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 #198: Blue Monday by 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 #198: Blue Monday by New Order.

When I first left my Cape Breton home and moved to Toronto in 1982, I experienced culture shock in every sense of the term. I have written in these posts before about how I saw so many ethnic cultures on display that just didn’t seem to have existed back in good old Glace Bay. I tasted food that I had never even heard of before, let alone sampled back home. But for me, perhaps the biggest change I underwent was with regard to music. I was enrolled in an Artsy programme at Ryerson called Radio and TV Arts so, I suppose, I was already receptive for new visions in Art and Music. But, just the same, I moved to Toronto at a very critical time for new music. For example, I arrived in Toronto just as MTV and Much Music were launching. Bands from the UK such as The Police, The Smiths, Duran Duran, early Simple Minds and U2, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Alison Moyet/Yaz and so on, were all breaking into the big time and filling my airwaves with new sounds and putting out terrific videos (which were a new marketing tool at that time). But, the one song that I heard most…….the one song that seemed so completely unlike anything I had ever heard before…….the one song that told me I was far from home now……was “Blue Monday” by New Order.

New Order, as you may remember, rose from the ashes of Joy Division. Joy Division had several big hits in the UK, the biggest of which was “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and were just preparing for their first North American tour when their lead singer, Ian Curtis, committed suicide. Instead of disbanding, the remaining members re-organized under a new name called, “New Order”. They have several hits under their belts such as “Ceremony”, “True Faith”, “Bizarre Love Triangle”, “Thieves Like Us”, “Temptation” and many more. But, it was “Blue Monday” that really announced their arrival as a band to be reckoned with and one that signalled to the rest of the music world that the death of Ian Curtis was not going to slow them down.

New Order are charter members of the musical movement that started out as “New Wave” but ended up transitioning into a genre called “Synth-Pop” and even, “Electronica”. “Blue Monday” was one of the very first major Synth-Pop hits. It is a synthesizer-driven song in which the lyrics don’t matter as much as the rhythms and beats that are being played. In a way, “Blue Monday” heralded the advent of Electronic Dance Music. It is a song where the audience/listener can get lost in the groove that is being put down. It is almost hypnotic in nature. I once heard lead singer, Bernard Sumner describe the musical construction of “Blue Monday” as being a “Beat Machine”. Like many musical genius-types, I have always felt that they view sounds as being in three dimensions. Sumner stated that each instrument used in “Blue Monday” was imagined to be gears in a giant box….the synthesizers were one set of gears that fed into the gears that represented the bass guitars that, in turn, fed into the gears for the high hats on the drums and so on. He said that, in this way, it was easier for the band members to imagine where the sounds were originating from during any point in the song and then, by extension, where these sounds needed to go next.

All that I know is that I was eighteen years old, living on my own in Toronto for the first time and, seemingly, every time I turned on the radio, I heard “Blue Monday”. Every time I went out with my new friends to a club, I heard “Blue Monday”. The song was everywhere and, more than that, the musical revolution that it was representing, seemed to be everywhere, too. It was funny how I had spent my youth listening to classic rock bands such as Trooper, April Wine, Boston and the like but, in downtown Toronto, in that hotbed of The Arts that was Ryerson in the early 1980s, classic rock was viewed as dinosaur rock. If you were really on top of your musical game then, you were into Synth-Pop and New Wave. Luckily, as I matured, I learned that valuable life lesson that states that being open to new ideas and influences is a good thing but, at the same time, accepting new things doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning all that you knew previously, either. As I type these words to you today, I enjoy New Order and Joy Division as much as I enjoy U2 and The Police, Springsteen and Tom Petty, Prince and Public Enemy, Rita MacNeil and Ashley MacIsaac, too. Good music is good music, regardless of the form it takes. If a song causes you to move and groove or think and grow as a person then, it is a good song for you. For me, “Blue Monday” by New Order was one of the most important songs in the soundtrack of my transition from small town boy from Glace Bay, to being the adult I have become today. It was an important song for me, as well as, being an important song in the history of modern music. Some songs come to define the genres they find themselves in and, when it comes to Synth-Pop and Electronic Dance Music, “Blue Monday” is anthemic and transcendent.

In fact, as a final note, the 1980s were a big time to buy something unique to that period called a “twelve-inch” single. Back in the day, many groups released their songs as singles but, the usual format was a small, inexpensive format called a “45”. However, some groups put out their singles in a special format called a “twelve-inch” single, which meant that the size of the single was the same as the size of a regular album. Some of these twelve-inch singles were special in that they came in fancy translucent colours or else, in specially-designed record sleeves. When New Order released “Blue Monday” as a twelve-inch single, they did so in a special sleeve that replicated the design of something that was very technologically-advanced for the time, a five-inch floppy disc. This sleeve had a special code on it that allowed buyers to see a secret message. It was all high-tech for the times and, as such, it was very popular with purchasers. As it turned out, “Blue Monday” by New Order has gone on to be the largest selling twelve-inch single in the history of record sales; with sales totalling over a million worldwide.

So, without further delay, welcome to the wonderful world of my university days, spent in the biggest city in Canada! Here is “Blue Monday” by New Order. *Note: the video for this song replicates the design of the record sleeve used to sell the band’s twelve-inch single. The colour wheel was used to signify how the sounds fit together and complemented each other. The colour strips on the side of the “floppy disc” were used to hide the “secret code” that buyers needed to crack in order to read their secret message that was meant only for them. So, there you have it. Enjoy this important song and have an awesome day.

The link to the video for the song, “Blue Monday” by New Order, can be found here.

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

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for supporting all forms of music, 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 #339: Love Vigilantes by New Order.

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 #339: Love Vigilantes by New Order.

For those of you who have been faithful readers of these posts, you will remember that, as 1980 dawned, one of the biggest bands in the UK was “Joy Division”. Unfortunately, the lead singer of “Joy Division”, Ian Curtis, died just before the band was to go on their first North American tour. Rather than continue on as “Joy Division” or break-up entirely, the remaining bands members formed a new band called, “New Order” and still can be found playing today.

“New Order” have a “sound” that can best be described as “Synth Pop”. For that reason, fans and critics, alike, were surprised when the band released, “Love Vigilantes” from an album called, “Low Life” in 1985. “New Order” eschewed much of their trademark sound and replaced it with guitars and more obscure instruments such as a melodica (which you hear off of the top of the song). The lyrical content of the song was different for the band, too. “Love Vigilantes” is a song about a lonely soldier on leave, who is coming home to see his wife and children. When he finally arrives home, he enters his house only to find his wife, laying on the floor, clutching a military telegram that informs her that her husband has been killed in action. It is left to the listener to decide what is really going on here: has the wife fainted at the news and he is a ghost watching over her OR, is he very much alive and the telegram was sent in error and his wife has committed suicide? The band has never said anything declarative, one way or the other.

Despite the gloomy description I just wrote, “Love Vigilantes” is a peppy song. I don’t know about you but, I am always on the lookout for “Remembrance Day” songs that go beyond “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” so, I am happy to add “Love Vigilantes” to my own, personal list. If there are any unique and not-so-well-known songs that you like for Remembrance Day”, let me know in the comments section below. But, for now, here is “New Order” with “Love Vigilantes”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Love Vigilantes” by New Order, can be found here.

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

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

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP Song #484…True Faith by New Order.

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 #484: True Faith by New Order.

In 1980, just as Joy Division was about to embark on their first North American tour, lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide. The death of a lead singer has lead to the death of many a band throughout musical history. But not this group. The remaining musicians were still young and enthusiastic enough that they opted to continue on together but not as Joy Division. That band did truly end when Ian Curtis passed away. So, instead those left behind…guitarist Bernard Sumner, drummer Stephen Morris and bassist, Peter Hook formed a new band and called it New Order.

While the early offerings from New Order still contained the residue of Joy Division’s guitar sound and the melancholy that comes from the loss of a dear friend, what makes New Order a significant band in modern music history is what they evolved into next. In the early to mid-80s a new form of music making was taking hold called electronic music. This was not music created by electric guitars but, instead, it was music created using electronic equipment such as synthesizers, drum machines and the like. This new music first gained popularity as House or Rave music but, thanks to groups like New Order, it soon went mainstream and was dubbed Synth-Pop, among other names. This was form of music could be created without any of the traditional instruments on stage. How it worked was that the sounds from various instruments were recorded and stored inside of the synthesizers. In this way, sounds could be manipulated to play faster, slower, at varying pitches and so on. What New Order and other Synth-Pop groups were on to was a way of digitizing sounds. Their creativity in playing these sounds back in a melodic way was what made their songs so appealing to masses of new listeners.

Accompanying the rise of the synth-pop bands was the inevitable backlash from musical “purists” who insisted that if it wasn’t played with real guitars and drums, for instance then, it wasn’t really rock n’ roll. Regardless of which side of this debate you position yourself on, the question that was really being raised was “what was music”? For bands like New Order, the answer was that music could be played live with instruments and that there was nothing wrong with that. But, from their point of view, digitizing music opened up a whole range of musical possibilities that couldn’t be realized on stage, in real time, with instruments and humans playing them.

A straight line can be drawn from this period in time through the rest of musical history. Groups like New Order inspired much of what was exciting about early Hip Hop, with DJs sampling recorded verses and phrasings on turntables while rappers rapped. This led to digital sampling which gave rise to Grammy winners like Beck and Radiohead. In the year 2021, you will find a whole host of bands/performers who give off a full, rich sound without a single instrument being on stage with them. Groups like Chvrches, Purity Ring, Grimes, Chemical Brothers, Deadmaus, just to name a few. You will be amazed at the sounds that come from these little electronic boxes and crystals used by these bands/artists. Sounds that can all be traced back to the pioneering efforts of groups like New Order.

The music video for True Faith by New Order can be found here.

New Order have a really good website that you can check out by clicking on the link here.

Thank you KEXP for creating your own list of 500 great songs that, in turn, helped inspire me to make this post as part of my series on 500 great songs. The link to their website can be found here.