This is a book for Cure fans.
No, really. That’s who’s going to read it. I am not excepted from this number. I had watched the Story of Lol from afar, from his being jettisoned after Disintegration to his surprising (and a bit tearjerking) reappearance with the band for their Reflections gigs at the Sydney Opera House. I knew, more or less, the story of the band, but obviously the focus is generally on Robert Smith rather than ol’ Lol.
People outside the Cure’s fanbase most likely don’t know who Lol Tolhurst is, and are probably wondering why he’s got an abbreviation for a first name.They’re probably not going to be that interested in the work, and that’s a bit of a shame, as this is a pretty entertaining (and deeply sad, in places) memoir of one muso’s life, and battles with addiction. (With some excellently gross Billy Idol bodily fluid anecdotes to add the flavour of the times.)
Importantly, this is a memoir, not an autobiography. Tolhurst is upfront about why this is so: there’s times where his recollection was fucked over by an eventually all-encompassing addiction to alcohol. There’s times where what’s said might diverge from other histories, written in the shadow of lawsuits or during the author’s times in the doldrums, but it’s intensely personal. That’s really the pull of the book: there’s no finer portrait of Robert Smith, really. Here, there’s an undoubted respect for the man’s songwriting abilities, but there’s also the love of a mate who met him at age five. It’s a bond that has persisted – despite some truly horrific problems – and there really is nothing to be found within but love.
Well, scratch that – there’s anger and sadness, too, but they’re aimed straight at the author, and at the satellite town that kicked the band into existence. Tolhurst’s upbringing – his mother died young, and his father was mostly belligerent, drunk or both – sounds grim, and it’s unsurprising given the locale and the year that booze became a respite, before ultimately becoming his master. But as much as there’s lamentation over blackout drunks, on things that’ve been fucked by it, there’s celebration. Tolhurst survived. The book very much has the feeling of a sobriety project, but it’s a successful one: it shows a portrait of a guy who finally had to face up to what was eating him, and to apologise to others – but mostly himself – for what it’d done to him. This is a big part of the book, and it leaves the reader feeling hopeful, and curiously proud of how far its author has come.
There’s some periods in the book where things become a little repetitive, but I suspect that could be the result of moving reminiscences into a chronological arrangement after they’d been written. There’s occasional repetition of phrasing that doesn’t appear intentional, but catches the eye oddly. Still, it’s pretty minor: this flows pretty well and conveys Tolhurst’s personality pretty well – at the end he’d transformed from a guy who I only knew as the recipient for a bit of Cure fan snark into a dude who sounds pretty solid, and certainly one who’s been through the wringer.
If you’re interested in the Cure, particularly in their early years, this is definitely a book to read. The band are pretty hermetic, and outside of books like Ten Imaginary Years – which Tolhurst used as a reference, among other resources – you don’t get much in the way of real nitty-gritty. There’s plenty here of interest, and most of it’s sent out with love. If you want to know what it’s like to hoon around grey England with a teenaged Lol and Robert, this is your jam.