KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #363: A Forest by The Cure.

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 #363: A Forest by The Cure.

In 1989, I began my first year of teaching in downtown Toronto. I was 24 years old, living and working in the biggest city in Canada. It should have been an exciting time in my life but, in the beginning, I found it overwhelming and lonely. Being a new teacher is always an overwhelming experience and I was no different in that regard. But, not having someone to lean on during those times made it harder, perhaps, than it needed to be. Anyway, in those pre-Internet times, it wasn’t as easy to connect with people as it is today. There was no Tinder or Bumble or E-Harmony or social media of any sort. The primary forms of media back then were TV, Radio and Newspapers. Sometimes, in newspapers, people would place classified ads, in which, they would seek a companion. Being shy, as I am, this seemed like an avenue worth exploring so I actually placed a “companion ad” of my own in the Toronto Star newspaper. From that ad, I received three responses. One was from a 19-year old girl, whose parents owned the General Store in Phelpston, Ontario (not far from Wasaga Beach). Initially, we corresponded the old-school way by writing letters to each other. In the course of those exchanges, we discussed Music. Based upon her desire that “a piece of her should be with me in my world”, she made me a mixed-tape of songs that meant something to her. The cassette was filled with songs by Depeche Mode, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure and so on. In retrospect, it was an outstanding collection of music. Unfortunately, as is often the case with things of this nature, the mixed tape she sent to me turned out to be better than actually being together with her and it quickly became apparent that she was not The One I was hoping to find. So, she went back to Phelpston but, her cassette remained.

The first song on that cassette was, “A Forest” by The Cure.”The Cure” have been together as a band since the beginning of the 1980s. Lead singer, Robert Smith, has been the only member of the band to have been there for the entire duration of their career. Overall, “The Cure” have record sales approaching the 30 million mark in a career that has seen them release some of the most well-known songs in history such as “Pictures of You”, “Its Friday, I’m In Love”, “Love Cats”, “Let’s Go To Bed”, “Lullaby” and “Just Like Heaven”. They were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.The song, “A Forest” comes from their second album called “Seventeen Seconds” which saw the band start to dabble a bit in more of a darker, almost “Goth-like” sound. “A Forest” is one of those songs that is almost an instrumental song (even though it has lyrics) because it is the guitar playing and keyboard work that are what makes this song sound so special. Smith is quoted as saying that he was trying to create an “atmosphere” with “A Forest” and he is bang-on with his assessment. “A Forest” is a super-sounding song. It is a song that you can listen to with your eyes closed and allow your imagination to create marvellous stories in your mind. The actual song lyrics describe a boy being lured to the edge of a forest by, what he believes, is a girl beckoning him forth. Does he go past the tree line? Is there really a girl on the other side for him to find? I will leave the answers to those questions for you to explore on your own when you listen to the song below. “A Forest”, while not a big hit, chart-wise, is none-the-less, one of the most popular songs that “The Cure” play live. It has been a fixture on their set lists all throughout their career. Without question, the “sound” of this song has become synonymous with the sound of “The Cure” as a whole.

As for me, back in Toronto, all things happen for a reason. I didn’t end up with the girl, at the time but, I ended up with a decent story to tell and a stellar mixed tape to own. Whether my Phelpston flame was trying to lure me across her tree line and into a whole new world with her selection of “A Forest” as song #1 on the mixtape, I can’t be sure. All that I know is that I didn’t end up following the path she laid out before me and, instead, turned away to a brighter future that included, eventually, finding my true love, Keri who, at the time all of this was unfolding, was in Grade 6 in Trenton, Ontario, of all places. One never knows what life has in store. But, the lesson is, I suppose, that the right path to follow is the one you follow with your heart. Here is, “A Forest” by “The Cure”. Enjoy.

A link to the music video for “A Forest” by The Cure, can be found here.

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

Thanks to KEXP for supporting the music that becomes the soundtrack to our lives. A link to their website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #213: Boys Don’t Cry by The Cure.

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 #213: Boys Don’t Cry by The Cure.

In a world filled with toxic masculinity, one of the surest ways to change things is by allowing young boys to show their emotions, without fear of ridicule or abuse. But, as we all know, that is easier said than done. As a boy, we are told to “Walk it off!” when we are hurt and, furthermore, that playing hurt is what tough guys do and, after all, it is tough guys who win championships. When boys experience loss, they are told to “Get over it!”, to “Suck it up!” or, best of all, to “Be a man!” Emotions such as sadness or feelings such as empathy must be suppressed for the sake of appearances because, to cry, is to show weakness and to show weakness, as a man, is to be a disappointment to those around you who demand that you exude strength at all times. I would never claim that life is easy for women or girls but, at the same time, society doesn’t make it easy for young boys, either. Sometimes, allowing ourselves, as men, to be vulnerable is the greatest feat of strength imaginable.

When the members of “The Cure” were growing up in England, the prevailing sentiment was that boys should never cry. If you have ever seen a photo of Robert Smith, the lead singer of “The Cure”, you will quickly notice the wild hair and the make-up and realize that his upbringing was steeped in abuse, based upon his appearance. As a result of “not looking like a normal teenage boy”, Robert Smith channeled his emotions into his music which was, at first, described as Punk rock-ish. But Smith, and his bandmates, Lol Tolburg and Michael Dempsey, never sought to confine themselves to one style or genre of music…even in their very earliest days as a band. So, the combination of wanting to create all manner of songs, along with his need to express his frustrations with how males were being trained to behave in society, caused Smith to write one of the great pure Pop songs of the early 80s, “Boys Don’t Cry”.

When “Boys Don’t Cry” was first released, it didn’t chart at all. That was primarily because the nature of the style of the song didn’t mesh with the expectation that “The Cure” would put out Punk or Goth tunes as a general rule. But, a few years later, the song was re-recorded for a Greatest Hits album. At that time, Robert Smith’s voice had matured so the song sounded better and, as well, “The Cure” had established themselves as a top band based on a string of hits that straddled the lines of many genres. Because of all of that, “Boys Don’t Cry” was accepted with open arms and charted very well.

I have two personal connections to add to this post. If you recall, I wrote a post about another “Cure” song called, “A Forest”. In that post, I mentioned that I once dated a girl in Toronto who made a mix-tape for me and that, even though the relationship wasn’t meant to be, that mixtape was awesome and was my introduction to many great songs. “Boys Don’t Cry” was one of the songs on that tape. When I was given the tape, I was told that “Boys Don’t Cry” was included because, even though we had only just met, she could tell I wasn’t one of those guys who kept his emotions all bottled up inside. I took that as a compliment. Thus, “Boys Don’y Cry” makes me smile.

Secondly, I follow a site on Twitter called, “Bright Wall, Dark Room”. It is an on-line magazine-type site devoted to movies. If you like watching movies and talking about movies with other cinephiles then, @BWDR is for you. I don’t tend to get too worked up about movies so I don’t engage in any of the debates and discussions that go on. However, once a week, they ask a survey question about some “trivial” aspect of movies. For instance, one survey was about “your favourite use of the colour Yellow in a movie”. People answer in a tweet and, generally, add a Gif or still image of what they are talking about. These Twitter threads make for highly enjoyable reading. The survey question last week was, “Have you ever ugly-cried because of a scene in a movie? If so, what was the movie and what was the scene?” It was amazing to be reminded of, movie after movie, containing special scenes that touched your heart. For me, it was a chance to remember a few scenes in which I have cried while watching. *(My ugliest cry, being “Cinema Paradiso” but, also, I cried at the end of “Toy Story 3”, as well as, “Coco”; neither film being “just a kid’s movie, I’ll have you know!” My girls have seen me cry while watching movies or TV at home. I hope that they feel that this is normal behaviour for good men and that, when their time comes to start dating, they won’t tolerate any of the “you must keep all emotions inside to be a man”-type of guys who are still out there.

In any case, being an emotionally-healthy person means that, at times, you will cry. That is what Robert Smith was getting at when he wrote, “Boys Don’t Cry”. It was what that long-ago girlfriend was getting at when she put that song on the mixtape she made for me. It is what I believe all men should feel free to do in front of their family and friends and heck, even in front of complete strangers. What do you think? Is an occasional teary moment a sign of weakness in a man? Feel free to speak your piece in the comments below, if you feel so inclined. For now, here is “The Cure” with one of their very first hits, “Boys Don’t Cry”. Enjoy.

The link to the music video for “Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure, can be found here.

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

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