On April 30th, 1984, The Cure released their psychedelic fifth studio album The Top.
The criminally underrated record, which has been in heavy rotation in recent setlists was the first new studio album from The Cure since 1982’s Pornography, with the collection of singles that make up Japanese Whispers released in the interim.
Additionally, Robert Smith was a member of both The Glove, which has released it’s album Blue Sunshine the year previous, and Siouxsie and The Banshees, who were working on their next record Hyaena, which featured Smith on guitar and piano.
Despite being considered in many respects to be a Robert Smith solo album, The Top featured Cure co-founder Lol Tolhurst co-writing on several tracks, along with an ensemble of musicians that included the return of original Easy Cure guitar hero Pearl (Porl) Thompson, Pornography producer Phil Thornally on bass, and percussionist Andy Anderson on drums.
Of this wild and psychedelic period, Robert Smith told The Guardian that Anderson “used to make a huge pot of magic mushroom tea at the start of every day and it just went on from there”.
Anderson’s contributions can be felt strongly in The Top, from his bombastic percussion in “Shake Dog Shake” and “Bird Mad Girl”, to his playing spoons to create that distinctive clicking noise in the song “The Caterpillar”, along with his conga drum percussion.
Another track on The Top where Anderson’s presence is strongly felt is “The Empty World”, which is another song inspired by Penelope Farmer’s book Charlotte Sometimes, in addition to the titular track, and “Splintered in Her Head”.
Anderson would continue to tour throughout 1984 with The Cure, most infamously captured on various television programs, The Cure’s Concert live LP, and on the concert film “Live in Japan.” The concert, which occurred on October 17th of that year, was the last Anderson performed with the band before his seat behind the kit was taken over by Boris Williams just three weeks later, with Vince Ely filling in the interim.
We would be remiss in discussing The Top, by overlooking the bizarre one of kind sound on the album track’s “Dressing Up”, and “Piggy in The Mirror”, the latter of which is presumably about the perils of observing one’s own reflection while under the influence of LSD.
In addition to these madcap acid trips, Robert Smith showcases his amazing versatility in songwriting with the experimentally eerie and sombre “Wailing Wall”, and funky “Bananafishbones”, and the angry punk-infused cacophony of “Give Me It”.
The Top—a collection of oddities representing a beautiful tangent in The Cure’s album catalogue, closes out with the languid off-kilter sauntering jazz of its title track, that is an unsettling mishmash of textured minimalism structured around repetitive drum and bass that fades into oblivion.
Our Consulting Editor Greg Fasolino was in attendance at the 1984 Beacon Theatre Gig in NYC, for which we have shared his photo gallery from the night below:
The Cure’s classic concert at the Beacon Theatre in NYC.
November 17, 1984.
Porl Thompson playing Keys
Someone threw this caterpillar doll onto the stage at the Beacon, and The Cure respond with a rare rendition of “The Caterpillar.”
Robert Smith does the “Caterpillar” dance
The Cure closing out their Beacon show with an epic rendition of “Forever.”