On Air Now
Radio X Chilled with Sarah Gosling 12am - 1am
25 November 2022, 15:23 | Updated: 28 February 2023, 17:00
Robert Smith and co's ninth studio album from 1992 has had a reissue for its 30th anniversary... here are some of the inspirations behind the music.
As the 1980s turned to the 1990s, Britain's biggest alternative rock band, The Cure, were at the top of their game.
Having spent the previous decade transforming form the gloomy cult band that made albums like Faith (1981), frontman Robert Smith led the group and its ever-changing line-up into the pop chart thanks to singles like The Love Cats and In Between Days, plus the eclectic albums The Head On The Door (1985) and Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (1987).
Because of their new-found status as an international pop act, the dark sounds and introspective lyrics of 1989's Disintegration caused some concern (mainly among the bosses at The Cure's record label), In fact, the album was the group's most commercially successful to date.
The follow-up was released on Robert Smith's 33rd birthday, 21st April 1992. Wish initially seemed like a lighter collection of songs than its predecessor, but the influence of US grunge bands and the UK's then-popular shoegaze scene was evident in the record's dense, layered guitar sound.
For its 30th anniversary, Wish has been given deluxe-CD reissue which includes 24 previously-unreleased tracks of demos, outtakes and live recordings. The album will be available on vinyl for the first time in three decades, and there's even a picture-disc edition released for Black Friday on 25th November.
The album sessions - which had the working titles Higher and Swell - produced a number of songs that almost appeared as an instrumental album called Music For Dreams. Ultimately, they were offered as a limited edition cassette in 1994 called Lost Wishes, and the tracks have finally resurfaced on the new reissue.
Here, from the archives, are some of the stories behind the songs on what has been, to date, The Cure's only Number 1 album in the UK...
"I really don't know what I'm doing here / I really think I should've gone to bed tonight."
Guitar-fuelled opener which sees Robert Smith involved in what sounds like the worst "meet and greet" of all time. The line "And the way the rain comes down hard / That's how I feel inside" is a quotation from one of tragic poet Sylvia Plath's Letters From Home.
"The immediate inspiration for that song was derived from a lot of what we do," Robert Smith told Vox in May 1992. "Which is that you're asked to meet a lot of people. It's easy to say yes and afterwards you regret it. I've certainly used drinking to get through some of those things."
Released as a single on 16th March 1992, this was The Cure's first new song to reach the public since Never Enough eighteen months earlier. The unveiling was a huge marketing event, with fans being offered the chance to hear the track on an 0891 phone number and director Tim Pope's glorious video premiered on release day at HMV stores around the country.
The Cure - High (Official Music Video)
Smith later revealed that the scene where he is attached to a kite and flown across the sky was rather painful. "At one point I really wished I hadn't thought of it." he told Select in May 1992. "It was really uncomfortable, I was sat on a bicycle seat suspended in the air for a few hours and at first I felt really dizzy - I was meant to look euphoric and I looked dreadful."
A delicate, heart-breaking song about a failing relationship, from the point of view of an observer. "I'm not emotionally involved at all in this song," Smith explained in a promotional interview for Wish in February 1992. "I'm just singing it quite dispassionately, but trying to get involved with the two protagonists in the song and singing each of their point of view."
A song that came out of the band playing live in the studio and became a turning point in the recording of Wish. After recording this epic track, which sees Smith play all the guitar parts, "We sort of looked back at what we'd done over the first month and realised that a lot of it wasn't really up to standard," he told Guitar Player magazine in September 1992. "The atmosphere hadn't built up at that point Some of the songs we re-recorded two or three times just to get the feel right."
The lyrics - which tell the story of a substance-fuelled night of passion on a clifftop that ends in remorse, is the darker side to the joyous Just Like Heaven, which also takes place by the sea, most probably the South Coast of England, which borders Smith's hometown of West Sussex.
From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea
"Wendy Time is this indefinable time," Robert Smith noted in the promo interview that went out with Wish in April 1992. "The title actually hasn't got very much to do with the song, although the idea of Wendy Time is sort of crystallised in my mind as being a certain feeling at a certain moment, like when someone leaves the room and you sort of heave a sigh of relief."
"Let's get happy!" "Doing The Unstuck is a pretty sort of throw your hands in the air, let's get happy kind of record," Smith said of this exuberant tune in February 1992. This track was intended to be the third single from Wish, an honour that instead went to A Letter From Elise. "It's one of our best pop songs," Smith said in the sleeve-notes to 2004's Join The Dots set. "I was so happy when I sang this in the studio that it still makes me laugh when I hear it today."
Doing The Unstuck
"I remember driving home one Friday afternoon to have the weekend off," Robert Smith told Guitar World in 2004. "I started to think of this really great chord sequence. So I turned around and went back. We actually recorded it that Friday night. So from then on it was always just called 'Friday'."
The Cure - Friday I'm In Love
"Then, when I came to do the words for it, I thought, why don't I do a song about that Friday feeling? It's a thing you have at school, and lots of people work at jobs they don't really enjoy. So that Friday afternoon feeling is something you look forward to."
The song was the second single to be released from Wish, on 15th May 1992, but had been heavily promoted during the initial round of press for the album. The single made Number 6 in the UK charts.
An elegant piano-led track, which is still occasionally played live by The Cure to this day. "I think you have to trust, even if you know it's going to be abused," Robert told Request magazine in May 1992. "Sometimes you're trusted for parts of yourself which are unstable, and you're a bit unsure of them yourself. Then you have to become something that you're not, or abuse someone else's trust."
"I used the name Elise because it's the name of the girl in Les Enfants Terribles by [Jean] Cocteau," Robert explained in February 1992. "The song isn't about her but the name has overtones for me, a kind of symbolic name."
The Cure - A Letter To Elise (Official Music Video)
In another literary connection, "Letters To Felice" is a compilation of letters to Felice Bauer by her fiancé Franz Kafka, an old favourite of Smith's. This was the third and final single to be taken from Wish, issued in October 1992 and making Number 28.
Originally titled Away, this song was originally premiered at The Cure's "secret" show in January 1991 at London's T&C2 (now known as The Garage). The song was originally quite downbeat, but the vicious studio version really plays up the theme of a "longstanding relationship that was suddenly and unexpectedly starting to fracture", as Smith says in the sleeve-notes for the new reissue of Wish.
Smith told Melody Maker in December 1992 that this intricate song is "about relationships. The notion of three wishes, all through history, has this aspect where if you wish for selfish things, it backfires. But wishes never seem to take in the notion of wishing for other people. In all relationships, there are always aching holes, and that's where the impossible wishes come into it."
To Wish Impossible Things
This swirling, grunge-influenced track almost gave the album its title. "I'd gone home one weekend and came back with the idea for End," Robert told RCD magazine in May 1992. "It got faster and faster and swelled to an excellent, cacophonous conclusion. So I had it in my mind that the title would be Swell and it would be the last track on the album, which would also be called Swell."
The refrain "Stop loving me, I am none of these things," seems to point to the fan adoration that the frontman was now receiving. "It's probably a feeling that people understand when they're put in a position whereby they are liked or loved or thought of and they are almost becoming a caricature of themselves and wish that they could change but they haven't the courage to." (Wish promo interview, February 1992)