Trackback Thursday: Why Can’t I Be You? by The Cure

It seems to me that The Cure occupy a rather special place in British music. They are a band who seems to be liked by many and disliked by few. And yet they have a profile that seems to be well below their popularity.

I think that this is mirrored with how they sit with me. I can go years sometimes without listening to any Cure music, and then something triggers my interest again and I delve right back into what is now a rabbit hole of an oeuvre. Album after album of stunning music… perhaps the odd dip but a general development of sound that is never less than interesting and very often world class.

The Cure album that means the most to me might not be their best, I find this is often the case with bands, is 1987’s ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’; which I find to be a masterclass in exemplary songwriting that just takes me somewhere else entirely.

Then there’s the eclecticism from ‘Hey You’ to ‘Snakepit’, songs that are so different… and arguably respectively look back and forward to previous Cure releases. Maybe that’s why I like this album… because it is something of a transitional one for the band. Of course previous albums had shown variety, but this felt different… the very fact that it was a double set for a start.

‘Why Can’t I Be You?’ stands out for me because on the surface it sounds so joyous, the sort of celebratory sound you want from a song when you’re young (I was 23), but also has that naïve longing that comes with youth. I’ve always been a sucker for that brass section too… these things also come together as a total package here, right down the the sudden ending that still catches me out now and again.

The other reason this track stands out for me is that the only time (why is this?) I saw The Cure live was on this tour, at Birmingham NEC, on December 6th 1987 to be exact. I was a bit sceptical because I was right at the back of what is a very big and soulless auditorium.

I was totally blown away!

I’ve never known a band fill a building such as that as The Cure did that night (full set list here if you’re interested), playing for hours and ending with a third encore of ‘Three Imaginary Boys’, ‘Primary’, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, and… you guessed it… ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’.

I guess that in some ways I’ve always remained at the end of that astonishing gig… the moment when ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’ ended and the lights came up.



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