Thursday, 24 November 2011

When I was younger and working through my Shakin’ Stevens phase

When I was younger and working through my Shakin’ Stevens phase – all bootlace ties and rockabilly clothes – my brother was slowly becoming a goth. Not a complete one – more of a rowdy dark punk – all Birthday Party and Banshees.

But his biggest love was The Cure.

Dragged up to Scotland to wait indoors whilst Paul and my cousin watched The Top explode on stage at Edinburgh Playhouse - I’ll admit I wasn’t that enamoured by the funereal gloom of the cassette tapes of Pornography and Faith purchased in WH Smiths – upstairs for a few pounds that Paul would play in to the wee dark hours on his Sony Walkman.

However as my teenage years came rushing in – and my aversion to the day-glo pop started to cement into attitude and arrogance – I found myself whistling to the tune of the underground – I say whistle – you can’t really whistle A Hundred Years – but you get my drift. It wasn’t Frankie now – it was something different. So over the course of the year – through trips to record shops and heads buried in Music Papers you could say my tastes were changing. A Smiths concert under my belt and then off to see The Cure.

So this year I was on the bus to Edinburgh – sat next to my cousin, her friends, my brother – all black eyeliner and ill fitting clothes – I was having my piece of it – my head on the door tour and there in the mists and rain of Scotland developed a lasting love for the Robert Smith howl, scowl and prowl. All black suits and white boots – lipstick smears and endless beers. I was reading an interview from Mr Smith in the Guardian – not the real bit – you know The Guide – the listings not the politics part – not that the Guardian is on the edge of radicalism. It was a Guide from the summer – I don’t keep them – I started this post a while a back.

Anyway Smith was being interviewed and I was suddenly transported back there – 1985 and the dry ice in The Playhouse and the Cure arriving on stage all beautiful and strange. I’d even had my hair done like Porl Thompson – all curls and ribbons – now my hair is also like Porl’s – lost and thinning. He can command a stage can Robert Smith – he does it with ease – all nerves and humour – that connection with the audience through blunder and lack of confidence. But it takes some guts to front The Cure – to keep it going over 30 years.

And as ever I have fallen in and out with their music – this fascination [street] slowly dipping as I watched them night after night at my brother’s insistence through the Kiss Me Kiss Kiss Me and Disintegration Tours. These behemoth events of largesse for the mass[es] in black. But I guess there is integrity within this unit of misfits that underpins the gloom. You don’t really hang around for that long if you don’t believe it [note the current whereabouts of The Mission]. So Paul and I would venture off to see The Cure every time they announced a tour – and we’d end up in cheap dives – hostels and B&Bs near Wembley as we met with the ‘scalpers’ to get another row closer to the stage – and they’d all be proper London ravers on the take from mugs like us – hiking a front row ticket to a monkey – or a carpet. It was both intimidating and exciting – but we exchanged the cash and tickets and all got we wanted.

Then it would be into town – shoparound and back to the back gates as Smith and co arrived – with cursory nods and glances and then chats and jokes – bits of things signed and anecdotes. You see I guess they understood the need to meet and greet and discuss things – it makes your day. I know in an early piece of writing I talked of meeting Morrissey and Brian Wilson and and and – but Robert Smith was an unassuming front man in some ways – but clearly he wanted us to look at him. I’ve always done that with cultural tribes – you know stare at a Punk – it freaks them out – they want to frighten you – so stare – and stare hard. Obviously if this is the rule then Goths are adorning themselves in a narcissistic manner and want your adoration – so look away. Simple really. It might just have prevented Columbine.

But we came to gawp at The Cure – this feeling waned in the end. I was getting down to the Spaceman3 sounds and resisting the urge to backcomb my hair.

However – where is this post going – what’s it dealing with? Essentially it’s about sincerity and integrity - and there’s not a lot of that in the music industry – they pile them high and sell them low – we just consume. Yet Robert Smith has held onto that feeling of giving you a piece of himself in a tune – which is what the fans want really – a connection – a shared experience. And I felt it again in the interview – in The Guide.

A truthfulness.

So I returned to The Cure – not Shakin Stevens – although that might come – all rockabilly denim and greying quiff and listened to the Head on the Door. Which I hadn’t done for about twenty years. It still holds up – that independent spirit yet playful promise of a band who would grow and grow – blow up but not go pop. I have since lost my Head on the Door t-shirt and tour programme – I have not yet lost my memory.

They are a good bunch The Cure – they run a tight ship.