"The Figurehead" as written by Robert James Smith, Laurence Andrew Tolhurst and Simon Gallup....
Sharp and open
Leave me alone
And sleeping less every night
As the days become heavier and weighted
Waiting
In the cold light
A noise
A scream tears my clothes as the figurines tighten
With spiders inside them
And dust on the lips of a vision of hell
I laughed in the mirror for the first time in a year

A hundred other words blind me with your purity
Like an old painted doll in the throes of dance
I think about tomorrow
Please let me sleep
As I slip down the window
Freshly squashed fly
You mean nothing
You mean nothing

I can lose myself in Chinese art and American girls
All the time
Lose me in the dark
Please do it right
Run into the night
I will lose myself tomorrow
Crimson pain
My heart explodes
My memory in a fire
And someone will listen
At least for a short while...

I can never say no to anyone but you
Too many secrets
Too many lies
Writhing with hatred
Too many secrets
Please make it good tonight...
But the same image haunts me
In sequence
In despair of time

I will never be clean again
I touched her eyes
Pressed my stained face
I will never be clean again

Touch her eyes
Press my stained face
I will never be clean again

I will never be clean again


Lyrics submitted by oofus

"The Figurehead" as written by Robert James Smith Laurence Andrew Tolhurst

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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The Figurehead song meanings
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  • +3
    General Commentthe figurehead was a grotesque skull sculpture i discovered in the disused asylum we used in the "charlotte sometimes" video. i took it home to talk to - to confess to? and this song is about guilt.

    R. Smith, from cure news Number 9, 1990
    hothothot!on May 04, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song is about a deep depression and a man on the verge of suicide...
    "Sharp and open
    Leave me alone
    And sleeping less every night"
    -- Depressed people have trouble sleeping and feelings of needing to be alone. He also feels like he’s been cut open.
    "As the days become heavier and weighted
    Waiting
    In the cold light"
    -- Things are getting darker by the day and he's feeling cold inside and/or the world has a bleak glow (everything is grey, film noir-ish) as he's hoping for things to change.
    "A noise
    A scream tears my clothes as the figurines tighten
    With spiders inside them
    And dust on the lips of a vision of hell"
    -- He's getting more and more depressed and doesn't feel comfortable in his old skin and surroundings, he’s getting paranoid and scared and he feels it’s all pushing him in the wrong direction (Hell).
    "I laughed in the mirror for the first time in a year"
    -- To me this is a sign of panic when realizing you're probably not gonna make it.

    "A hundred other words blind me with your purity
    Like an old painted doll in the throes of dance"
    -- He's thinking back to (probably) her kind words that used to cheer him up, and now the words or this happiness just scaling off like paint on and old wall (or an old doll).
    "I think about tomorrow
    Please let me sleep"
    -- He's thinking about his insomnia again and hoping he’ll get some sleep tonight so he'll get through the next day (and maybe even feel a little better).
    "As I slip down the window"
    -- He's hoping to float away and maybe someone will notice (tied to the imagined suicide/funeral further down).
    "Freshly squashed fly
    You mean nothing
    You mean nothing"
    -- He's either talking about the girl who left him, wanting her to be crushed like he is (like a bug) and mean nothing to him (or anybody, also like him), or realizing that he means nothing to anybody (or this girl in particular) and that he's like a squashed bug that gets thrown in the trash without the person killing/throwing them caring.

    "I can lose myself in Chinese art and American girls"
    -- He's thinking that maybe he could dedicate his time on other things to get out of his depression or getting over this girl...
    "All the time
    Lose me in the dark"
    -- ..but he knows that in the end he'll still not feel better and still miss her.
    "Please do it right
    Run into the night
    I will lose myself tomorrow
    Crimson pain"
    -- He's contemplating suicide and building up his courage to do it. "Crimson pain" is possibly tied to the suicide depicted in 'Pornography': "I'll watch you drown in the shower", slitting his wrists and watching the blood flow into the drain.
    "My heart explodes
    My memory in a fire”
    -- He’s thinking about how he hope to feel when he goes through with the suicide… hoping that he’s life will flash before his eyes (memory in a fire) and that he’s probably best off dying.
    “And someone will listen
    At least for a short while..."
    -- This is him thinking about his funeral. He's wondering who'll be there and that, at least for a moment, someone will think about him and (maybe) how they treated him. He could possibly also be talking about wanting commit a “cry-for-help”-suicide, wanting to be found, so that someone will listen to him and hopefully ease his pain.

    "I can never say no to anyone but you"
    -- This one is a bit tricky to fit into my interpretation. When I started listening to the song I thought this part was him thinking this about his lover - how he really wants her, but still, ironically, turns her down and treats her badly. It can, however, also fit with the depression/suicide theme in that he's actually telling himself to do it already and that he'll know it's for the best when he's gone.

    "Too many secrets
    Too many lies
    Writhing with hatred
    Too many secrets
    Please make it good tonight..."
    -- He's thinking about all the secrets and lies in this relationship, and how he wrote/said things he didn't mean (maybe even as poetry/lyrics if you want this to be a bit Smith-autobiographical). He wants it all undone, but...
    "But the same image haunts me
    In sequence
    In despair of time"
    -- ...yet again he knows that with time he'll always come back to missing her and feeling this bad. A vicious circle, so to speak, he’ll always return to his personal purgatory or destiny.

    "I will never be clean again"
    -- He's thinking how the scars on his wrists will be visible forever if he doesn't make it.
    "I touched her eyes"
    -- She fancied him because he was good looking, and she fell for him. (Maybe a synonym for the "shining eyes"-thing from "There Is No If..."?).
    "Pressed my stained face"
    -- He's thinking about how he wasn't good enough for her or how he stained her just by being around. Probably connected with her "purity" (before they met) mentioned earlier.
    "I will never be clean again"
    -- This could, in addition to the scars, be about how he will never feel better again after HE (yes, he) was stained by her when she left him (she returned the favor). This is also IMHO connected to "Lovesong" with the line "You make me feel like I am clean again" and, as someone else mentioned under "Lovesong", this is clearly an intentional reference (in "Lovesong", that is).
    HateSaikoon February 15, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe power of this song cannot be reached by simply reading the lyrics. But, again, it is incredible.

    "Sharp and open
    Leave me alone
    And sleeping less every night
    As the days become heavier and weighted
    Waiting
    In the cold light
    A noise
    A scream tears my clothes as the figurines tighten
    With spiders inside them
    And dust on the lips of a vision of hell"

    This first segment points to the sexual assaults that the broken boy had to experience in his bedroom at night; here described, just as in Lullaby, as spiders, 'spiders inside him' as he lies, sleepless with torn clothes, screaming. 'The Figuirehead' is perhaps really his father, or his grandfather. He feels stained, he wants to burn his memories; he wants it to be made better by the next night, and always, just as in 'Siamese Twins' he feels it driving a wedge between him and the girl in his life, who he can, unlike his father, say no to.
    downstreameron August 16, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentLegend has it that, while wandering the remains of the former insane asylum in which the Charlotte Sometimes video was being filmed, Robert came across some old drawings in a file cabinet that were done years before by a patient. His interpretation of what the person who did those drawings, combined with his consideration of a human skull (in much the same way that Hamlet considered that of 'poor Yorick's'), inspired many of the lyrics in this song.

    However much those experiences may have contributed to the song, though, I think it likely that much of this song is autobiographical in an emotional, if not literal sense. To grasp its meaning, you'll need to give up on trying to find a simple narrative thread, and realize that it's very much impressionistic in style.

    Robert went through a dark period here and was virtually paralyzed with drug use. Spiders crawling inside is one image commonly used to describe the effects of certain substances, and I think the next line about "dust on the lips of a vision of hell" is self-referential in this regard as well; seeing as how the next line speaks of him laughing in a mirror (which is strongly suggestive of cocaine, seeing as how it's often cut and inhaled on a mirror), I think there's an obvious bitterness at how little self-control he had left, and how numb he was becoming to the fact that he was such a mess. He's continually begging for things throughout the song (notice how many lines begin with "please"), as if he has no control of the situation and needs someone to help him.

    The pivotal line of this song, regardless of your interpretation, has to be "I can never say no, to anyone but you". I believe this line is also a reference to his own inability to stop indulging his voices (the you being either the drugs, or possibly even himself, i.e. he can't resist his own impulses), which is further reinforced by the closing lines of "I will never be clean again". At the time, he couldn't see a way out of it, and in truth, Robert's reliance on drugs and alcohol actually increased over the next couple of years before he was able to rein it in.
    jaysthenameon May 29, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree with frig neutorn. This song is about the guilt of a breakup, but particularly about the breakup of his first love. The lyrics indicate that it is written about a year after the breakup "...for the first time in a year".

    "You mean nothing..." - the last fight

    "I can lose myself in Chinese art or American girls" - Trying to distract himself from the depression/pain with other pleasures.

    "The same image haunts me in sequence..." - The memory of this first relationship's beginning and it's eventual bitter end haunts him every time he feels he's becoming close to someone else.

    "I will never be clean again" - He has lost the innocence he had with this first love. All other relationships are now tainted by the thought that they may also not be permanent, that they my also end. He will never have that innocence again.
    diokanon April 07, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe Paris Live version is my absolute favorite. I have now listened to that version over 400 times. I can really relate to HateSaiko's interpretation and feel it is me. Gob Bless The Cure and Robert Smith. Simply amazing!!
    TheFigurehead2on May 11, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOnce again Robert Smith has demonstrated superiority amongst every other lyricist.
    landingstillon May 13, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI can't believe there's only one comment been made for this song? it's gotta be one of, if not my favourite Cure songs.
    The_Codfatheron June 06, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commenthmm... don't see any interpretations of the song meaning in these comments, so i offer mine:

    this song reminds me of breaking a relationship with a person you feel, or once felt, like you can't live without. An ugly breakup, and one that neither person wants..
    frig_neutornon January 25, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's about rebound-chicks. The girls you use up and taint the relationships you had prior to the rebound. One you "press your stained face," and "touch her eyes" of sympathy, "you will never be clean again."

    The rebound will "listen for a short while."

    The "sharp and open" means the vuneraiblity he has, and is willing to take anything, or anyone, that will accept him.

    He blantantly mentions it in the line: "I lose myself in Chinese art and American girls" and "I will lose myself tomorrow."

    And when he fakes his plea to sleep, "please let me sleep," he waits for her to pass out (and since he can't sleep, as he previously stated) and "slips down the window," he turns around and looks onto the bed, and sees the passed out rebound-chickand thinks she looks like a "freshly squashed fly," and thinks "you mean nothing" in comparrison to what he had just lost.
    toughguybambinoon June 17, 2005   Link

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