18 October 2010

We Go Way Back: The Cure & Me

My long-standing fascination with The Cure began with their videos.  While I was not (at first) a huge fan of their slightly askew brand of off-kilter pop magic, I enjoyed the homegrown feel of their 3 minute mini-movies.  I'm pretty sure I experienced the "wardrobe over the cliff" comedy of errors that was "Close To Me" and the day-glow-and-dots fantasia of "In Between Days" sometime around 1986.  A year later, I entered High School and the clumsy choreography of the "Why Can't I Be You?" video was all over MTV's late night programming.  I purchased that 7 inch single at Sam Goody as well as their "Standing On A Beach" singles collection (on CASSETTE, no less) but had trouble finding much else in the way of The Cure on CD (or even vinyl).

Enter Cathi Krupsky... At the time, Cathi was a new-ish friend.  She was one of the "cool art room kids".  Her boyfriend was in a band, she wore a lot of black, she puffed Pall Malls (unfiltered) on the smoking lounge at the end of the art wing and was (at the time) making silk screens of fire-breathing dragons.  I brought out my new Cure tape to play in class (a pretty brave move in a room with about 50 percent metal heads) and Cathi said, "Ooh... Let me make you some tapes of their older stuff that you can't really get here yet!"  I hadn't even asked... the music was on offer.  Let's just say that on Monday morning, a batch of several 90 minute Memorex cassettes (with the oh-so-au-courant translucent color block design) containing the band's entire output from 1979 - 1985 lay in my hands.  As has been the case with many other bands that I was discovering around this time, I spent time back-tracking through mail order and downtown NYC's circuit of import record shops... making sure I got everything I could on vinyl (as well as subsequent CD releases... and sometimes re-releases).  

In the Summer of 1989, just after the release of the band's epic masterpiece Disintegration, I became friends with a girl named Liz Everett.  She wasn't really into rock music at the time (having been raised and schooled in the context of musical theatre) but I foisted The Cure (as well as The Smiths, Depeche Mode and Siouxsie) upon her.  Like me, she wasn't totally taken with them at first, but her appreciation for the band would soon grow exponentially.  Another one of her friends took her (on a lark) to a concert on The Cure's "Prayer Tour" about a month later.  From then onward, the topic our conversational patter was completely dominated by... you guessed it... The Cure.  When we were not busy analyzing lyrics, we were trying to figure out where they were staying in New York.  We tried to figure out in which London or New York streets or studios certain photos were taken.  We tried to figure out where they got their clothes and what brand of hairspray they used.  When we weren't geeking on that, we were looking for news (pre-internet, mind you) on any possible bootleg recordings of live shows or... (GASP!) new material that had leaked.  This, of course, from a band that hinted at an imminent breakup every single year. 

Cut to 1990... A year on.  Liz and a friend were following The Cure on the festival circuit in Europe.  On her next visit home, I was gifted with a stack of cassettes with markings like "Roskilde '90" and "Leysin '90".  I was beguiled by tales of backstage gossip and behind the scenes antics as well as a folio of Liz's photos of the band on and off stage. 

Cut to 1991... A year on from that.  Liz and yet more friends were present as the band recorded the Wish album in England.  The stories and photos coming out of this segment of the band's history would be more intimate, more telling and more magical.  Less hearsay and more first-hand accounts and conversations were relayed to me.  I never envied Liz her access to this life, but I wondered what it would have been like to visit that world for a day or two.  What TRULY impressed me was Liz's first "real" band, LeFaye.  They had the honor of opening a few dates on The Cure's next handful of UK dates, even though they were unsigned and largely unknown.  It's important to note the breadth (and also the height) of the arc that Liz traversed in Cure-land within a very short timespan.  Quite unreal.

Though Liz has certainly evolved past these rock star dreams in her adult life and career, I'm sure that there isn't a day that goes by when something in her world isn't colored by the lens of having lived (or at least brushed up against) a dream that so few will ever know.  While this kind of exposure could turn a barely 20-year-old artist into a smug, entitled brat (or a confused, hedonistic and consumptive mess) I always felt that this time brought her a lot of perspective, grace, poise and awareness.  I'm not sure if I've ever actually told her how much I admire her for that point alone, but I think I've covered that now.

Twenty-three years on from that day in the art room, my friendship with Cathi endures and evolves, but she will ALWAYS be the cool chick who opened up a richly-layered catalog of music for me to enjoy, collect, obsess over (at times), share with others and build upon.

Thank you, Cathi.  Thank you, Liz.  Thank you, Cure.