Growing up in the ’80s, being a fan of The Cure meant marking yourself as an outsider. Even though by the time the band put out the stellar Head on the Door in 1985 — an album that went to number 59 on the Billboard charts — they were selling out basketball arenas, the group’s massive black-clad fanbase still considered themselves misunderstood individuals withdrawn from mainstream society. Similarly, The Cure were viewed as a band apart, beholden only to their artistic instincts while at the same time selling millions of records.
As such, one wouldn’t envision The Cure as indulging in the excesses of the rock & roll lifestyle cliche, even though frontman Robert Smith has readily discussed his appetite for mind-altering substances. But cliches exist for a reason and sometimes are almost inescapable depending on time and temperament. Lol Tolhurst, who began as The Cure’s original drummer before eventually switching to keyboards, struggled with alcoholism for his entire time in the band that he and Smith formed while still teenagers in Crawley, a suburban town to the south of London. This struggle is detailed in his recently released memoir, Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys (Da Capo Press).
After first meeting as children, Tolhurst and Smith reconnected as teenagers, sharing the common bonds of being interested in music and wanting to escape the boredom of their nowheresville hometown. Forming The Cure with original bassist Michael Dempsey, the band’s career was a series of misadventures, like playing at a mental institution and signing an ill-fated record contract. However, through a combination of determination and talent, The Cure persevered to eventually become the gothic icons we now know them to be. While other members would come and go (and come and go again), Smith and Tolhurst were the only constants until Tolhurst was asked to leave the band after the recording of Disintegration, The Cure’s biggest record.
But while the book’s title is obviously a nod to the band’s moniker, it’s real meaning has more to do with Tolhurst finally getting over his drinking problem. Indeed, more than anything, this memoir focuses on Tolhurst’s personal struggles rather than the band’s history. Sure, we get to learn about the group’s formative years from a first-hand source and hear tales like the one about Tolhurst pissing on Billy Idol’s leg while the peroxide punk was getting romantic with a pretty young thing, but we learn more about Lol’s rehabilitation than the band’s creative process. Nonetheless, such stories—including several others also involving urination—give the book its character. Similarly, the contrast between Lol’s incommunicative, shellshocked father (who was also an alcoholic) and Smith’s supportive parents reveals the differences in the friends’ upbringings as well as some of the underlying reason behind Tolhurst’s alcoholism.
That said, it is disappointing that we don’t a clearer picture of Tolhurst’s longtime friend and bandmate. Indeed, there aren’t any great revelations about The Cure frontman, other than his ability to forgive Tolhurst even after Lol took him to court to try to win a greater share of the band’s royalties. (Tolhurst lost.) Tolhurst’s memories come off unbiased, but they are also lacking the detail needed to truly bring them to life, no doubt due to the author’s lack of sobriety at the time. As such, Cured isn’t the kind of “official” Cure bio for which some might hope, but rather a sometimes insightful and frequently amusing personal tale with the band’s story as backdrop.