Making a Cover: “Charlotte Sometimes” (The Cure)

“Charlotte Sometimes” is a single release by The Cure in 1981, just after Faith and before the dark and gloomy and awkwardly titled Pornography. It is very gothic-romantic sounding in every way, and utterly British (this being a compliment). Robert Smith often wrote lyrics based on books, in this case the eponymous Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer, written (how wonderful) in 1969. The theme of the book, not so much time travel but rather identity would have been close to Robert Smith (and I suspect to many). Are we really who we think we are and what people think we are? Who really knows who we are? How much within our identity is really us versus something or someone else.

At any rate, I discovered this song, I think, through the (now mostly unavailable live album Concert). It is, I think, their best rendition of the song, with faster drumming and light, and a crisper sound all around (listen to video below).

The Cure has played this song often, and I have always been impressed by the “walking bass line” of the ever-impressive Simon Gallup. Two root notes become a melody that makes the song be as memorable as it is. I have recorded versions of this song a couple of times in the distant past, and it has inspired my own “Faith Back” (circa 1995).

Why cover this song? It really captures the grey, rainy, and brooding mood of younger years of one’s life, pondering one’s identity in what I call “French romantic gothic-ness” (Chateaubriand comes to mind). This is not a song I wish I would love but did not listen to because I thought something was amiss in it (like The Top), I just wanted to recreate something a little bit different but able to capture (I hope), the same spirit. This track should be released on the “cover compilation” entitled A Shallow Grave (11/2020).

It there anything spiritual in this song? I certainly think so: that sense of timelessness, the struggle over identity, the quest for who we really are and who truly knows us: “For presently we see through a glass in obscurity; but then, face to face. Presently, I know in part; but then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

In finalizing and releasing this cover, I actually used the MIDI file and added my own chords and instruments (acoustic strum, electric guitar pick, choir). I hope you enjoy and share!

The Lyrics:

All the faces
All the voices blur
Change to one face
Change to one voice
Prepare yourself for bed
The light seems bright
And glares on white walls
All the sounds of
Charlotte sometimes
Into the night with
Charlotte sometimes
Night after night she lay alone in bed
Her eyes so open to the dark
The streets all looked so strange
They seemed so far away
But Charlotte did not cry
The people seemed so close
Playing expressionless games
The people seemed
So close
So many
Other names
Sometimes I’m dreaming
Where all the other people dance
Sometimes I’m dreaming
Charlotte sometimes
Sometimes I’m dreaming
Expressionless the trance
Sometimes I’m dreaming
So many different names
Sometimes I’m dreaming
The sounds all stay the same
Sometimes I’m dreaming
She hopes to open shadowed eyes
On a different world
Come to me
Scared princess
Charlotte sometimes
On that bleak track
(See the sun is gone again)
The tears were pouring down her face
She was crying and crying for a girl
Who died so many years before
Sometimes I dream
Where all the other people dance
Sometimes I dream
Charlotte sometimes
Sometimes I dream
The sounds all stay the same
Sometimes I’m dreaming
There are so many different names
[[Sometimes I dream Sometimes I dream]] [[Note: instead I sing here Charlotte Sometimes]]]Charlotte sometimes crying for herself
Charlotte sometimes dreams a wall around herself
But it’s always with love
With so much love it looks like
Everything else
Of Charlotte sometimes
So far away
Glass sealed and pretty
Charlotte sometimes