Today is the 25th anniversary of the release of the epic album Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me by The Cure. In honor of that, I’m going to do something a little bit different. If you only listen to one song today, make it Dinosaur Jr.’s cover of the legendary Cure song “Just Like Heaven” (1989, from the “Just Like Heaven” single).
“Just Like Heaven” was one of three singles that was released from the landmark Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss ME album by The Cure. It reached #29 on the US charts, but was the poorest performing single from the record. “Catch” reached #27, and “Why Can’t I Be You” reached #21. The story was pretty much the same in every other country. If you ask me, it’s the best song on the album. We’re not here, though, to talk about the original version. It’s brilliant, and we’ll do The Cure on a different date, but today, it’s about one of my favorite cover songs ever.
Dinosaur Jr. was an indie rock band from Amherst, Massachusetts. They released seven albums between 1985 and 1997, then went dark for a decade. A much publicized riff between frontman J. Mascis and bassist Lou Barlow forced a lineup change after the third record. That riff caused tension among the remaining band members, and it ultimately forced the band to dissolve. Murph, the original drummer, left a couple of albums later, and J Mascis continued as if nothing had happened.
Some time in 1989, the band were asked to record “Just Like Heaven” for a compilation album. They loved the final product so much, that they pulled out of the cover project, and kept it for themselves. Instead, they released it as a single. There were a LOT of different versions of the vinyl, and some are pretty hard to come by these days. There was a normal 7″ 45rpm single backed with “Throw Down” and “Chunks”. There were five different colored vinyl 7″ versions (blue, red, teal, green, white). There were two different (purple, yellow) 10″ 33 1/3 rpm versions with the same setup. The crown jewel, though, was the 12″ version. It was single-sided with all three songs on side a, and some crazy artwork etched on the b-side. This is the version that we had at the radio station. I’m really surprised that it never got stolen.
The word on the street is that Robert Smith likes this Dinosaur Jr version so much that it’s had an impact on how The Cure plays their own song live. I’ve never seen The Cure, but the story goes that they play “Just Like Heaven” more like Dinosaur Jr did than they themselves did.
Anyway, this is that song:
“Just Like Heaven” as covered by Dinosaur Jr.
Of course the Dino Jr version is louder and more guitar-y than The Cure’s synth-y version. It’s also darker and dirtier than the uncharacteristically bright original. Of course it’s super effects-laden and it’s meant to be played louder than your system can go. Even though it starts out jangly and all that, it’s not really that way. One of the things that I like so much about it is something that makes it very strange. The rubbery guitar bit that starts around 0:23 is eerily reminiscent of the guitar bit in “Planned Obsolescence” by 10,000 Maniacs. I’ll get to that on a different day, but for now, you’ll have to either trust me, or you’ll have to dust off your old 10,000 Maniacs CDs. And it’s probably the only time all day that you’ll hear someone say “Dinosaur Jr”, “The Cure” and “10,000 Maniacs” all in the same sentence. Okay. Maybe all week.
The chorus is a bit shocking with the yelling of the “YOU!” and the heavy metal guitar bit, followed by the flange-y washed out late-1980s Manchester sound, followed by the wanky guitar solo to close it out. Then, of course, the second time through that, the song ends really abruptly with the “YOU!” part. Obviously, the first time I heard it, I thought that the radio deejay had done a really sloppy job of running the board. Nope. It just ends like that.
If you want the 12″ vinyl, go here. The other formats are available, too. Trust me, though. You want the etched 12″. The song also appeared as an extra track on a reissue of the 1987 album You’re Living All Over Me.