Dickie Felton

I write about music and football

Musician Lol Tolhurst's excellent memoir charts the creation of The Cure. Of an escape from 1970s Crawley to Top of the Pops and beyond. But there's despair and demon drink along the way. Usually all at the same gig. Dickie Felton backcombs his hair to find out more:

He was born on The Day The Music Died. The 3rd of February 1959 is infamous as being the date Buddy Holly was killed in a plane crash.

As the world mourned Holly, significant music history was created over the pond in Horley. I know, where's that exactly?

For this ‘forgotten outpost in the urban hinterland of west London’ was the birthplace of Laurence A Tolhurst - one of the founder members of The Cure.

On his first day at school the five-year-old clutches hands at the bus stop with his friend Robert.

The boys would eventually go on to create one of the most iconic alternative groups in music.

Lol becomes drummer and then keyboard player while Robert is lead singer and guitarist.

Instantly at odds with mundane suburban streets that contain them, they are among the first punks in Crawley.

Life begins at 18 down the local pub when the pair get legged by a gang of skinheads.

And there is a foreboding feeling of “trouble being just around the corner” throughout the first half of Lol Tolhurst’s excellent memoir.

If it’s not National Front baddies wanting to beat them up, it’s high street lager louts out to get “some poofy blokes from bloody Crawley”.

Amid these chaotic scenes  you get an insight into the persecution of trying to grow up in Thatcher’s Britain. And in particular of anyone who looks a bit different from the norm having to fight to justify their very existence.

In most of the violent accounts from “Cured” it is a young Robert Smith that is most prepared to defend himself and his friends with his fists.

Reading the early chapters feels a bit like a super hero comic with the boys in a constant battle against the bleakness of 1970s streets.

You can almost picture Robert Smith in Superman cape fending off evil at every turn.

One thing "Cured" will do is raise the iconic stock of Smith even further to his legions of fans.

One of Lol’s early descriptions of Robert is of a person being: “part of the world but also not part of it".

Throughout the book, Lol paints a picture of his friend being loyal, driven, humble, talented, organised and always doing the right thing by his friends and his group.

Young Lol has to cope with demons at home. His reclusive aggressive father is portrayed as not really being a father at all. Constantly drinking, constantly ignoring his kids and cursing any paternal responsibility.

It’s sad that Lol never plays football in the park with his old man. In fact he can’t recall his father - William - taking him anywhere.

In drunken episodes “Sailor Bill” (as he’s known to pub pals) rocks up at home and ‘pounds out drunken sea shanties’ on the piano.

Maybe it is here that want-away son takes something from his want-away but sometimes musical dad?

If dad is cold, aloof and drunk, mum Daphne is the stark opposite. All love and support for her family.

There is a heartbreaking chapter where Lol is on tour with the Cure in Holland when she passes away.

Of course drink plots both a delightful and destructive course through The Cure story. While the fledgling group all drink to excess, Lol seems to drink more than most.

There is some disastrous early gigs including the then called Easy Cure playing a Christmas party for local medics at Orpington General Hospital. The dinner-dance-diners not quite ready for ‘Killing an Arab’ and ’10:15 Saturday Night’.

But the band quickly gather a following in pubs and clubs across the south of England. A record deal with Hansa is quickly tabled. But the company dismisses the young group’s own creations and urges them to do cover songs.

“Even people in prison wouldn’t like your music” is a cruel (and very funny) dismissal of the early Cure tracks from one exec.

It’s a move that sees The Cure drop their record company. How many young bands would ever do that? The lads end up signing for Fiction.

Such is their confidence in their unique sound and appearance, the band have the belief to plot their own path.

In 1980 they make Top of the Pops for the very first time to play The Walk.

Tolhurst’s memoir guides us to concert halls at home and abroad. It’s an endless early 80s ultra-tour.

By the end of the Pornography tour The Cure had racked up 377 gigs in three years.

That’s one concert every three days for over 1000 days.

The toll on Lol’s health is stark - both physically and mentally. His creative contribution to his band is on the wane. The contribution alcohol makes on him worsens. 

In 1986 he slips from being a founder member and musical partner of The Cure to just ‘an employee’ of The Cure.

The drink takes over and Lol eventually seeks medical help. In rehab one expert tells him: “you are right inside the bottle and need to get out”.

We get a great insight into the cutting edge methods of the band in terms of concert light-shows, use of synths and, in the early 80s, the creation of the pop video.

The Cure take full of advantage of the first throes of MTV. Impeccable timing sees the band producing music videos.

MTV lap it up as very few other bands had cottoned-on to the concept of video promotion.

But the stunning success of the band, notably in Europe and USA, contrasts with the stunning slide of Tolhurst. It’s sad to read. Because to Lol, and other band members, The Cure is more than The Cure. It is a family, a belief system, a way of life.

There are scary moments in this book. The desperation of drink addiction, crazy tours of South America, rioting fans, deaths at a gig in post-Falklands Argentina. Smith’s bedroom catches fire during the recording of Disintegration.

In France Smith takes his comrades for a night drive in his white Jeep and they career off the edge of a vineyard terrace. It’s a bit like Michael Caine in the Italian Job with the vehicle dangling over the abyss.

How any of them make it through the 1980s is nothing short of a miracle.

But they do - and The Cure's music reaches out for the repressed and lonely across land and sea.

The decade ends with Lol dumped from the group he helped build. He’d become a liability to his band, his record label and more tragically still, himself.

Lol goes to court against his former friends and bandmates. He suffers heartbreaking family disaster.

"Cured" is a memoir of someone who started with nothing, rose to the highest peaks and then fell to the lowest depths.

Lol eventually rises from the mist. It takes divorce, near-ruin and a solo road-trip to Death Valley to bring some clarity.

But he survives. Fatherhood means he takes the most rock ’n’ roll job of all - he becomes a stay-at-home-dad in the California sun.

Lol learns to love making music again and ultimate redemption comes with a calling from his old bandmates.

"Cured" is the wonderful story of how two five-year-olds clutch hands and reach for the stars.

The Cure - a family and a way of life.

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Cured by Lol Tolhurst is released on 22nd September by Quercus

Hardback: £20

Lol Tolhurst official website

Twitter: @LolTolhurst

Lol begins a UK book tour this week including Manchester Deansgate Waterstones where he will be in conversation with Sarah Walters on Thursday 22 September 6.30pm.

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