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The Cure - Just Like Heaven (1987)

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“Just Like Heaven” is a song by British alternative rock band The Cure. The group wrote most of the song during recording sessions in southern France in 1987. The lyrics were written by their frontman Robert Smith, who ...

“Just Like Heaven” is a song by British alternative rock band The Cure. The group wrote most of the song during recording sessions in southern France in 1987. The lyrics were written by their frontman Robert Smith, who drew inspiration from a past trip to the sea shore with his future wife. Smith’s memories of the trip formed the basis for the song’s accompanying music video. Before Smith had completed the lyrics, an instrumental version of the song was used as the theme for the French television show Les Enfants du Rock.

“Just Like Heaven” was the third single released from their 1987 album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. The song became the Cure’s first American hit and reached number 40 on the Billboard charts in 1988. It has been praised by critics and covered by artists such as Dinosaur Jr. and Katie Melua. Smith has said he considers “Just Like Heaven” to be one of the band’s strongest songs.

Composition and lyrics

“Just Like Heaven” is written in the key of A major and consists of an A–E–Bm–D chord progression which repeats throughout the song, except during the chorus when the band plays an F?m–G–D progression. The song’s central hook is formed from a descending guitar riff which appears between song verses and in parts of the bridge and the last verse. This guitar line contrasts with the “fuzzier mix” of the rhythm guitars.

According to Smith, “The song is about hyperventilating—kissing and fainting to the floor.” The lyrics were inspired by a trip with his then-girlfriend (and later wife) Mary Poole to Beachy Head in southern England. Smith said the opening line of the song (“Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick”) refers to his childhood memories of mastering magic tricks, but added “on another [level], it’s about a seduction trick, from much later in my life”.

Reception

“Just Like Heaven” was the third single released from the band’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me album. Melody Maker’s review of the single was undecided; writer David Stubbs described it as “a colourful, fluttery, fussy thing” and “unimpeachable”, but added, ” turns my face green, as if having consumed too many truffles.” The song was the Cure’s eleventh top 40 hit in the UK, and stayed on the charts there for five weeks during October and November 1987, peaking at number 29. In the United States, “Just Like Heaven” became the Cure’s first top 40 hit when it reached number 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week in January 1988.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic said “the stately ‘Just Like Heaven’ […] is remarkable and helps make the album [Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me] one of the group’s very best”. Ned Raggett, also of AllMusic, wrote that the song was “instantly memorable, [and] sparkling with rough energy […] it’s a perfect showcase for Robert Smith’s ear for wistful, romantic numbers. His main guitar line, a descending, gently chiming melody, contrasts perfectly against the fuzzier mix of the rhythm guitars, while Simon Gallup’s bass and Boris Williams’ strong, immediate drums make for a great introduction to the track.” Barry Walsh of Slant magazine said the Cure “…is at the top of its game […] on the simply stellar ‘Just Like Heaven’. Glistening descending guitar lines, Gallup’s throbbing bass line, and Williams’ authoritative thumping frame a typically lovelorn Smith lyric, with the end result being one of the Cure’s finest singles, and perhaps one of the best pop singles of the late ’80s.”

Although the later singles “Lovesong” and “Friday I’m in Love” reached higher chart positions, “Just Like Heaven” was the band’s American breakthrough, and has been described as “in American terms, at least, the one Cure song everyone seems to know.” The song inspired the name of, and was used in the 2005 film Just Like Heaven. In 2004 Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 483 on their list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. In 2005 Entertainment Weekly ranked “Just Like Heaven” 25th on its list of “The 50 Greatest Love Songs”, saying, “Turns out guys who wear black eyeliner can be happy.” The following year the song placed at number 22 on VH1’s poll “100 Greatest Songs of the 80s”.

Robert Smith said he considers “Just Like Heaven” to be one of the band’s strongest works, and called it “the best pop song the Cure have ever done”. Several high-profile fans have expressed their appreciation of the song. Musician Ben Folds told Blender “everything about it—the songwriting, the music—is state of the art. It’s as good as it gets. Anytime I hear it on the radio or a mix tape, I jump around like a freak.” J Mascis said his band Dinosaur Jr.’s affection for the song inspired them to record a cover version that was released in 1989. On 16 July 2006, “Just Like Heaven” was played as a wake-up call for the crew of Space Shuttle Discovery on their flight STS-121 at the request of astronaut Piers Sellers’ family; Sellers told mission control center that the song reminded him of “the wild, happy, beer-drinking years of my youth.” Just like Heaven was used extensively as the playout track on episode ten of the current series of the BBC TV drama New Tricks “The Queen’s Speech” which was broadcast on Monday 20 October 2014.

Music video

The music video for “Just Like Heaven” was directed by Tim Pope, who had directed all of the band’s previous videos since 1982’s “Let’s Go to Bed”. The video was filmed in England’s Pinewood Studios in October 1987. Set on a cliff overlooking a sea, the video recreates many of the memories detailed in the song’s lyrics. When a fanzine asked Smith what the song was about, he said it was inspired by “something that happened to me a long time ago—see the video!” While Smith had claimed for years that the video was shot at the same place that inspired the song, he later admitted that the bulk of it was filmed in a studio, utilising footage of the water and cliffs of Beachy Head taken for the band’s 1985 video for “Close to Me”.

During the song’s piano solo the sky turns to nighttime and the band is shown clad in white shirts. Mary Poole appears in this sequence as a woman dressed in white dancing with Smith. As Smith explained, “Mary dances with me in the video because she was the girl [in the song], so it had to be her.” Pope later commented, “[Poole] can honestly lay claim to being the only featured female in any Cure video, ever.”