"Yes, well, he does have some funny dreams...." - Keyboardist Laurence Tolhurst.
Thus from Racine to Baudelaire are the great poets forged in the fire and mystery romance of their respective tinpan alleys, or something like that. Robert Smith, the male Kate Bush, the thinking teen's pin-up, the security blanket of the bedsit set, however you care to view him, is sitting by a window, perfectly posed in that way usually only cats manage to do, feeble sun squeezing through the backcombed spines of his rigor-mortis-porcupine hairdo (much copied by fans), no lipstick, the barest hint of eyeliner, just enough to give him a just-got-up frame to his I'm-still-sleeping-and-this-is-a-nightmare eyes. I'm only feet away from him, so near that if I were to take a Polaroid right now it'd come out blurry, but we're separated by a batallion of European journalists, some Dutch reporters who look they've been through the rinse cycle twice too often, an Italian, several French (they like dark, gloomy, romantic [underlined in red, italicized and lit in neon] stuff, the French) and a team of Germans with gung-ho climb-the- Tyrol determination to pick and probe and conquer this seal- pup-faced, pudgy pop star's visions. The Cure's latest record is an international pop chart hit. They lead him off, in their determined European journalist way, into an anteroom in the private Soho club that's been rented for this big, bold Press Day. A disheveled hamster on a treadmill.
So when I'm handed keyboardist Laurence Tolhurst, new drummer Boris Williams and prodigal son Simon Gallup, bass, I can't help but feeling .I've gotten a quantity-versus- quality booby prize. See, I wanted to talk about dreams - dreams (along with pure and noble and perfectly straightforward weirdness) being a lot of what the Cure is all about; knitting visions, soul and psyche into an existential argyle sweater that it's up to you if you want to wear it, look at it or put it in the bottom of the cat basket. Looking through the volumes of press clippings, Robert Smith's had a lot of strange dreams in his time. Laurence Tolhurst, chief speaker of my triumvirate, looks too sensible and too casual to dream much. At least not about being locked in a wardrobe that tumbles off a cliff into the lashing briny (a dream of Robert's that became the theme of their latest video). He denies this indignantly. He's got a lot to say, as it turns out, and says it with the articulacy and readiness of someone who seems to like talking but rarely gets the chance, what with everyone wanting a tape full of Robert's quotable quotes.
First a dab of history.... They started out in '76 in Sussex in the South of England, an ever-changing line-up that settled on a trio of Robert, Laurence and the long-since- departed Michael Dempsey, and called themselves the Easy Cure. Manager Chris Parry, who played an ALR man in The Great Rock & Roll Swindle, tried to get them signed to the major label he was working for, and when they turned them down set up his own label, Fiction Records, getting his old employers to distribute it. Their first single, "Killing An Arab," became essential collection-fodder for anyone who wanted to show they were anyone, ditto the Three Imaginary Boys album. The billions of releases since then have got them variously slagged, misunderstood and praised. Mostly slagged, except by their loyal cult following. The line-up changed with the seasons, and at one point as good as dissolved completely, when Simon Gallup left after a fight with Robert (1982, the Pornography period), and, after trying for a while with Laurence as a duo, the frontman left to join Siouxsie & The Banshees as guitarist. Again, the album before this one, The Top, was as good as a Robert Smith solo album, acid-induced, with him doing all the singing, writing, and instrument playing. That was May of '84. A year and two months later they released Head on the Door, an album NME described as "really quite pop" - their biggest pop hit! - followed by their biggest tour, with Robert on vocals and guitars, Laurence, as ever, on keyboards, Simon Gallup back on bass, Porl Thompson on guitar and Boris Williams on drums.
Boris, the newest member, is their second drummer in less than a year (Vince Ely of the Psychedelic Furs finished off their last American tour with them when that drummer left halfway) and a one-time member of the Thompson Twins. Was he a Cure fan before he joined, I asked him? "Not particularly, no. I like some of the stuff the Cure have done, but I've never bought their albums. Then, I don't really buy records anyway." Sort of how I used to feel about the Thompson Twins before the atrocious "Doctor Dream." Anyway, how come he left the TTs for this? "It sort of happened by coincidence. I happened to be in the same country as they were when they were looking for a drummer - America."
"That," beams Laurence, "was when we enticed him away from the Thompson Twins." Did it take much enticing?
Boris: "No! At last I was in a group where I could drink!"
"I wasn't allowed to drink in the Thompson Twins because it's forbidden to drink or anything." Anything? "It was fairly puritanical. The idea of a party with the Thompson Twins was a cup of coffee and a cheese sandwich." So what's the Cure's idea of a party? "Falling over every day!" Boris laughs as, Laurence laughs with him. But the Cure are meant to lie around thinking dreamy, poetic thoughts, no?
"No. That's always the way, isn't it? The way you're represented is not necessarily what you are. For a long time," says Laurence, "a lot of people thought we were serious and super-intense. But we don't take ourselves that seriously. We take what we do seriously, but not ourselves." True, Robert Smith did once say that whenever he left his band to get on with rehearsals, they'd sneak out down the pub; true, Robert Smith did also once say, "Bananarama are the first people I've met who've managed to keep up with us drinking," and their fish-like qualities in this department are legendary...
"We do like to laugh with each other a lot of the time," Laurence's voice is coming in one ear. Peculiar thing; they've never been called "humorous" or "funny" - "hilarious" perhaps, plus eccentric, mad, miserable and screwed-up. Will the real Cure please stand up?
"I think a lot of people have great difficulty knowing what to say about us, because we change so often in the way that we present ourselves and the way we make our music," says Laurence. "So all those adjectives you said get used willy-willy. Some of them apply, some of them don't. The media try and make a band one-dimensional, and we're not like that. OK, 80 percent of bands are that way," but not them. "The Cure is an extension of our life." As Robert said recently, "If I wasn't in a band, I'd start the Cure up now because I still detest the people in the Top Ten as much as I did when we started."
"Yes," Laurence nods, And what about the Cure's many changes? "It's the most natural thing in the world," says he. "I can't think of anything more boring than playing the same songs to the same set of people for 10 years. We do different songs, we change the way that we are, so that we can get different people come and see us. Now our audience is really varied. We've got 13-year-old girls in the front, screaming -"
"Screaming in horror," interjects Simon, speaking for the first and only time; good hairdo though - dead black Persian cats jogging with no sense of direction.
"Yes," goes on Laurence. "And then a serious student crowd ever to the left, and then maybe some punks or something to the right, and then at the back you've got the old hippies and maybe a mom or dad. That makes things interesting, because we get a lot of different reactions to the way we are. We've probably got a low tolerance threshold; we get bored very easily. So we try to make things a bit dangerous all the time, a little bit anarchistic. A lot of bands at our level have got things planned out for the next five years, and that seems to us a negative attitude. We prefer not to know what's going to happen. We tend to do things on the spur of the moment, because we enjoy doing it that way."