Tuesday, September 12, 2017

“Read a Damn Book – 047: Cured”

I became a Cure fan back in high school, right about the time the band recorded a rerelease video for their song “Boys Don’t Cry” to promote their Standing on a Beach (1986) hits collection. By my sophomore year of high school (1987) I was ratting my hair up and wearing button down shirts with cardigan sweaters and had built a shrine to The Cure in my bedroom out of posters, magazine clippings, and t-shirts, which was so impressive that people from different schools in the area would come to look at it. (It was a little weird.) Anyway, flash forward to me being an old man, (I no longer rat my hair), who is still a massive fan of the band, as is my wife. My older daughter, on one of her shopping flings to Portland, Oregon, spots a new memoir by one of the founding members of The Cure, and she buys it for us. (Thanks Frankie!!!) Cured – The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys.

Lol Tolhurst – Cured (2016)

Cracking into a book like this, a candid look at a band that I’ve idolized and loved for three decades, can be a fearful experience. I’ve read autobiographies before that actually diminished the authors some in my eyes, but this book doesn’t take any luster away from my heroes. There are a ton of anecdotes from the history of The Cure in this book: formative moments, family history, run-ins with the law, riots at concerts, crossovers with performers from other bands---the types of things one would expect (and enjoy) in a band member’s autobiography, but what this book is REALLY about is Tolhurst’s personal journey from childhood to Cure-hood and beyond. It’s a somewhat tragic story, but with a solid redemptive ending, which, in the face of all the bullshit going on in the world right now, was nice to read.

Tolhurst’s writing style is conversational, and he knows how to tell a story. He includes an impressive amount of detail, while sticking to the backbone of his tale, which is, ultimately, his battle with alcoholism. You could say that this was a “typical” alcoholics’ tale, the fun leads to despair and such, except for the fact that Tolhurst was a founding member of one of the most important rock and roll bands of the last forty years, and his story is inextricably intertwined with the story of the band.

For most people, Robert Smith IS The Cure, but as Tolhurst points out in this memoir, The Cure is not a solo project, and the evolution of the band has always been a product of Smith's collaborations. From the original formation of the band all the way to their status as world class superstars, Tolhurst was the OTHER original collaborator, a link that connected Smith and the band back to their roots in a small town, south of London, called Crawley. Without Tolhurst, there might not have been a Cure, and even if there were, it wouldn’t have evolved the way that it did. (The underappreciated album, The Top, was JUST Smith and Tolhurst when they started doing the demos, and it marks some of their best work and most original songs: “Let’s Go to Bed,” “The Walk,” “The Caterpillar,” “Upstairs Room,” “Shake Dog Shake,” and “Give Me It” are all brilliant and come from that album.)

What Tolhurst also does well, besides tell a good story, is point out the humanity behind the superstars. A lot of people forget that the PERFORMERS we see in music videos or in concert or even appearing on television shows (like South Park, remember?) are personas. Beyond the concert footage, beyond the albums and the photo shoots, the people in a music group are HUMANS, with lives and worries and personalities (that sometimes conflict), and that working together and touring together for months or years at a time can be extremely difficult. Some people seem to be born to it. Robert Smith, who is the only full-time member of The Cure who has continuously toured and performed with the band since 1976---and continues to even as I write this---seems to be born to the life, but he’s a rarity. For Tolhurst, the strain and the emotional toll required…lubrication. He turned to alcohol and drugs to help get through the incredible stresses of life in a high-profile band, but the “self-medication” got out of control. It’s a familiar story, sure, but the backdrop for his narrative (life with The Cure) is fascinating.

The book is good. Well written, interesting details, with a quirky tone. There are a ton of Cure anecdotes in here that any fan will enjoy, and there is a solid redemption narrative for people looking for a bit of a pick-me-up in our dark and dreary times. The story does dip several times into the “sentimental” pool, which I usually don’t care for, but if we think of it in Tolhurst’s terms, it’s the only way this book could have been written. He lost family members, he lost friends, he (very sadly) lost a daughter, lost his association with the band (and the only identity that he’d ever really known because they had been The Cure since they were teenagers!), and he almost lost his own life on several occasions. There’s no way to tell this story without getting a little emotional, so I’ll forgive him. And yes, Robert Smith comes through it all like a hero, and I still love The Cure!

---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Grand Hoohaa of The P.E.W.)

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