Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – The Cure’s Lol Tolhurst

17 mins read
Lol Tolhurst

When The Cure performed ‘Close to Me’ on the Dutch TV show Countdown in 1985, which girl band replaced you on your instruments?



“I remember that well. Sort of! We were all drinking and decided it would be a good idea if they came onstage and danced with us. We were miming so it wouldn’t make any difference. We came back on a small plane, and they joined us on that and it all continued. Simon [Gallup, The Cure bassist] was a big fan of theirs and had posters. Pop was not a bad word to him.”

Which bands would people be most surprised to learn The Cure were into at the time?

“People would come to see us backstage and would imagine there was going to be a lot of crying and velvet, but they’d be surprised to find us being very jocular and joking with each other. It wasn’t po-faced. Robert [Smith, The Cure frontman] had boxes of cassettes, which were full of people like Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King that you wouldn’t associate with him. A year ago, I got the box of my teenage records out from the garage and played them and I was flabbergasted because everything in those records was where The Cure came from. Not just obvious talismans, but things like Eric Burden and The Animals.”

 On the subject of replacement members: when Robert Smith fleetingly disappeared during the 1982 ‘Pornography’ tour, you toyed with the idea of passing off a lookalike of him…

“We were on tour with [Irish new wave band] Zerra One’s Paul Bell. He said: ‘If you bring the house lights down, I’ll put a wig on and we’ve got tracks of Robert Smith singing and maybe it’ll work for a few shows.’ But a couple of days later, Robert returned, so it was OK. I’ve done fun little appearances with Cure tribute bands, but none of them looks like Robert at all. No matter what they wear, it’s not convincing. Then again, I’ve known him for 60 years, so I’m not going to mistake someone else for him. Hopefully!”

S Club 7 singer Rachel Stevens sampled which The Cure song for a track on her 2005 solo album ‘Come and Get It’?

“I don’t even know who she is, so let’s say ‘The Love Cats’.”

WRONG. The 1989 Cure track ‘Lullaby’ was sampled on her track ‘All About Me’.

“Not that far off! It’s always surprising what people make of your music. It’s interesting to hear somebody else put a different frame around your picture. Massive Attack did some nice samples of Cure stuff which I loved.”

Which ‘80s pop star covered The Cure’s ‘In Between Days’ for her 2011 album ‘Snapshots’?

“Would that be Kim Wilde?”

CORRECT. You once claimed that when recording The Cure’s fourth album ‘Pornography’ at RAK studios in London, the band used Kim Wilde to judge the time…

“That’s when we knew it was time to leave, because she came in around 10am which meant if she was there, we’d been there all night so we better leave now. We probably talked complete shit at her, but she was very polite and kind. We were deranged at that time in the morning.”

Those torrid recording sessions pushed the band to the brink…

“More than anything it was the fact there was an off-licence opposite RAK. Every night we would go in and point at things – the owner would make a note and an hour later, he would send his young son over with a big box of things. We had a good relationship with the off-licence for about two months there – I’m sure he had a nice holiday in the Canaries out of us!”

“However, apart from the fact we as people were all falling apart, the music wasn’t at all. It was almost as if we didn’t play the music the best we could in the most precise way we could, we would really just fly off into the atmosphere somewhere. Even though we were disintegrating, it’s the best album we made.”

In the 1998 episode of South Park where Robert Smith fights a giant mechanical Barbra Streisand, which The Cure album does the character of Kyle Broflovski declare is “the best ever”?

“I think it’s ‘Pornography’. Am I right? No? Got that wrong!”

WRONG. It’s ‘Disintegration’.

“Well, I failed that miserably! I remember liking the episode – those guys [South Park] were genius at one point.”

Do you enjoy the myriad pop culture references that spring up about The Cure?

“I enjoy hearing our music in places you wouldn’t expect. When my son was getting married, I went shopping for shirts when a Cure track came on, and the shop assistant – in her early twenties – said: ‘I like this band. Have you head them?’, before adding: ‘I don’t think they tour anymore. They’re too old!’ My wife and sister-in- law killed themselves laughing.”

Released in 1989, ‘Disintegration’ was the last Cure album you played on. Struggling with addiction, you were dismissed from the band – the final straw being when, during a band listen of the final mix, you drunkenly shouted to your bandmates: ‘Half of it is good, but half is shit’. What do you think when you listen to it now?

“I listen to it back and it’s obviously really good. What I said at the time was because I was not in my right state of mind, but now I think it’s great – its like a grander version of what we did in [the previous Cure albums] ‘Seventeen Seconds’, ‘Faith’ and ‘Pornography’. It’s like a more musically thoughtful version of it.”

The Cure were once famously kicked off a tour with Generation X in 1978 after you accidentally, drunkenly pissed on Billy Idol in a toilet while he was having sex with a groupie. But in which city did the incident take place?

“Was it at Barbarella’s in Birmingham?”

WRONG. It was at the Locarno in Bristol.

“No way I would remember that! A few months ago, I went to a festival with a load of ‘80s bands, and I realised that Billy Idol is now the Tom Jones of punk; all the mums were there and he still looks good, and that’s who he’s replaced. My optometrist recently told me: ‘You’ve just missed Billy Idol he comes here too!’. I replied: ‘It’s probably best I missed him!’ [Laughs] I’ve seen him a few times since then and he always gives he a strange look like he half-remembers. He’s a lovely man and I don’t want to cause any trouble.”

Ever had a laugh about the incident with him since?

“I’ve heard nothing from it, but I’m quite happy with it being that way. The follies of youth!”

How many soldiers are pictured on the sleeve cover of The Cure’s 1979 single ‘Boys Don’t Cry’?

“Wow! Let’s say three?”

WRONG. It’s five (in the foreground).

“When is anybody ever in a million years other than today going to come up to me and go: ‘How many soldiers are on the front of ‘Boys Don’t Cry’?!There’s a blow-up doll in the back cover called Helga which we would never get away with nowadays.”

“I remember the first rehearsal that we played ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ through and I thought: ‘We have a chance here with something that might work in a different way than we’re used to’. It’s always been great to play live because people go berserk. I’ve been watching 13-year-old superstar drummer Nandi Bushell recently play a perfect version of it.”

Name any artist on NME’s 2009-released compilation ‘Pictures of You: A Tribute to Godlike Geniuses The Cure’?

“Are the Deftones on there?”

WRONG. Among others, you could have had: Mystery Jets & Esser (covering ‘Boys Don’t Cry’), Dinosaur Jr (‘Just Like Heaven’), Editors (‘Lullaby’), Sea Power (‘A Forest’), The Dandy Warhols (‘Primary’), The Futureheads (‘The Love Cats’), Metronomy (‘Fascination Street’) and Art Brut (‘Catch’).

“There you go! I’m going to be the worst scoring person ever on this quiz!”

Who were the other two headliners when The Cure played Glastonbury in 1986?

“Pass! I’ve no idea! [Laughs]”

WRONG. The Psychedelic Furs and Gil Scott-Heron.

“My enduring memory of Glastonbury was arriving in the bus and looking out and seeing all the people covered head-to-toe in mud – it was like the Morlocks or something!”

What have been your favourite gigs with The Cure?

“In 2011, I loved coming back and playing with The Cure [for the first time in 22 years] at the Sydney Opera House. That was a mystical experience. I could feel the whole audience and it was a really great show.”

That gig repaired your friendship with Robert Smith, who you knew from childhood…

“We email each other on a regular basis, and I saw him recently when The Cure played the Hollywood Bowl and we had a long chat. For me, being there backstage with everyone felt like being back in the pub in 1977. I’ve known Robert for 60 years and he’s like family: you have your ups and downs, but things are pretty wonderful. With getting into this third act, you realise ‘None of us are getting out of this alive’, so the feeling I get nowadays is that all the bridges that were burnt doesn’t matter and we can continue to enjoy this long friendship and association we’ve had. Nothing is left unsaid anymore which is great.

Any chance of you playing with The Cure again?

“Here’s the thing: I don’t discount anything but I think we both have so much on our plates for a long time. I’m happy doing what I’m doing; I know Robert’s happy doing what he’s doing. When I met him, he was like: ‘Well, I’m going to put the album out and that’ll be the last thing. But Robert always says it’ll be the ‘last thing’. It won’t be the last thing until the day he’s put in the ground! We’re both happy in the present, and I don’t need to relive past glories to feel glorious.”

What talking animal were The Cure introduced by when you performed ‘The Love Cats’ on the German pop show Bananas in 1984?

“Oh come on! Who knows! You could make that up and even the most ardent Cure fan wouldn’t be able to prove it wrong! A dog?”

WRONG. A talking fish.

An easy one: who induced The Cure into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2019?

Trent Reznor. He said he grew up in a smalltown – Mercia, Pennsylvania – in the US – and his escape was hearing The Cure coming through college radio.”

CORRECT. The Nine Inch Nails frontman. In your recent book, Goth: A History, you posit that goth was a reaction to the political turmoil and authoritarianism of Thatcher’s Britain. Do you think the ongoing goth boom could be related to the tumultuous times we’re living in?

“For sure. The gothic is a response to a crisis and we’re living in a time of rising authoritarianism and possibly fascism, and it brings that ideas behind the goth music back into focus. Goth is a philosophy more than a genre. There are outside appearances, but mostly it’s a way of dealing with life – a sense of nonconformity that arises more in the times we’re living in right now. You don’t have to be a historian to know where the climate we’re living in can possibly go, so the rise feels like a reaction to that.”

The verdict: 3/10

“I won’t be going up a grade, will I? I’ll have to stay back a year!”

Lol Tolhurst’s book, Goth: A History, is published by Quercus and is out now. Lol Tolhurst x Budgie x Jacknife Lee release collaborative album ‘Los Angeles’ on November 3

The post Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – The Cure’s Lol Tolhurst appeared first on NME.

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