May 6, 2016
30: The Cure's Standing On A Beach - The Singles
One of the larger milestones celebrated in the music press this week was the 27th anniversary of the release of The Cure's epochal classic Disintegration. A remarkable record, to be sure, and deserving of great praise. But we'd be remiss if we didn't mark in these electronic pages a different milestone, the release of the first The Cure record we ever owned, issued this day 30 years ago, a record that can rightfully be said to have played a part in spawning this publication. Wikipedia provides inconsistent information regarding its release date, stating in different places May 6 and May 19. As the former was actually a Tuesday, the then-traditional day of the week for new releases in the States, we're going with May 6. So happy anniversary, Standing On A Beach - The Singles.
The facts of our first exposure to The Cure are increasingly remote, but we distinctly recall seeing the video for "Let's Go To Bed" in our grandparents' basement (they had one of those old-ass cable boxes with the three tiers of oblong buttons that was attached to the teevee with a cord like an astronaut to spacecraft). The catchy, curious song was blessed with steady MTV rotation, likely as much because of director Tim Pope's intriguing, egg-smashing, back-painting video as the fine pop song-craft. We suppose MTV might have played other singles between LGTB's release in '82 and that of the singles and b-sides compilation Standing On A Beach in early May of '86, but we can't recall seeing another Cure video until the re-release of the titanic indie pop tune "Boys Don't Cry" as a single to herald the issuance of said hits comp. Not that we were really looking. Until Diamond Dave left Van Halen in mid-'85, our focus was very, very heavily tilted toward metal.
Yes, we understand that a singles-and-b-sides comp doesn't qualify under certain purist definitions of a proper record. To a certain extent we even share in that bias. But the record. Oh, how the record blew our mind when a cherished childhood friend popped the Standing On A Beach cassette into a Sony Sports Boombox (remember the yellow jawn with the rubberized, sand-proof buttons?) during a trip that spring and pushed play. It was during a camping-type outing, and there was plenty of fun to be had, but all we wanted to do all day was get back to the tape deck and press play again and again. At the time in '86, at the tender age of 12, we knew not of the terms "indie rock," maybe not even "college rock," so we recall the aforementioned friend arguing that The Cure could be lumped under the dubious descriptor "soft hardcore." Which sounds ridiculous now, as even then we had some understanding of contemporary punk and new wave, but that should give a sense of how the breadth and depth of Standing On A Beach left us awe-struck and grasping for ways to describe it.
With the release of Standing On A Beach, The Cure became the band that first fired the synapses that still fuel our music obsession. The record was a revelation: setting aside all of the singles that didn't crack MTV, let alone garner commercial radio airplay (for the latter, that was pretty much all of them), listening to Standing On A Beach triggered a tantalizing, even troubling thought: if all of these b-sides are so excellent, then what else is MTV, commercial radio, Rolling Stone and Spin keeping from us? What else were the gatekeepers -- the lamestream media, if you will -- not telling us about? The answer, as we're certain all of this blog's readers know, was quite a lot. And so we began searching, digging more deeply, and in the process became the music fan we are today.
It's worth noting that Standing On A Beach was released in a number of configurations across as many formats, and that the cassette was the greatest of them all, as it contained all of the b-sides and certain exclusive mixes. Wikipedia does a good job of breaking all of that down, but the greater point is that those b-sides were exceptionally hard to track down in the pre-Internet era for those of us who wore out the tape. Might an announcement be in the offing, of a double-LP reissue of Standing On A Beach? Frankly, we expected that for Record Store Day, and were disappointed that it didn't materialize. And we expect that was the last meaningful window for the release of such a thing. At the next five-divisible anniversary, Gen X-ers that comprise much of the likely market for such a trinket will be that much further removed, the present vinyl resurgence may have vaporized. Sure, the Join The Dots compilation largely obviated the need for such a reissue, but the comp is sort of overkill, innit? And, of course, not on vinyl. In all of its iterations, Standing On A Beach was manageable, the discrete era it addressed particularly meaningful, and it's our feeling that a vinyl reissue of the original cassette version of Standing On A Beach would be splendid. But it seems like it will not be.
Let's have an upbeat ending to this overlong celebration, though. The Cure are touring this summer, 33 shows in 26 North American cities as well as festival dates and a show in New Zealand. The legendary act plays a long-sold out show in Boston June 16. Might they perform the compilation on the tour? Not likely. But either way we have the music, and we've posted YouTube videos below for you to enjoy which recreate Standing On A Beach. Try to hear it all like it's May of '86 again. Thanks for reading.
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