Staring at the SEA: My 30 Year Relationship With The Cure

Back when I was in high school, circa mid-1980’s, I went to a local mall with my then-boyfriend. We browsed one of the many music stores to see what was new in the music scene. This was well before music downloads provided instant gratification. When new albums were released, we actually had to go somewhere to buy them, usually a mall or an independent record store.  We would then make copies and mix tapes for our friends and boyfriends/girlfriends on dual cassette players.

Anyway, I picked up The Cure’s Staring at the Sea-The Singles and wanted to buy it. I had recently started listening to a local alternative music radio station, WHTG 106.3, and heard a few songs by The Cure that I liked. The boyfriend, Mr. Commander, immediately took the cassette out of my hand and said he didn’t want me listening to “that” music. He was also incensed that I actually admitted to listening to “that” music on 106.3.

Infuriating, right? But my 15-year-old unsure self gave in, and I left with a cassette by Whitney Houston instead of the one I wanted.

I never listened to that Whitney Houston cassette. I just threw it into my nightstand drawer. It might even still be in there.

I cringe now at what an ass I was for not standing up for myself.

Shortly after this incident, I ended up getting a copy of Staring at the Sea from someone in my chemistry class.

And I listened to it.

And listened to it.

And listened to it….

and wore it out. Yes, that was possible, as was the player actually eating the tape.

That was 30 years ago.

By the time The Cure’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me was released, I was no longer with Mr. Commander and purchased it without any sort of fight from anyone.

I wore that cassette out, too.

Disintegration?

Yeah, I wore out two of those tapes before I had a CD player, and when I did get a CD player, the first CDs I bought were those 3, followed closely by Wish.

Unfortunately, I went through another “I’m Letting a Male Run My Life” phase when I, again, put someone else’s desires and interests before mine. Similar to Mr. Commander, he also had a disdain for The Cure for some reason and would only play music that he liked. And I went along with it. Again. Oh asshat of asshats I was…

That relationship ended with a costly legal battle and the changing of my last name back to its original version.

Once I stood up for myself, I turned right back to The Cure, adding each subsequent album release to my library and each song to my playlist.

Out of all of my music favorites, The Cure has been most influential throughout my life. Every song is meaningful, and some of the meanings have changed as I’ve grown and matured. I find the lyrics full of wisdom, empathy, and comfort. Something I love about The Cure is how each album has a distinctive sound and feel, different from the others, while the mainstay of Robert Smith’s unique voice soothes, cries, encourages, understands, and excites.

I obviously love The Cure, but I only saw them in concert once. That was during my heydey of being a party girl. I have little to zero recollection of the concert at all. I don’t remember who I even went with. Proud moment for me right there.

When I saw the announcement that The Cure was going on tour this summer, I knew right away that nothing was going to stop me from seeing this concert. Not my health, not my schedule, NOTHING!

I immediately talked to friends who were also fans of The Cure, and we agreed to try and get tickets for their show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Well, we were all disheartened when the show sold out almost immediately. Not to worry, as The Cure knew that a lot of their fans weren’t able to get tickets, so they added two more shows.

When those tickets went on sale, we got them and were in! Sunday, June 19, baby, and our concert date was here before we knew it.

I am so thankful to have had four wonderful friends along with me for The Cure concert adventure. Three of us took the train in, while the other two met us in front of Madison Square Garden. We had dinner and putzed around, and soon enough, the doors were open and we made our way inside.

What are the odds that the vendors sold not only pins but postcards? It was kismet! I also purchased a quintessential tour T-shirt too and immediately put it on. I’m actually wearing it right now.

We were in our seats well before the opening act, The Twilight Sad, took the stage. They were excellent, and I’m glad to have found another group of real musicians to add to my playlist.

There was a brief intermission, then as the stagehands made the final instrument and set adjustments, the lights dimmed and the audience began to cheer and clap.

Two minutes later, The Cure took the stage. I couldn’t believe that Robert Smith and the band were right there, in front of me!

The band began an opening riff, and I simply was in disbelief: NO WAY! It couldn’t be!

The Cure opened with “Open.”

A little sidebar here: if you read the lyrics to “Open,” you’ll get the gist of what the song is about. “Open” is how I felt pretty much during my entire 20s: “The way the rain comes down hard, that’s the way I feel inside.” I did not like who I was during that time in my life, and to hide that, I drank way too much and way too often. Bad decisions all around for years.

Today, the song shows me what I’ve overcome. It’s on constant playlist rotation. I intentionally listen to it often to remind myself about how far I’ve come, and how much further I’d like to go.

Hearing The Cure open the show with “Open” reassured me that I was exactly where I needed to be at that moment, and I took it all in. I felt like Robert Smith was singing just to me…empathizing, encouraging, and understanding as always. I’ve now resolved to be OPEN with what life hands me and to following the cosmic signs that are surrounding me every day. It’s a true adventure every day, with The Cure always playing in the background.

I was amazed at how great The Cure sounded. Everything was authentic, and real, and wonderful. The musical talent combined with that distinctive voice played favorite after favorite, including “Pictures of You,” “Hanging Garden,” “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep,” “High,” “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea,” “Just Like Heaven,” “Love Song,” “Primary,” “Cut,” “Snakepit,” and more. So incredible, each and every song.

It was simply euphoric, and one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

Even though I was sharing this experience with friends and a sold-out crowd of over 18,000 other fans, I was also alone.

It was me and The Cure, alone. As I listened and danced and sang along…

I was that 15-year-old girl who wanted to buy Staring at the Sea with the song “Primary” on it.

I was that 17-year-old girl dancing to the junior prom song “Just Like Heaven” with my classmates.

I was that 18-year-old soon to be high school graduate playing “Snakepit” as I drove around the Inlet.

I was that 19-year-old girl listening to “Pictures of You” and “Love Song” in my college dorm.

I was that 21-year-old listening to “High” when I got ready to go to the local watering hole for the night.

I was that young woman facing divorce who listened to “Cut” for courage.

And I was that 45-year-old woman, finally looking back with acceptance and forward with excitement while singing along, word for word, to “Open.”

Even though they will not read this, I would like to thank Robert Smith, Simon Gallup, Jason Cooper, Roger O’Donnell, and Reeves Gabrels.  I’m only one tiny speck of their following, but this tiny speck is eternally grateful their influence. Their music, vocals, and lyrics have been the soundtrack for 30 years of my journey here on earth so far (that about 70% of my life), and will always be on my playlist until my journey ends.

IMG_6952

IMG_7018

Thank you too to my friends Heather, Dan, Jennifer, and Noah. And if anyone with local radio power is reading, PLEASE bring back the classic WHTG 106.3 radio station! We NEED it!

“Sea” Why My Tears Are Purple…

It’s not uncommon for me to have my phone out while teaching journalism. All students have their phone out as well, which is technically a violation of school policy, but news alerts are the quickest way to find out about breaking news. We’ve watched several breaking news stories develop over the years via our handheld devices, including the tracking of the Boston Bombing suspects, the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, Pope Francis’ travels in the USA, the World Cup soccer events, and the Olympics. It’s hands-on learning in the real world for journalism students.

About 5 minutes into class on Thursday, April 21, 2016, I looked down at my phone as it lit up with an alert and audibly gasped while covering my mouth. “Oh no! Oh no!” I said as I read the unbelievable alert: BREAKING NEWS: Pop Star Prince has died, AP reports.

My students immediately checked their phones as I said, “Prince died? I can’t believe this!” as tears welled up in my eyes.  Some students knew right away that Prince was a musician. Others thought it was Prince William from the UK. Still others had no idea what Prince meant or who it could be.

I hoped that it was a hoax, but it wasn’t. The planned journalism lesson was changed to follow the story surrounding Prince, and as each alert and tweet was posted, we added to our timeline of breaking events.  Students were to determine what was fact, what was not, what might be true, what might not be true, the credibility of the source, etc.

After class ended, I sat in my chair and sighed very hard with my head in my hands, overwhelmed by sadness and disbelief. I was surprised about how upset I was, and couldn’t figure out why at first. I wasn’t a huge Prince fan. I mean, I liked his music, but I never saw him in concert. I had a few of his songs on my playlists over the years, but never made it a point to listen to the songs over and over, whether on cassette, CD, or digital.

I’m usually empathetic when a celebrity passes away, but not at this level. The only other time I actually cried over a celebrity death was when Chris Farley died.

Why, why then, was I shaken to the bone over the news that Prince wasn’t alive anymore?

Why was I unable to control my tears?

Then it hit me.

It’s because Prince was always there.

He was just there, all the time.

Looking back on Prince’s career, I was surprised that I still knew most of his hit songs word for word, even though I haven’t heard some of them in over 25 years.

I never realized that since 1978, Prince released an album almost every single year I’ve been on this earth.

His music was the background music to my life, to all of our lives, whether we were diehard fans or not.

He was there since I was a child, and was always there…through my teens, through my twenties, through my thirties, and through the first half of my forties.

Every chapter of my life has at least one Prince song playing in the background, if not more.

He was purple. He was unique. He was influential beyond description. He was talented beyond comprehension.

Prince was a musical genius.

Prince was always there.

And now he’s not.

There are so many unanswered questions…Who is his family? Why did this happen? What could have prevented it?

And you know what? I don’t want to know the answers to those questions.

To me, not knowing his private persona makes him more mysterious and interesting.

I do not want to know the result of the autopsy, because it doesn’t matter what it says.

I do not want to consider what could have been done to prevent this from happening, because it will not change the outcome.

The fact is that Prince is not here anymore.

The world will never be the same.

And I’m not the only one feeling his loss.

So many artists are performing his songs in tribute, artists like Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, and the cast of The Color Purple. Tweets from music icons such as Steven Tyler and Bette Midler, and from others like Spike Lee, Oprah, and Jimmy Fallon show that these masters considered Prince THE master. Landmarks have been lit up worldwide in purple to honor Prince’s lasting legacy. The movie Purple Rain is showing nationwide in movie houses, and on television almost non-stop. MTV even interrupted their miserable programming to bring viewers hours of Prince videos, Sirius XM set up a Prince tribute station, and Saturday Night Live aired a Prince special and retrospective in place of a rerun.

With each tribute, tweet, and photograph, I realize that Prince was the one artist I took for granted. I thought he’d just always be there, singing and strumming through the background of my life…forever.

It’s been 3 days since I received that news alert, and I’m still heartbroken.

And I’d venture to say that so is the world.

Thank you, Prince, for sharing your extraordinary gifts with the world, and for being that one constant note that played through my journey here on Earth thus far. Thank you for soothing, for inspiring, and for guiding my soul.

Most of all, thank you for helping us all get through this thing called life…

“Electric word life

It means forever and that’s a mighty long time

But I’m here to tell you

There’s something else

The after world

A world of never ending happiness

You can always see the sun, day or night

So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills

You know the one, Dr. Everything’ll Be Alright

Instead of asking him how much of your time is left

Ask him how much of your mind, baby

‘Cause in this life

Things are much harder than in the after world

In this life

You’re on your own

And if the elevator tries to bring you down

Go crazy, punch a higher floor

If you don’t like the world you’re living in

Take a look around you

At least you got friends

You see I called my old lady

For a friendly word

She picked up the phone

Dropped it on the floor

(Ah, ah) is all I heard

Are we gonna let the elevator

Bring us down

Oh, no let’s go!

Let’s go crazy

Let’s get nuts

Let’s look for the purple banana

‘Til they put us in the truck, let’s go!

We’re all excited

But we don’t know why

Maybe it’s ’cause

We’re all gonna die

And when we do (When we do)

What’s it all for (What’s it all for)

You better live now

Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door

Tell me, are we gonna let the elevator bring us down

Oh, no let’s go!

Let’s go crazy

Let’s get nuts

Look for the purple banana

‘Til they put us in the truck, let’s go!

C’mon baby

Let’s get nuts

Yeah

Crazy

Let’s go crazy

Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down

Oh, no let’s go!

Go crazy

I said let’s go crazy (Go crazy)

Let’s go, let’s go

Go

Let’s go

Dr. Everything’ll be alright

Will make everything go wrong

Pills and thrills and daffodils will kill

Hang tough children

He’s coming

He’s coming

Coming

Take me away”