The Meaning Behind “In Between Days” by The Cure and How It Brought the Band to New Levels of Popularity

Before they became the darlings of alt-rock in the ’80s, The Cure largely traded in despairingly dark music. And while they still occasionally dabbled in that later in their career, the 1985 single “In Between Days” represented a bit of a turning point for the British band. With the song, they showed how effortlessly they could churn out chirpy, catchy pop.

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What is “In Between Days” about? And how did the album which included it bring the band to new levels of popularity? Let’s find out all there is to know about this ’80s anthem.

“Days” of Change

The Cure’s discography isn’t a neat little timeline where you can easily follow the band’s path from one step to the next. Even from the beginning, they’ve never been that easy to pin down. But the general assessment that the first six years or so of their recording career were distinguished by music with a bleak outlook and moody sound is fairly accurate.

The band also went through several different lineups in that early stretch, as different members came and went. There was actually a point following the 1982 album Pornography where it looked like they might go their separate ways entirely. Lead singer and chief songwriter Robert Smith even briefly joined the band Siouxsie and the Banshees.

He also realized that part of the reason the band had been struggling is they were worn down by the somewhat depressing nature of their catalog to that point. The Cure was basically down to two members when they released a pair of 1983 singles with a somewhat shinier outlook, and both of those songs became hits in the United Kingdom.

As Smith explained in an interview with The Guardian, that changed his outlook on the band, even as he felt a little uneasy about forging a commercial path. “I suddenly thought, ‘Well, actually, this is more attractive than slogging my way round the world with the Banshees!’ So I was never quite comfortable with my reasons.”

After a 1984 album called The Top that was mostly self-recorded, Smith decided carrying on with The Cure meant that he needed a full band again. To join the duo of he and Lol Tolhurst, he recruited Porl (Pearl) Thompson, who played both guitar and keyboards, and drummer Boris Williams. He also patched things up with bassist Simon Gallop, who had left a few years earlier.

To be clear, The Head on the Door, the first album this five-piece made together in 1985, didn’t exactly abandon some of the darker themes and sounds of earlier records. But there was much more diversity from song to song. And that included a lead single in “In Between Days” that brims with pop energy, all shiny guitars and synths and peppy rhythms.

What is “In Between Days” About?

“In Between Days” seems to chronicle a love triangle where the guy at the fulcrum is regretting the choice he’s made. As he watches one of the girls step away, he realizes his mistake, which leads to this memorably nimble couplet: And I know it was wrong when I said it was true / That it couldn’t be me and be her in between without you.

The verses talk about how old and sad he feels without her. In the first refrain, he plays brave: Go on, go, just walk away / Go on, go on, your choice is made. But when this section comes around again, he turns it around and pleads with her to return: Come back, come back, don’t walk away.

“In Between Days” didn’t do markedly better in the UK than The Cure’s previous few singles. But it did sneak through into the U.S. Top 100, the first time the band reached that milestone. It also provided a gateway to future upbeat hits like “Friday I’m in Love” and “Just Like Heaven,” as the band showed they could lighten up and be just as captivating as when they wallowed in the musical mire.

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Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images

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