4/7/1979 Record Mirror (3-3-79 Plough Inn Cheltenham, England Show Review)
In Search Of The Cure Chris Westwood goes to Cheltenham, a cop shop and The Marquee to find it
The Cure can be a wonderful thing.
The Cure may be a hype, but it may also be three young people geared in the same (positive) direction, creating not a new form or attitude for and towards rock and roll, but re-focusing some of its more vital elements, forcing the observer to adjust his stance, to think and enjoy.
The fact that The Cure are actually good at what they do is just suffice to wipe out that lingering cynicism... the attitude one assumes when faced with a virtually unknown unit springboarding right to the forefront, instantaneously pulling in front-pages, centre-spreads, full-page ads, posters around town, continuous gossip... and the show goes on. I (the writer) am the middle-man, the missing link between a gullible public and an ambitious (Fiction) record company, engaged to write a feature, supported to Cheltenham (Hell) and back by manager Chris Parry's wallet.
Parry, the ex-Polydor man broke from the major at the latter end of '78, with the intention of financing/building his own label; after all, the man's bank balance was far from embarassing, while the business sence and "talent" consciousness were the proverbial food for thought.
No disguising the fact, Parry was able to link up a distribution and finanance deal with Polydor, and go in with both feet once he'd seen and been convinced by The Cure. A deal was organised by November last year and a number from the band's initial demo, '10.15', was coupled with 'Killing An Arab' as a new year Small Wonder/Fiction single. It's quality was almost diminished in the eyes of the sceptics of this world when barrowloads of CureCureCureCure ads found their way into the music press. The single ('10.15') itself was peak through, placed pulselike, dynamic and splendid refreshing, almost de-focused rock and roll, complete in its very sparseness. 'Killing An Arab' was more spontaneous, overtly Eastern, working away around a fluid, tingling, typically Arabic guitar motif.
The initial impressions of that single were hardly shock, awe or instant paranoia: more subtly, the thing seeped and instated itself into the consciousness... the effect lingering. Not a classic, in all honesty, but one which adequately portrayed the level of quality and maturity inherent in this band, one which served to provoke a heady level of public/press interest.
Come Sunday afternoon and the correspondent is waiting outside the Finsbury Park Rainbow, Chris Parry, the man himself, pulls up in his plush new BMW, collects me and sears off in the direction of Cheltenham. Some days previously, Parry had been caught with the three band members in the back of the car, speeding towards Middlestrough at some 90 mph.
Must be careful, Chris.
On our way, Chris plays a tape of The Cure album due for release in early May: brief impressions (two listenings) suggest that the album is very strong, very representative, sympathetically produced by Parry himself. Of the tracks, '10.15' is unchanged, 'Accuracy' is a straight, jumpy-chording number which takes on far rockier proportions in the live setting, a moderately recogniseable version of Hendrix's 'Foxy Lady', an immediate commercial 'Grinding Halt' (the next single).
"It's very different to their live sound," explains Perry, "It's a transparent sound. I'ts been very spactly mixed and it sounds pretty broad on headphones, a lot of the band didn't really like the idea of recording over and over. 'Fire in Cairo' still isn't quite right, but it's a difficult song to record."
Conversation is hampered by the turn of the engine and the roar of the music. Cheltenham in our sights and - by Christ - we fumble onto the one way system, a devastating, frustrating circular that winds round and round town, which takes twice as long to shrug off as it did to find. Eventually, a cut down a one-way and straight into the car park of the Plough Hotel, where The Cure are lined up to play.
By the time we arrive, the band are nowhere to be found: just Julie Wood, the self-confessed "Cure's number one fan," whose hike from Bournemouth (her home town) to London to Bournemouth to Norwich has secured her an accepted place amongst The Cure's entourage. The mixing desk guy skips about from end to end of the hall, occasionally emitting strange yelping noises and frightening the woodlice.
The Plough is an extensive, lavish hotel, serving up good-grade grub, providing practically the only proper rock shows in town, and catering for actual paying guests in the process.
The Cure arrive, and swiftly, deftly, they slip into their soundcheck, keeping the amps low on the stage, preserving excellent clarity in the back line and through the PA. They jut into 'Play With Me' and 'Fire In Cairo' which boast a sister-riff, perhaps too close for comfort, but not so close as to demerit the individual tracks. This band thrive on efficiency, the whole soundcheck lasting less than a half hour, and the sound emerging with triumphant, satisfactory clarity. In the hotel restaurant, where, in truly cultured fashion, we peruse roast beef and red wine, Cure drummer Lol saying, "I had a really funny esperience the other morning. I woke up in the hotel, and kinda went across the room to open up the curtains. I was about four floors up or something... and when I looked down on the car park, there was this Arab just standing there, looking up. I thought he was gonna pull out a shot-gun...".
Historically speaking, The Cure grew out of school, and, as a five-piece, found themselves linked to Hansa records, an unlikely - and promptly terminated - mating. Robert Smith, the band's guitar player, explains a way one of the album tracks, 'So What', which was verbally improvised in the studio, lyrics had already been penned towards a song called 'Cheap Sex'... bored by the ritual of recording, Robert had strutted into the studio, clutching a sugar bag in one hand, and proceeded to verbalise straight from the ingredients thereon.
From the restaurant to the nearest pub back into the gig, and one sees what happens when a town is deprived of music: seems like the whole of Cheltenham's been waiting to get into the Plough, hundreds, seemingly, lining the bar, hundreds more in the dire, sweaty, claustrophobic hall itself. To get onto the stage, The Cure have to walk through the crowd and hassle their way into an alcove: the alcove is the stage.
For encores, the band can no way dismount: they merely crouch on the side of the stage, looking wary and worn, then re-assume their positions. It's the Cheltenham gig in particular where one is brought into full awareness of The Cure's adaptable, energetic, natural approach to rock: a spinal, basic sound, stripping down and re-focusing the instruments... the drums, particularly, are dominant, being hard-driving and surprising, characterised by a glorious cheap-symbol tish. For once, the drum kit becomes far more than a mere rhythmn box, mroe of an individual instument, and a key segment of The Cure's sound. Robert's lucid, piercing guitar sound sprouts from a 20 quid Woolworth's Top Twenty model... and ironically, he holds a Fender Strat in reserve. He plays and sings in a youthful, naive passion... no git down dirty yer pants rock 'n' roll. The Cure are about precision, tempered and channelled energy, ideas and provocation of thoughs. They are not an essential life-force, they are mere very good.
They also possess sufficient imagination to be able to re-vamp, re-model and re-pace their own material... a second rendering of '10.15', then 'Fire In Cairo', being distinctly pogo-able.
The crowd are totally appeased, eventually blagging something in the order of three or four encores. And in the aftermath, people flag out, drained by the heat and the energy, as fuzz-haired, gruff-voiced Lol signs posters, photos and scraps of cheap paper for autograph hunters. In the front-stage crush, Chris Parry has succeeded in slopping a pint all over his jacket. We eventually make for the exit while The Cure pack up and tie up their gear... no roadies, no free lunches, no trips to America...
"I suppose we're anti-rock and roll," explains Lol, "but only in the sense that we dislike all the overplayed glamour that goes with it."
Jutting out of The Plough, Parry heads down an unmarked street, emerges the other side to find himself accosted by a cop car: we just took a one-way street in the wrong direction. The beer-reek from Parry's jacket hits the bluebottle in the face as the window is wound down.
So I'm sitting, frustrated and confused, in Cheltenham police station, turned one o'clock in the morning: Chris eventually emerges and beckons. He's clear, but not before two breathalysations and three pointless forms have been gone through.
The following night is a Marquee appearance for The Cure: the place is less brimful than the two proceeding performances here, but still packed to the point of awkwardness. The Marquee is a useful haunt, a fine rock venue. It assures band/crowd contact. The Cure thrive on it. Their performance lacks the spark and edge of the previous night, but they have just played some eight dates or so in nine days... their first tour. They are triumphant but unsatisfied with the actual set.
The Cure are young, potent and at a very early stage: the furore that currently surrounds them will make long-term consistency an essential but difficult commodity. I think they can deal with it. The Cure is an important factor.
- Chris Westwood