The Waterboy

The Waterboy
Record Mirror
October 19, 1985
Andy Strickland
reprinted without permission

Confessions of a closet Hawkwind fan! Robert Smith of The Cure discusses the influence of lager on modern lyric writing.

Talk about rubbing people's noses in it. The Cure have been slammed, slogged and had the piss taken out of them more than most in the eight years they've graced my record player. Yet here they are again, with another fine LP and another hit single. Close To Me is a clapping Sixties bass bop that continues the 'Smith as hit maker' syndrome. Something of a rarity as well - two singles from the some LP.

Have you heard the 12 inch version? enquires Robert Smith enthusiastically, It's brilliant and there's bits of brass, backing vocals and other bits of - you know, pop sensibility dropped all over it. We were split right down the middle as to whether to release this one or In Between Days' as a single, so it's only fair to release this one now. It's different enough from the LP version. In fact it's a very different sound.

We've never released two singles from the same album before and I was a bit dubious about it at first, I've always thought that it cheapens the value of an album, but it's so different from the album version and also there's another two songs that some of the band wanted on the album, so we've put them on the B-side of the 12 inch so that everything from the Head On The Door sessions has been released.

It's almost a Motown record this one, isn't it, Robert?

Yeah, that's because of the handclaps, agrees Robert. It reminds me of 'Jimmy Mack' - that's the sound I thought it should have.

It's the only one on the album that's got no effects or anything on it. We recorded it straight off, like you'd do it in a room with just a cassette recorder the way they used to record things.

It's a sad fact that the Cure are one of those groups whose videos never appear on TV. They've been working with maestro Tim Pope for some time now, producing some of the most imaginative promos around. If you've seen the claustrophobic three minute epic which accompanies Close To Me, you'll know what I mean.

I wasn't sure how well this song would do as a single, says Robert. At least it was another excuse to do a video with Tim Pap. It's a brilliant video, but it'll never get shown. We know when we're making them that people probably won't get to see them, not in Britain anyway.

It was awful making this one, the most uncomfortable video we've ever done. We spent 10 hours in the water. Lol had the worst of it, stuck under the curtain rail in the wardrobe for six hours, He couldn't walk the next day - brilliant!

I suppose this one's a literal translation of the lyrics, I met up with Tim Pope a week before the video was shot, and stupidly made the mistake of telling him that one of the images I had in mind for the single sleeve was to have us lammed in a wardrobe about to fall of Beachy Head. I thought it'd look quite surreal. Tim translated that as 'how can I make it even more uncomfortable?' He stuck us in a wardrobe and dropped us in a tank of dirty water.

One of the things about the Cure that's always fascinated yours truly is the lack of obvious influences. You'd be hard pressed to conjure up a list of likely Smith favourites from listening to Head On The Door, so come on, Robert - who exactly are the musical skeletons in your closet?

Well, I make up cassettes for when we're on tour, either for my private use or for Club Smith use. This time round there's a Sixties cassette with people like Mary Wells and Martha Reeves oil it. Then there's a Seventies tape with Lieutenant Pigeon and Sweet, a disco tape with Anita Word and Evelyn 'Champagne' King and then there's a psychedelic tape with Jimi Hendrix.

There's even a heavy metal tape with the Pink Fairies and snatches of Alex Harvey, though he's not heavy metal. That's quite a list, so I wonder why they don't come through in your writing, Robert?

I generally divorce myself from things I like when I'm writing, so I'm not really influenced by those people. Some people say we nick things and of course we do, we did a single at the end of last year and it was a complete rip-off of Booker T and MGs' 'Green Onions'. I thought - no, this time we've gone too far and if we release it we'll probably get sued.

Not that the Cure's favourite oldies are confined to the cassette player on their round-the-world trips. Fans who lurk outside venues during the sound check may be forgiven for thinking they're in the wrong place, as Robert explains.

Yes, we do our old favourites at sound checks. There's a pretty wide selection of those as well, but the top three would have to be 'Do You Want To Touch Me' by Gary Glitter, 'You Really Got Me' by the Kinks - we do that one when we're confronted by a bored road crew, because they immediately love us and shower us with money.

The other one is 'Silver Machine' by Hawkwind, because this bloke who does our lights is completely deranged and whenever we play that one, he's immediately transported back 20 years. He has flashbacks and starts doing the light show.

Robert returns to his pint of lager top, prompting me to suggest that some of the more inaccessible lyrics in his songs may come about when he's half cut. He thinks hard before answering.

Tricky one, that, he says. You always think you're writing better when you're drunk, when you reach that point when you think, 'Hell, I'm being lucid now', We occasionally tape each other in moments of black humour and you find you'll be sitting there next day and you'll suddenly hear yourself from the night before and you think 'f**** hell', and don't drink for three days. I think my lyrics usually come the day after the night before, from the recollection of jumbled images.

It would be awful to have to use a means of escape as a means of being creative. Too many people in recent history have ended up that way, with their creativity destroyed by something that initially helped.

Mind you, when I say drinking I mean serious drinking. I drink lager because I like the taste, but I know it makes me fat. I don't eat for days but I only have to drink a pint and that's it, I get fat.

I try to make Robert feel a little better by explaining that I have the same problem. He looks across at me and grins.

Yeah, but you don't have people putting snidey captions under your photograph, do you?

True, but then that's the price you pay. Come on caption writers - lay off.

Last Revised: Monday, 15-May-2006 15:00:08 CDT

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