all.
Frontman Smith recalled making the decision to include ‘Close to Me’ on the record in an interview with Q Magazine, stating: “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. It was a slightly surreal moment on the record and it wasn’t even a definite album track during the recording.”
Smith only learned to love the song when he amended some production elements: “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,” he said. “Up ’til that point, it was average”.
Smith also made some amendments to the lyrics. The song, contrary to its upbeat sound, is about the doom and gloom inside Smith’s mind, opening with, “I’ve waited hours for this, I’ve made myself so sick, I wish I’d stayed asleep today”.
Initially, the lyrics were different, but Smith recalls: “At the last minute I sang these words that I had left over. I didn’t think there was anything musically that worked with the words. The words were actually about this sense of impending doom that I used to get.”
While writing the album, Smith found himself recalling these “horrible, nightmarish vision” and used them for the lyrics of ‘Close to Me’. Suddenly, the song fell into place, as Smith recalls, “At the last minute I tried singing them over this jaunty bassline and drum pattern. It just clicked.”
The song became not just an album track but a single, accompanied by an equally claustrophobic music video directed by Tim Pope. Smith recalls being equally shocked at the video’s success, though he steered it into The Cure’s world: “The video had quite a big impact too. I suggested to Tim doing it in a wardrobe on top of a cliff because of the uncomfortable feeling and I think that cemented it in the Cure canon.”
Between some production and lyric amendments and a claustrophobia-inducing music video, ‘Close To Me’ earned a place on The Head on the Door and became one of The Cure’s most remembered tracks.
Look back on The Cure’s ‘Close To Me’ below.