Nine Things We Learned from Cure Co-Founder Lol Tolhurst's New Memoir
Published Oct 19, 2016Formed in the London, UK suburb of Crawley in 1976, the Cure would go on to shape the worlds of pop, new wave, alternative and goth rock with their mix of emotional lyrics and often dark, psychedelic and ethereal sounds. But for an act currently celebrating four decades together, there's never been a member, past or present, to write a full book about the band.
That is, until now. As a founding member of the band (and childhood friend of Robert Smith), Lol Tolhurst had a hand in shaping their early sound and songs — first as a drummer and later as a multi-instrumentalist experimenting with the then-burgeoning world of synthesizers — for over a decade before leaving the band in the late '80s due to his alcohol addiction.
His new book, Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys (out now via Da Capo Press), tells the true story of his time in the band and road to sobriety. Here are a few of the things we learned about the Cure's early years from Tolhurst's book.
1. The Cure knew how to fight.
"There was a time when I had a reputation as a hard man," Tolhurst recalls early on in the book. "I had to be because Robert was always getting into fights. I can't tell you how many times a pint glass would come flying out of the audience and hit one of us. We'd set down our instruments and leap into the crowd to settle the matter."
Tolhurst admits this may sound surprising: "This probably clashes with the ideas that many people have about the Cure, but that's how it was. We had to fight to be heard, fight for our place on the stage, fight to be taken seriously… If we hadn't stood up for ourselves in those early days, we wouldn't have been able to weather the storms to come. Robert was in the eye of most of them."
2. Although their fashion sense has helped shape the looks of goths ever since the early '80s, the band didn't always wear black.
"Way before we became famous for our all-black attire, we wore all white! Both [former bassist] Michael [Dempsey] and I had white hipster flares called 'loons,' with matching white shirts. We topped off the effect of all this plain white with scuffed white plimsolls, giving us a less angelic look."
It gets worse: "Robert had on similar trousers, perhaps the darker ones with ties around the bottom, which his mother had attached for him at his request. (He had a pair of white high-waisted jeans that he also liked.)"
3. For a band that would rise from the ashes of punk, their personal music taste was primarily classic rock and psychedelic in the early goings.
Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles were all early influences, and the first song they ever played live in an early incarnation of the band was Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak." Smith was also a big fan of Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica.
4. But once the band got going, Wire provided a strong template.
Tolhurst recalls a certain gig supporting the experimental post-punk band at Kent University as being particularly inspiring: "The [show] was a revelation to all of us in many respects. They seemed so much further along the path of their creativity than we were feeling. That point wasn't lost on Robert. I feel that day was when the germ for the minimal sound that came to fruition over the next few years was planted in our psyches."
5. Tolhurst once pissed on Billy Idol's leg while the singer was having sex in a washroom.
In one of two instances in Cured where Tolhurst's weak bladder got him in trouble, he recounts accidentally urinating on the Generation X singer and future pop star after a few too many drinks following a Bristol gig.
"I finally spied the men's toilet and burst into the room… As I rushed toward the urinal I saw, out of the corner of my eye, Billy Idol perched somewhat precariously in the next stall with a young lady… Unfortunately, by this time I had reached the point of no return and a stream of urine shot outward to the porcelain bowl next to Billy. Regrettably for me (as well as Billy and his date), my aim was not improved terribly with the consumption of so much cheap lager. As I looked down toward where I assumed the urinal was, I realized that I was in fact urinating on Billy's leg."
6. The Cure's 1982 album Pornography was almost recorded by Kraftwerk's producer.
"We had hoped to get Conny Plank […] to help us record it. In fact, Robert and I had a meeting with him at Fiction's offices one afternoon. He was a great, brooding German man all dressed in black leather. He regaled us with stories of his last recording sessions, 'where the sound was like a wild animal.' We were quite impressed with what he said he could bring to our music. Unfortunately, he passed away before it could happen."
7. But they did end up using one of Jimmy Page's guitars while recording it.
Tolhurst never clarifies if it ever made it onto Pornography or which song[s], but says the same guitar Page used while recording "Stairway to Heaven" was used by Smith during the album's sessions.
8. Tolhurst secretly danced naked in the band's video for "Let's Go to Bed."
Tim Pope's video for the band's standalone 1982 single is widely considered one of their best. If you remember scenes where a silhouetted character dances absurdly behind a screen (and if you need a quick refresher, click here), well, that was Tolhurst, completely naked.
"I was dancing behind a screen to get a shadow thrown up on the background… in a couple of shots. Well, it was looking a little too much like an amorphous blob, what with the extra-large billowing set of overalls I was wearing. I don't recall whose idea it was but I have a sneaking suspicion it was Tim's that I dance naked behind the screen to make a more 'angular shadow.' So I disrobed and held on to my modesty among the crew with strategically placed duct tape."
9. The Cure were late to their 1986 headlining gig at Glastonbury because they were watching soccer.
"Our set was delayed somewhat by the fact that it was a World Cup year and we were all watching a TV on our tour bus. A particularly important quarterfinal match was taking place that day, Brazil vs. France, which went into extra time with a dramatic penalty shootout at the end. So my apologies to the Cure fans present for our late arrival that day."
Despite the delay, the band would play and perform three encores that day. They've returned to the festival many times since then.
Read our review of Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys here.