Why Marketing and The Cure Are Not Evil (Part I)
Seamus Anthony's blog is about how the Musician (aka Mewzo) must first win "the battle" in the mind. Old Zen geezers call the problematic aspects of the mind "The Monkey". If you can tame the Monkey by getting your thinking right then happiness and success as a musician, on your own terms, are within your grasp. It's Mewzo Vs Monkey - let the battle begin!
It’s time for me to come clean.
As a teenager I was a tragic, card-carrying fan of The Cure.
There, I said it.
I still love them too, but you know, I am older now and I like a lot of things, including, weirdly, marketing.
Yes, that’s right, marketing. Now, before you splutter expletives and masticated toast at me, read this article until the final paragraph and maybe you will soften your views about the dreaded, and much misunderstood, M word.
The Cure Knew Their Marketing Shit
So, this morning, humming The Cure’s “A Night Like This”, the thought occurred to me how the song is so brilliantly targeted (marketing jargon for “designed for an ideal customer”) and how that band in general were so successful because they totally knew who their ideal customer was and they just kept ringing that customer’s bell over and over (and fuck the rest).
Australian rock journalist Andrew P Street writes that the song “punches him in the feelings”. Its power, he continues, lies in the chords but to me it isn’t just those lovely sliding barre chords. It’s more than that. It’s a whole host of elements that make up the whole.
For example, before we even address the music, look at the band and in particular front-man Robert Smith. Looking back as a crusty Gen-X marketing copy hack rather than a fresh-faced Gen-X teen (i.e. The Cure’s ideal customer), I am struck by how the act conjures words like “cute”, “cuddly”, “pretty” and “unthreatening”. There’s something almost comforting about the teddy bear quality that Robert Smith brings to his onstage persona. These qualities come naturally to him, but then he tops it all off with a veneer of self-conscious weird, applied, deliberately and clumsily, like his lipstick. The “weird” is pulled off with the mental-patient arm jerks and the straight-jacket-ish suits and the gloriously impractical bird’s nest hair.
All of this is deliberately designed to turn your parents off. What musicians did the average parent like back in the late 80’s, early 90s’? Elvis. The Beatles. Rod Stewart. The Rolling Stones. Hairy, alternative types yes, but MEN all of them, not odd, fey little teddy bears with cutesy make up, suspect sexuality and ridiculously over-sized sneakers.
BOOM. Parents suitably alienated? Check.
And the pretty, unthreatening nature of the band is clever too, because it appeals to an audience that is not ready or interested in anything ugly at all. Nick The Stripper? No thanks! Too scary and ugly for The Cure’s teenybopper fans.
For example, my high school girlfriend with whom I bonded over Cure CDs on endless repeat in her bedroom, had barely torn down the Jason Donovan and Bros. posters from her wall when The Cure shuffled in and took over the battle for her mind. She wasn’t going to leap from that fluff directly to The Dead Kennedys or whatever. No, there was a perfect balance to be struck between sufficient edginess to ever so slightly alienate said Elvis-loving parents and appealing to the actual ideal customer herself, the teenager.
After all, we were white, suburban, middle-class teenagers. Things weren’t so bad that we were full of rage and fury – but we were bored enough that we wanted to “change it all”. And so we come to the lyrics.
The World, The Parents and The Isolation Chamber
The song is ostensibly (I think) a kind of regretful break up song, a hey-that-was-a-stupid-idea-let’s-get-back-together song, or something. So again, very well-targeted. Puppy lovers the world over are constantly breaking up for ten minutes before getting back together again tomorrow only to break up again next Saturday until Tuesday lunch time. The yo-yo thing is relatable for said teens.
But the real genius is the evocative nature of the lyrics, which more than simply address a common scenario for teens but in fact tackle no less than how it feels to be a certain type of white, middle class Gen-X teenager.
First, there is the general feeling of loneliness and alienation that teens feel in their parents big suburban homes. Or felt, anyway.
I don’t know what it feels like now to be a teen but, at the risk of sounding geriatric, back in the late 80’s and early 90s you dealt with the world while you were at school, you dealt with your parents in the house and then you could escape to your bedroom which was like a kind of comfortable isolation chamber. Sure, some of us had phones in there, but you could only blab on it for so long until your parents would yell at you. Apart from that it was just you, your thoughts and your favourite rock stars staring down at you from the wall while simultaneously being fabulous on your stereo.
(As an aside, it seems like today’s kids have a Portal to the Entire Universe in their bedrooms, i.e their Internet connected devices and I wonder how healthy this is. The solitary nature of my room as a teenager, while sometimes unbearably lonely, gave me a lot of time and space to process all the bullshit I encountered out in the world. Maybe I’m out of touch, but I’m not sure that kids need more social interaction and information at the end of the day. They need to reflect and decompress. But hey, what they fuck would I know, so back to The Cure.)
So, the lyrics near the beginning of “A Night Like This”, to me, capture the way it felt to be a teen in suburbia back then. Puppy lover tiffs aside, imagine a teen watching through the beige curtain slats as their friend mopes off home for dinner, the smell of meat and three veg coming from the kitchen.
The meat, which thanks to Morrissey, you have recently decided is a shit idea, is being cooked by some adult stranger who is clearly part of the global adult conspiracy to make you completely miserable. They just don’t care about how you feel and they’re all so completely disappointing as humans that you can barely stand to look at them let alone live in the same house as them.
Stay tuned for Why Marketing and The Cure Are Not Evil (Part II)
Seamus Anthony is a musician, writer who is currently taking his music, his writing and his whole being and pouring it into his mission to inspire and motivate creative people like you to feel better about Life and to enjoy increased happiness, health and success. Check out his website, Rebel Zen.
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of Melting Pot.
Author DetailsSeamus Anthony
Seamus Anthony makes music in the Bar Romantic genre. His sound is similar to Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash – but more Australian. Enjoy with a twist of black funny.