Albums Revisited: The Cure’s ‘The Head On The Door’ Turns 30: British band’s global breakthrough hits the three-decade mark.
On August 26th, 2015, The Cure’s breakthrough album The Head on The Door celebrates its 30th anniversary. And it maintains a unique place in the band’s discography, splitting the difference between the dismal, atmospheric Goth on harrowing albums like 1982’s Pornography and the bright New Wave pop of singles like their Let’s Go To Bed (also, released in 1982).
This made Head, the gateway album for many Cure fans, proving their biggest entry (at the time) into the American market, debuting at #75 on the U.S. Billboard charts, where it eventually went Gold (along with the UK and France).
When I think of The Head on The Door, it is inextricably linked to Columbia House (the music subscription company that recently filed for bankruptcy). I was in high school back in 1985, and thanks to some friends with sharp musical tastes, my listening habits were evolving from glam metal and nascent new wave into college radio, Goth and industrial.
With Columbia House’s offer of a boatload of cassettes for the price of one, I added a grab-bag of goodies, including The Head On The Door. And while the company wrangled me into a subscription scheme shortly afterwards, the payoff was worth it.
The Head On The Door is one of those perfect albums: there’s not one clunker in its 10-tracks, and it covers a wide terrain of musical ground in its brief running time, be it the jangle-pop of In-Between Days, the eerie hallucinatory Spanish guitar driven The Blood, or the utterly despondent dark ballad, Sinking,
The album also served as a proper introduction to the lineup behind the group’s most popular albums. It signaled the return of two former members: bassist Simon Gallup and guitarist Porl Thompson along with the addition of new drummer Boris Williams, all of whom added extra spit and polish to Robert Smith’s clever compositions.
One key to the album’s success, were the music videos that promoted hit singles In-Between Days and Close To Me. Directed by band collaborator Tim Pope, his simple, but effective visual touches (in particular the band playing inside a wardrobe in Close To Me) showed the group’s playful side, and it paid off handsomely.
Likewise Dave Allen and Smith’s production was spot-on, allowing arrangements to breathe, and showcasing the unique fragility and grace of Smith’s pipes. And while even The Cure felt obliged to include trendy 80’s saxophone, Ron Howe’s solo on A Night Like This is bereft of cheese, adding another haunting element to one of their most gorgeous songs.
In an 1987 interview with Eastcoast Rocket, Smith noted that “The Head On The Door pushed us into the next level of public consciousness, and it was nice to step away from that and not have to worry about following it up right away. It gave us an enormous amount of time to think about the next record, and it made us very itchy to get back into the studio and do something.”
That next step of course, would be two years later with the ambitious 1987 double-album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, followed by their ambitious 1989 masterpiece Disintegration. And while Head isn’t as grandiose as either follow-up, its immediate charms make it equally essential.
What are your favorite memories from The Head On The Door? Tell me in the comments.