The Exploding Boy by The Cure: Great B-Sides

The Cure have been around for more than forty years, with leader Robert Smith the only constant member. The band formed in Crawley, West Sussex, in 1976, and have covered a lot of ground over their career, from the Gothic post-punk intensity of 1982’s Pornography through to the breezy surprise hit ‘Friday I’m In Love’ in 1992.

‘The Exploding Boy’ was a b-side to ‘In Between Days’, the lead single from The Head on the Door. The parent record peaked at number 7, making it their most successful album in the UK, and it also cracked the top 75 in the US. The Head on the Door marked a transition towards sunnier music for the band, with Smith noting an influence from Siouxsie and the Banshees. He told Melody Maker in 1985 regarding Head on the Door; “It reminds me of the Kaleidoscope album, the idea of having lots of different sounding things, different colours”.

The lyrics of ‘The Exploding Boy’ are typically glum, but the music’s upbeat, with the dominant textures coming from vigorously strummed acoustic guitar and saxophone. The song was originally planned to be the title track of the band’s new project, but was pushed to a b-side when it was deemed too similar to ‘In Between Days’.

The Cure are a beloved band with a lot of strong b-sides, and they’ve been anthologised thoroughly. The 1986 cassette version of the compilation Standing on a Beach featured twelve b-sides, including ‘The Exploding Boy’, while the b-side box set Join the Dots, featured four discs spanning 1978-2001.

The Exploding Boy Lyrics

I couldn’t hear a word you said
I couldn’t hear at all
You talked until your tongue fell out
And then you talked some more

I knew if I turned
I’d turn away from you
And I couldn’t look back

Tell yourself, we’ll start again
Tell yourself, it’s not the end
Tell yourself, it couldn’t happen
Not this way, not today

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  1. I remember hearing about them in Jr High from the Goth kids. I don’t know much about them but I’ve listened to them more this year than any other from other bloggers. I don’t mind the glum lyrics as long as they are counter balanced with the music. I like what I’ve heard so far.

      • If you don’t mind…is that what you would recommend to listen to? What is their most accessible period or album? I know a few radio songs like Love Song… I believe it’s called.

        • I’m probably not the best person to ask – I’m still absorbing their stuff. There is a well loved compilation from 1986 (Standing on a Beach) that contains a bunch of non-album singles which might be a good place to start.

          • Ok…that sounds good. Since reading blogs I’m discovering music that I didn’t pay enough attention to in real-time. The Smiths, The Cult, Replacements… much of the eighties.

          • Yup, 80s alternative is a goldmine of great music. In some ways it sounds more like The Beatles than the stuff that was more popular. XTC, Elvis Costello, Suzanne Vega are all great, tuneful college rock acts too.

  2. One of my favourite Cure B-sides, wish they had included this on The Head on the Door (along with New Day, A Man Inside My Mouth, Stop Dead and A Few Hours After This! Would’ve made it an even better album, all those songs are stronger than four of the songs that did make that LP imo)

    • Thanks for commenting! I think I actually know those b-sides better than the actual record – A Few Hours After This is really pretty, and A Man Inside My Mouth is memorable for the title. There are a bunch of Cure albums I’ve had on CD for ages and know well, but Head on the Door is one I’ve only really got to check out with access to digital music more recently.

      • You’re most welcome. My version of ‘A Head on the Door’ is way better than the official one imo (I think so anyway!) Of the tracks that made the record, check out The Baby Screams and Screw (the latter has an amazing bass riff and fuzz bass sound!) which along with the singles from the record are well worth the price of admission

          • Wish is a great album, it’s unjustly overlooked imo. Wild Mood Swings is bloated and sounds like it’s been A&R’d to death but half of it is really good, half sucks (and some of the B-sides such as Ocean, Home and It Used To Be Me are miles better than tracks that did make the LP). Bloodflowers is the last quality Cure album imo, in my mind the last bona fide Cure album. And being released in 2000 but recorded in 1998-1999 it rounded out the 90s for the band and was recorded 20 years after the first album, so it would’ve made a fitting swansong I think

      • A Chain of Flowers was circa 1987, it’s a B-side from the Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me era. Speaking of B-sides from that era, I would’ve had A Japanese Dream on that album, it’s a corker!

  3. The most successful band from the post punk / alternative movement. Well, U2 and REM were more successful but not really “alternative” bands.
    Seventeen Seconds (1980), Faith (1981) and Pornography (1982) are part of the dark trilogy from the early years. Similar to other artists like Joy Division and Siouxie & the Banshees.
    Then they tried a more pop oriented proposal without losing their basics. Albums recommended:
    The Head on the Door (1985)
    Kiss me, Kiss me, Kiss me (1987)
    Disintegration (1989)
    Wish (1992)

  4. Yes, good one. Talking of the Cure, how about The Upstairs Room, which I think was the b side of The Walk and so much better that I always wondered why they weren’t the other way around. It does jump in a bit suddenly, so maybe they had a problem while editing the tape and regarded it a damaged goods, I don’t know.

  5. Exploding Boy and 2Late are generally thought to be 2 of their best (if not best) B sides. Great band.
    Just found your site and reading through now. Good stuff

  6. And A Chain Of Flowers! One of the most beautiful songs ever written. I don´t understand why it was not part of the KKK album.

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