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What is the Mysterious Meaning Behind The Cure’s The Hanging Garden?

What is the Mysterious Meaning Behind The Cure's The Hanging Garden? robert smith

The Cure dug deep into themes of alienation and depression for their 1982 album “Pornography,” and “The Hanging Garden” is one of the album’s best-known songs. Today I’m looking at the making of the song and the assumed meaning behind it.

What is the Mysterious Meaning Behind The Cure's The Hanging Garden? robert smith

Recording the “Pornography” album

“The Hanging Garden” is one of the standout tracks from The Cure‘s critically acclaimed album, “Pornography.” While some of their earliest works, like the single “Boys Don’t Cry,” had a hopeful sound, Robert Smith intended for this record to be the band’s least commercial, darkest, and, likely, a farewell note to fans.

Released in 1982, “Pornography” still ranks as both one of The Cure’s best releases, as well as one of their darkest in tone. The album was recorded during a tumultuous period for the band, characterized by internal conflicts and personal struggles.

During the recording process, tensions were running high within the band. The members, particularly frontman Robert Smith, were dealing with various personal issues. The passing of the musician’s grandparents impacted him heavily. Furthermore, The Cure’s busy work schedule made him question his desire to be a professional musician.

This all contributed to the overbearingly dark atmosphere of the album. “Pornography” was produced by Phil Thornalley and the band themselves, both desiring a raw and unfiltered sound.

While “Pornography” was famously derided by critics upon its release, it would find numerous fans in the years ahead.

The Cure toured the album. But according to Lol Tolhurst’s autobiography “Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys,” internal conflicts made them nearly call off the final performances of the tour and disband the group.

And while it was intended to be the band’s final album, and the nihilism surrounding it nearly broke up the band, the band thrived. Bassist Simon Gallup quit the group after the tour promoting the album. But his return in late 1984 would begin an unexpected hot streak of commercial success for the band.

“Pornography” (1982) The Cure Albums Ranked
“Pornography” (1982)

The lyrics of “Hanging Garden”

“The Hanging Garden” is a quintessential early The Cure track. While the label “gothic rock” had long been hoisted on the band, this is arguably the first time that they knowingly played up to their reputation. In Robert Smith‘s words it was intended as “the biggest fuck off record.”

The song’s lyrics evoke a sense of isolation, despair, and introspection. Robert Smith’s haunting vocals deliver lines that paint a bleak and desolate picture, capturing the feelings of entrapment and existential anguish.

The song’s lyrics delve into themes of emotional turmoil. The imagery conjured in lines such as “Creatures kissing in the rain/Shapeless in the dark again” adds to the eerie and atmospheric nature of the song.

Smith’s poetry alludes to various powerful imagery. The title may be a reference to The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, to a novel by David Wagoner, or, as some fans speculate, to suicide by hanging.

What is the Mysterious Meaning Behind The Cure's The Hanging Garden? robert smith

Music video and release

With little of the material on “Pornography” announcing to The Cure’s record label, Fiction, and much commercial potential, “The Hanging Garden” was pushed as a potential single. The similarly themed, non-album track “Charlotte Sometimes” had been released months before to modest commercial success.

“The Hanging Garden” was released as a single in 1982, with a music video directed by Chris Gabrin. For better or for worse, the tension-inducing video would help establish The Cure’s now iconic style. For the majority of the clip, the band, usually wearing smeared makeup, is seen solemnly playing in an empty, desolate garden.

Influence of “The Hanging Garden” and “Pornography”

“The Hanging Garden” and the album “Pornography” profoundly influenced the music landscape, solidifying The Cure’s reputation as pioneers of the gothic rock genre. Not that they liked it! In fact, Smith has continued to reject allinging his band to the movement. Against his wishes “Pornography” was not the band’s send-off letter.

The dark, brooding, and introspective sound of “Pornography” resonated with the band’s core fans and with, I presume, students of existentialism. Numerous groups copied the sound and aesthetic of the album for years up until the present day.

And while the album didn’t receive commercial or critical success on any grand scale, it is one of the most revered in their discography. Nowadays, The Cure still play shows that last upwards of three hours. And, “The Hanging Garden” is often featured in their sets alongside hits like “Lullaby” or “Friday I’m in Love.”

About author

Eduard Banulescu is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications, including FootballCoin, Play2Earn, BeIN Crypto, Business2Community, NapoliSerieA, Extra Time Talk, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc. He has written a book about Nirvana, hosts a music podcasts, and writes weekly content about some of the best, new and old, alternative musicians. Eduard also runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website www.alt77.com. Mr. Banulescu is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.
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