Friday, May 25, 2018

Boys Don't Cry

Los Angeles, 1980.  The scene: An apartment building by the Tar Pits; 2B, in the back, over the garage; three girls down the hall, Kenya, Cathy, Laura the runaway. There were Johnnie's across the street and an IHOP with a big blue roof next door; the constant odor of breakfast and hairspray. No one was doing what we were; our hair wild, our clothes, fashionably off-kilter and slept in, decadently-preppy in plaid wool trousers and loafers, badges and suspenders; punky without the edge. Closer was out and the Pretenders' debut, Peter Gabriel's third eponymous LP (Melt), and The Feelies' Crazy Rhythms - it wasn't new wave, yet, but soon, very soon, everyone would be coming on Eileen (Come on, Eileen).

Melrose Avenue - In There Somewhere

Kenya was the granddaughter of newsman Walter Winchell, her father a game warden in Africa (today she's a marijuana advocate/filmmaker); Cathy was just rich, a disheveled Marilyn Monroe; Laura, 16, was hotter than a 16-year-old should be, and lost. For a moment we dressed like Lost Boys, like pirates and swashbucklers (Adam and the Ants), but when the costumes came off, it was all about The Cure.

Where the UK debut, Three Imaginary Boys, consisted of discontented, disconnected, punky pop only hinting at the band's talents, Boys Don't Cry (AM8; the American release) was uniformly sublime, the perfect punk-lite LP. This compilation of singles, B-Sides and the standout tracks from 3IB is the debut The Cure should have released (and it was marketed as such in the U.S). The tracks culled from 3IB are presented in a better light when nestled alongside tracks like their first hit single "Boys Don’t Cry" (AM10), the up-tempo "Jumping Someone Else's Train," and their debut 7", the existentialist pop masterpiece, "Killing An Arab." Additional gems are the B-side "Plastic Passion" and the brilliant "World War," the basic track of which the band would reinvent 5 years later as "Shake Dog Shake," (not on the reissued CD).

But 1980 was singularly about "Boys Don't Cry." With best friend, Robbie Freed, the five of us called ourselves the DepKids (it was all about the hair product); we didn't play any instruments, couldn't write, had no drive, but we called ourselves a band (all you needed was a name). We took the girls up to a cabin in Big Bear and Laura kept playing "Boys Don't Cry." She played it over and over again. Robbie would eject the tape to play Dirk Wears White Sox or "Atrocity Exhibit," and she'd reach over and punch it back out - then the tape got caught on the capstan. We had to stop in a record store in Pasadena to get her another.

To this day, I can listen to it over and over. The early Cure were not the band that I worshiped later in the decade (I ponder, then usually back away, not willing to be so bold, whether Disintegration (AM10) is the greatest album of all time, The Cure's raison d'ĂȘtre; with "Plainsong" being the hands down best opening track on any LP), but "Boys Don't Cry" is the most important single of the 80s, bar "Blue Monday," and the one track that can transport me effortlessly into my youth.