The Cure’s 40-year career has not been all elegant melancholy and hair spray. As my exhaustive new biography reveals, the band’s history has also been marked by alcoholic and narcotic excess, on- and off-stage fisticuffs, riots, a notorious High Court legal showdown and – literally – urinating all over Billy Idol. So, here are the pouting Goth veterans’ 10 most bizarre and outrageous moments…
– The Cure: A Perfect Dream by Ian Gittins is published by Palazzo Editions on September 6 (£25).
Before Robert Smith became their singer, the band had a string of vocalists. One of them, a local newspaper journalist named Martin Creasy, played his sole show with the band in a three-piece suit and Manchester United scarf, and at the end of the gig shared his opinion of The Cure with the crowd: “This is shit!”
Their first record deal, in 1977, was with a German disco label, Hansa, home of Boney M. The deal came to an end when The Cure presented them with new material, only to be told by the horrified label boss: “Not even people in prison would like these songs!”
The band recorded none-more-bleak 1982 album ‘Pornography’ in a studio atmosphere of Sodom and Gomorrah. In addition to copious cocaine intake, they built a ceiling-touching mountain of used lager cans, which the cleaner was forbidden to touch, and slept on the floor of their nearby record label for weeks. “Things got a little out of hand,” Smith later admitted.
An early big break came when they supported Billy Idol’s first post-punk band, Generation X. The Cure were kicked off the tour after a drunken Lol Tolhurst stumbled into a backstage toilet and accidentally pissed all over Idol, who was being ‘pleasured’ by a fan. “When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go,” reflected Tolhurst.
An early European tour nearly came to an end after a fist-fight between Smith and bassist Simon Gallup in Strasbourg in 1982. After Smith flounced off the tour and went home to Crawley, he was promptly sent back on the road by his disapproving father: “People have paid good money for those tickets!”
Recording their album ‘The Top’ in 1984, The Cure lived in a pub and subsisted on a diet of magic mushrooms and all-night drinking sessions. Smith was simultaneously recording the ‘Hyaena’ album with Siouxsie & the Banshees. When he quit the band, Siouxsie was unappreciative of his efforts: “Fat Boy Smith has nothing to do with our album except that he plays on it.”
A 1987 Cure concert at a football stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, descended into a full-scale riot after fans holding fake tickets were denied entry. Bricks and bottles rained down on the stage: by the time the dust settled, three police dogs had been killed and a hot-dog seller had died of a heart attack.
Having been kicked out, Tolhurst sued The Cure for a larger share of the band’s royalties. During their infamous 1994 court case, Tolhurst alleged that Smith and Gallup drank five bottles of wine per night each in the studio. Smith said that Tolhurst had been so sozzled at gigs that the band had to place coloured dots on the keys of his keyboard to help him through the songs. Tolhurst lost the case – and was left with a £1m legal bill.
In 2010, Smith fired long-term Cure members Perry Bamonte and Roger O’Donnell out of the blue – by email. O’Donnell was deeply unimpressed, writing on his website: “I am no longer a member of The Cure. It was sad to find out, after nearly 20 years, the way I did, but then I should have expected no less or more.” He has since re-joined the band.
Original drummer and keyboardist Lol Tolhurst succumbed to alcoholism in the 1980s and became the group’s whipping boy in the studio and on tour. His time in the band ended after he got drunk at the listening party for 1989’s ‘Disintegration’ and yelled at Smith and the rest of the band, “Half of it is good and half of it is shit!”
1But at least one of these disasters has had a happy ending…
Lol Tolhurst has written his own memoir, Cured: The Tale of Two Ordinary Boys. Promoting it at Latitude festival last year, he revealed that he and Smith are friends again – and the Cure singer has, as a gift, returned to him all of the money he lost in the 1994 court case.