KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #18: Just Like Heaven by The Cure.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #18: Just Like Heaven by The Cure.

One of the things that constantly amazes me as this countdown unfolds is how time has stood still for so many of these songs that have made the list. There was a time, early on in the countdown, when I received a few minor complaints that I was favouring newer music over the classic tunes from The Beatles and Elvis and The Rolling Stones. The complaints centred on a small stretch of songs, within the first twenty or so posted, that all seems to focus on Manchester, England in the early 1980s. The funny thing about this is that even those songs from the early 1980s….the ones derided as being “new music” are, in fact, forty years old. The bands and singers who first broke into our musical consciousnesses back then are now all qualifying for the Senior’s discounts in restaurants and at department stores. Yet, their music still sounds fresh and relevant and important. Such is the case with today’s song, “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure.

In my mind, I find myself still reflecting upon the impact that bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode, Joy Division/New Order and The Smiths all had on me and millions of other fans. Between all four bands, they have sold over 150 million albums. All have been inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. All but The Smiths continue to tour to sold -out audiences. Their music appears in movies and on TV shows to this day. Their songs, like The Cure’s, “Just Like Heaven” continue to play in high rotation on my own personal playlists at home. So, it is not surprising to note that their music finds itself near the top of this countdown list, as well as, sprinkled liberally, all the way through. In fact, if you are a fan of The Smiths, you can read all of their posts here, here, here, here and here. Fans of Depeche Mode can read posts here, here and here. Those interested in Joy Division/New Order can read posts here, here, here, here, here and here. And, as for The Cure, their posts can be read, here, here and, of course, today’s song, “Just Like Heaven”.

“Just Like Heaven”, along with “A Forest”, have been my favourite Cure songs for the better part of my life. “Just Like Heaven” opens with one of my favourite “first verses” ever because, as a much younger man, it describes the type of feelings and emotional reaction I was always hoping that some girl would feel for me one day. In the case of this song, singer Robert Smith must have been a lot like me because he is writing about the young woman who would go on, one day, to become his wife. The song opens with the girl saying to the boy:

“Show me, show me, show me, how you do that trick.

The one that makes me scream!” she said.

“The one that makes me laugh!”, she said.

And she threw her arms around my head.

“Show me how you do it

and I promise you, I promise that

I’ll run away with you.

I’ll run away with you.”

SONY DSC

Those words about falling in love with his future wife occurred at a special spot in England known as Beachy Head. It is a windswept, beautiful location; one which seared itself into Robert Smith’s heart and his mind. This memory took the form of a song that Smith confesses, never would have been written without the presence of his wife in his life. In a world where successful musicians can end up over-indulged and excessively pampered, to the point where they lose their bearings and give way to addictions of one sort or another, Robert Smith always points to the constant presence of his wife, Mary, all throughout his career as being one of the main reasons why The Cure have had a career that has lasted a long as it has and been as successful as it has. At a time like we are experiencing in our society, it is refreshing to see someone like Robert Smith expressing his love for his wife, not through physical actions but, instead, through the words of a song that turned out to be one of the biggest selling songs of all-time. It is certainly a song that makes me smile whenever I hear it and makes me reflect on how lucky I am to have someone who throws her arms around my head, from time to time. Living life with a soulmate is the ultimate blessing. It is what this song always means to me.

So, without further delay, here is Robert Smith and The Cure with one of my all-time favourite songs, “Just Like Heaven”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Cure, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #59: Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #59: Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division.

Back in the 1970s, there were all manner of songs that ended up becoming hits. One of the sweetest was a song by a husband and wife duo, Captain and Tennille, called, “Love Will Keep Us Together”. The song was a sugary Pop gem and ended up being included in a lot of mix tapes being made as expressions of love from one lover to another. In the song, the lyrics speak to Love as being the key ingredient in a relationship that helps it to survive the ups and downs, the struggles and the temptations of life. It is all Hallmark sweet and special; helping Captain and Tennille reach the top of the charts for the only time in their career.

As mentioned, for many couples, “Love Will Keep Us Together” was a song that symbolized all that was good between them as couples. This song had it all….the romance, the pledge of fidelity, the commitment, too. But, as much as this song spoke to many young lovers, it also had the exact opposite effect on those who found themselves in relationships that weren’t all hearts and flowers. One such couple was Ian Curtis and his young wife, Deborah Woodruff. To Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division, every time “Love Will Keep Us Together” played on the radio, it grated on his very last nerve. To him, it was a reminder of everything he didn’t see in his own relationship. He and Woodruff had married when they were still very young. Emotional maturity is often difficult to come by when you haven’t experienced much of life yet. It is, especially, difficult when you are, also, battling a variety of mental illnesses, such as Depression, some physical conditions, such as epilepsy, all the while starting up one of the most exciting and influential bands of the late 70s/early 80s, Joy Division.

So, in response to the Captain and Tennille song, Ian Curtis wrote, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. This song describes a marriage that has grown cold and is excruciatingly painful to endure. The funny thing about this song is that, despite the dark and dour nature the song’s subject matter, the fact remains that “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is a really great sounding song. Written at the dawning of the era of Synth-Pop, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” has a driving beat and a loud, intense, powerful lyric-driven foundation. It must not have been easy to for Ian Curtis to sing this song on stage but, it may have felt cathartic, too. In any case, his boozy, slurred delivery is one of the defining aspects of what makes this song so great. As a listener, you can feel the passion and the earnestness coming through in his voice. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” remains Joy Division’s most recognizable hit song. It is a song about the ending of a marriage, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” that remains a hugely popular song to sing aloud, whenever it airs in a pub or on the radio.

Just to show how small and incestuous the music community can be at times…..when Joy Division were in the studio recording, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, a very young U2 were in the studio next to them, recording one of their first hit songs called, “11 O’Clock, Tick Tock”. Both bands wandered back and forth between their respective studios, listening in on what the other was doing, trading stories and, generally, just hanging out. In the end, U2 recorded their song and returned to Ireland, while Joy Division recorded, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and roared up the music charts. Not long after this, Ian Curtis committed suicide. When asked for a comment, Bono, from U2, spoke of the strange energy emanating from Ian Curtis. He described him as being almost pathologically shy and self-deprecating but, in front of a microphone, he transformed into a beastly-strong performer who made you feel every emotional coursing through his body and soul. For many, that description also seems fitting for the song, itself. It is a painful song that possesses an amazingly powerful energy and forcefulness. It is a song that you shouldn’t find yourself liking but, you do. It is the perfect example of the paradoxes that encompass so many of us.

When Ian Curtis died and was laid to rest, his estranged wife, Deborah, had his tombstone engraved with the words that will forever be associated with her and her husband. Some marriages stand the test of time. Others, like that of Ian and Deborah, become immortal for how unhappily ever after it all was.

The link to the video for the song, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Joy Division, can be found here.

There was a movie made about Ian Curtis life called, “Control”. The many difficulties faced by Curtis and Woodruff lay a prominent role in the film. The link to the trailer for the movie, “Control”, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain and Tennille, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “11 O’ Clock, Tick Tock” by U2, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for supporting the music of the very best bands and artists, regardless of genre. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #67: Ceremony by Joy Division/New Order.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #67: Ceremony by Joy Division/New Order.

I have written before in this countdown about how the band, Joy Division ended and morphed into a new band called, New Order. *(You can read those posts here and here). That transition from one band to the other was necessitated by the death, by suicide, of Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division. For the purposes of this post, the story I wish to tell about the death of Ian Curtis is what he left behind for others to discover after he was gone.

Just days prior to his suicide, Curtis had been working out the rough edges of a new song he had written called, “Ceremony”. He left behind no written lyrics. But, there were three mumbly, rehearsal-type recordings that Curtis had made. His bandmates saw it as an almost sacred trust that they care for their friends final words and make it into something beautiful. So, once the mourning had passed and the sadness had ebbed somewhat, the remaining members of Joy Division…..Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris….decided to carry on in Ian’s name and they formed a new band called, New Order. The first single New Order ever released was “Ceremony”.

Because there were no high quality audio tapes of Ian Curtis singing and no record of the lyrics having been written down anywhere, the boys from New Order had to try and decipher the lyrics as best they could before recording their own version. In the tapes that existed, Curtis’ recorded words were almost inaudible. Consequently, in order to get as close to an authentic take as possible, the Curtis audio recordings were run through a graphic equalizer in order to clear out as much of the extraneous noise as possible. From that process, New Order were able to come up with a set of lyrics that they felt were as close a match as possible to what their friend had written. Then, they recorded “Ceremony” with Bernard Sumner taking over the lead singing duties. The song was well-received by fans and critics, alike. Everyone felt that New Order was showing great respect to their dear friend and had formally connected the two super groups in a way that felt appropriate to all who cared about their music. The song, itself, ends with lyrics that speak of “watching love grow…..forever, watching love grow”. It almost seemed like Curtis knew that his own life was ending and wanted his friends to know he would always be there with them in spirit. New Order, for their part, replied in kind by immortalizing Curtis’ words, in song.

As touching a story as this may be, the best is yet to come. Several times throughout this countdown, I will post, what I call, a “lyrics” video, instead of a live performance of the song of the day,. In those cases, the lyrics to the song will display on the screen so that you can follow along as the song goes along. Sometimes, I have done this because the quality of the audio is murky or else, the singer is singing so quickly that it may be hard to keep up with what is being sung. Sometimes, I have wanted you to see the lyrics because I have felt there was poetry in them and wanted that beautiful language to wash over you. In most “lyrics” videos, the quality is amateurish; with the lyrics tele-typing themselves across a screen that has stock photos for a background. It wasn’t until I saw the “lyrics” video for “Ceremony” that I finally found a video that was really well done and measured up to the quality of the song being sung. So, you are getting the lyrics version of “Ceremony” today. But wait, let me tell you more!

What makes this video so great is that the lyrics appear onscreen along with the Academy Award-winning, 1956 short film, “The Red Balloon”. This movie was shot on the streets of Paris. There is a red balloon that symbolizes the concept of Love and Innocence and Faith. The film and the song, “Ceremony” are a perfect fit. As you watch the story of the boy and his balloon, the last words ever written by Ian Curtis flow by, matched with the music of his friends from New Order. The combination of the lyrics and a show, give added poignancy to the closing lines of “watching love grow…..forever, watching love grow.”

So, without further delay, here is my favourite “lyrics” music video of all-time for the very special song, “Ceremony” that started out as a Joy Division song and came to full life as a New Order song. Enjoy. This is truly beautiful.

The link to the video for the song, “Ceremony” by Joy Division/New Order, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Joy Division, can be found here.

The link to the official website for New Order, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for supporting music and artists who tell the best and most important of stories. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #359: Atmosphere by Joy Division.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #359: Atmosphere by Joy Division.

Celebrity deaths often act as cultural milestones. For people of my generation, most of us know exactly where we were and what we were doing when we found out that Elvis had died. The same is true of when John Lennon’s murder was announced during Monday Night Football by announcer, Howard Cosell. For younger folk, the same rule applies for when the death of Kurt Cobain was reported on MTV and MuchMusic. In all of these cases, the attachment we felt to artists was very real and the loss we all felt was deeply profound. In 1980, I was in Grade 10 at Morrison Glace Bay High School. My musical knowledge base consisted of bands such as “Boston”, “Trooper” and “April Wine”. Because there was no such thing as the Internet or YouTube or Satellite Radio, I had no idea that Punk Rock had happened nor that something called “New Wave” or “Alternative” music was becoming a thing. Nobody told me that places like, Manchester, England, were absolutely blowing up with great bands making great music or that bands like “Depeche Mode”, “The Cure”, “Echo and the Bunnymen” and “Joy Division” were all forming and releasing their debut albums and touring for the first time. So, when Ian Curtis, the lead singer of “Joy Division”, committed suicide on the eve of the band’s first North American tour, it was not a cultural milestone for me. I have no Elvis-like memories that tie his death to a personal moment. In my world, at the time, May 18, 1980, was just an ordinary day.

May 18, 1980 was the day that Ian Curtis’ body was discovered by his young wife. Curtis had become the lead singer for “Joy Division” on the basis of the deepness of his singing voice. But, while “Joy Division” was producing big hit songs such as “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, “Transmission” and “Atmosphere”, Curtis was struggling with a combination of Mental Illness (Anxiety and Depression), as well as, with Epilepsy, which made it difficult for him to perform on stage. Without going into all of the details of his life and death, it is suffice to say that Curtis found the weight of fame to be too much to bear so, he took his own life to ease his own pain. The remaining members of his band decided to carry on performing but, did so under a new name, “New Order”. “New Order” has enjoyed a long career of their own but are, forever linked to their former bandmate and friend, Ian Curtis.

The song “Atmosphere” was released just prior to Curtis’ death. In retrospect, many critics have dubbed “Atmosphere” as Curtis’ requiem march. The song laments the feeling of aloneness and apartness that Curtis was feeling, along with his inability to truly express the depths of his suffering and torment that was going on in his personal life. Mental illness was not something openly discussed in the late 1970s/early 80s. As a result, Ian Curtis laid his pain bare in song. Today, many people have “Atmosphere” played as a funeral song because of the universal nature of the feelings Curtis captured in this song. Normally, I encourage you to “enjoy” the video for the songs I post but, in this case, a better term would be to “reflect” upon the words Ian Curtis used to describe his state of mind. Perhaps, by creating a more inclusive and empathetic world, we can help to create a lasting legacy that befits an artist who was as important to so many in life, as he has become to me in death.

The link to the video for “Atmosphere” by Joy Division, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Joy Division, can be found here.

There is a film about Ian Curtis’ life called, “Control”. A link to the video trailer for this movie can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. A link to their official website can be found here.