-1984 ME Sounds (Germany)
"The ABC of anarchy!!"
Hardly a night not turning into day, hardly a mini-bar not being cracked; hardly a concert that gets staged without mishaps. A tour with The Cure is nothing for weak nerves. Especially when it’s leading all over Europe for six weeks. ME/Sounds-contributor Jade Kneip as the tour-director was responsible for the smooth course of the Euro-trip and took time now and then to keep a tour-diary. Motto:
The ABC of anarchy!!
On tour with The Cure
Portents for The Cure’s third Europe-tour are anything but promising: Five days before the launching I go to England, get down to my work and fetch the hired tour-bus in order to do necessary procurements. Three days later the old banger has given up the ghost. I have to endure snide remarks on Germans probably being too naïve for driving right-steered cars.
I get the man of the rental company to drive the second bus to the stranded one. Lo and behold, with an Englishmen at the controls bus number two manages to drive impressive 500 meters.
The third bus within six days is needed. And this time it works: The “Black Devil” - the band’s name for our black plush- and rubbish-contraption by Volkswagen - keeps on running and running and running.
Off to the first gig in Newcastle. For two years The Cure haven’t been on tour; the last one ended up in chaos: Fights within the band, 5,000 pounds disappeared without trace, nervous breakdowns and three cancelled concerts. No wonder that some of the protagonists can’t conceal having a queasy feeling in the stomach before the first gig.
On top of this there’s the nervousness of singer Robert Smith who’s not sure about the upcoming reactions of the audience since the previous singles “Let’s Go To Bed” and “Love Cats” were comparatively commercial. One can nearly grasp the tension with the fingers. Then there’s the first piece of good news: The whole England-tour has been sold out within three weeks! And that without any placards! Three ads in “NME”, “Melody Maker” and “Sounds” were enough. But Robert fears the worst: “The singles are the only reason for them to come.” He’s scared stiff, fearing that the kids wouldn’t get into The Cure’s older material. Probably with good reason: “A Forest”, “M” or “Primary” really are strong stuff for untrained teenager-ears after all.
With literally shaking knees they climb the stage in Newcastle for the opening night. And – all fears get washed away by a surge of euphoria. And – the girls pounce on Robert like a swarm of bees . . . it’s incredible. And is there a better criterion for a band’s popularity these days, than T-shirt-sellers making returns of about 7,000 German marks on one evening?
Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, Bristol. The same scene on every place: Raving fans completely shattered after two and a half hours of pure Cure. Always remarkable is the band’s relation to its fans: Within the five years of The Cure’s existence half of England seems to have become acquainted quite well with Robert & Co. At the three Hammersmith-Odeon-concerts alone 500 guest tickets are sold and additional 100 names get perpetuated on the guest list.
In Portsmouth, Oxford and during the three sets in Hammersmith a planned live-album was recorded by a mobile studio; after it two days of relaxing are on the agenda. Phil Thornalley, the bassist, is driving out into to the country; Laurence Tolhurst and Robert feel drawn to their home town Crawley, 30 miles away from London.
Then Brussels. At seven o’clock in the morning, through night and fog we have to get to the airport Heathrow. Not the right time for musicians – accordingly pale are the faces. The taxi-driver turns aside shaking his head and murmurs: “They look like corpses.”
In Brussels the first thunderclouds are gathering. Three ex-girlfriends of Robert refer to their “older rights”. But much sought-after Robert proves himself to be a veteran tactician. To avoid trouble an ingenious game of hide-and-seek is started: At dawn no-one of the musicians can be found in his own bed: “Good morning, Andy . . . “ – “Ya, but this is Laurence!” And so on. After tearful farewell scenes we go on by bus towards Lille, France.
One can literally grasp the imminent disaster. Tense mood as the first harbinger of the inevitable tour-tantrum, which was to erupt intensively that evening. In the cloakroom beer, vodka and red wine are mixed and served in big champagne saucers. As on top of it the gig, as the only one of this tour – hardly attracts audience, the contractually demanded flower decorations at the backstage have to carry the can. Then for the time being things can go on.
PARIS! 6500 spectators at “Zenith”. A silver shining metal-building becomes the scene of an absolutely magic Cure-concert. The jam-packed hall witnesses moments that just can’t be described in words. Even the otherwise rather penetrating sight of burning ‘Bic’-lighters becomes a spectacle to the sounds of “A Forest”, causing goose pimples on even the most hardened tour attendant’s backs.
The band isn’t touched less. Later Laurence recounts that he – completely overwhelmed by this sight – suddenly couldn’t remember the right keys. I never witnessed The Cure in such a condition after a concert: Without saying a word they’re sitting there for half an hour in silent devotion to what had happened just before.
The next gig could be nothing but a way down. That was as sure as Roberts stormy hairstyle! And indeed: A much too small stage in a provincial mammoth-discotheque, the smell of stale smoke and spilled beer and a lousy dressing room quickly bring back the crew to Rock’n’Roll-reality again. Yesterday the flair of Paris – today the sewer of Lyon! Assembling the lighting system alone takes five hours of trying every imaginable trick (and counted 36 short circuits) to set up the equipment on the disastrous stage.
Nice, One of the noblest hotels in town, simultaneously the film festival takes place in nearby Cannes – that means much of “high snobiety” and aggravated security precautions. We try to remain unimpressed by that as good as possible and celebrate a party in the hotel together with the crew. I stay up till five o’clock in the morning and since everything takes a normal course I can go to bed calmly.
At nine o’clock dreaming is over as there’s a madman raving at the corridor, hammering at a door like crazy and screaming “Come out, I’ll kill you” over and over again. I drag myself and my morning hangover to the door. There’s Andy Anderson, the coloured drummer, in front of a room door – a full bottle of Perrier in his right hand and in the left one a metal coffee pot, banging that one against the wooden door like mad. I try to calm him down – without any success.
Meanwhile someone called the police. Slowly Andy calms down, slips bottle and pot to the floor and all of a sudden he’s nothing but the picture of misery. Suddenly the corridor is full of gapers. The cops of course are not interested in explanations, unceremoniously they take Andy with them.
What happened is as follows: Towards half past eight in the morning, Andy - in a very good mood - strolls around in the hotel, trying to find someone who would go to the beach with him. As a result he runs into the hotel-owned security men who immediately want to know who the hell he was and what he was doing there. Andy, the only black man in the hotel, shows his room key. Well, it could be stolen after all.
The nice men now want to have a look at his papers. Andy goes to his room, pulls his passport out of the suitcase and turns round at the two watchdogs. At this moment, completely out of the blue, one of them blows a juicy load of teargas into his face.
Andy goes mad. Temporarily blind he chases after the uniformed guys and plants himself in front of the door he expects the friendly men to be behind. But – it’s the wrong door! In the aforementioned room the wife of a French film producer spends the night, to top it all she’s related to the mayor of Nice. Which not necessarily simplifies things. Straightaway The Stranglers occur to me: They had to stay for 14 days in the jail of Nizza just because of flitting nude over the corridor!
Of course the madam immediately is on the phone to draw the upright mayor’s attention to this vandalism. The hotel managers frown and say unmoved that Andy wouldn’t get out of jail at least for the next 48 hours. But our next gig was waiting to be done the following day. The French tour promoter Jules Frutos tries to pull a few strings while I go on apology-tour. Eight hours of talking to the maid, hotel authorities and police till I won the general manager of the hotel over to my side: A bill for “emerged damages” is presented to me and make me promise to pick up Andy right at the prison cell and get him right into the bus. A reunion wouldn’t be welcome.
We make the sign of the cross three times, pack our things and go by bus to Monte Carlo’s casino. After this shock a little bit of diversion may be best. When Paul Thompson, being in a casino for the first time ever, bets 100 francs on the seven – and that one turns out to be the winning number - spirits are good again.
Italy. First Bologna, then Milano. Quickly we realize that law and mentality are different here. It’s impossible to do the sound-check since 1,000 Italians flee into the marquee from a heavy afternoon storm, make themselves at home on the stage and sing their own songs.
You also can’t take the fee with you right after the concert – which is quite normal anywhere else. First the cash gets seized by revenue officers, goes further to the bank and after six weeks of audit by all relevant authorities it finally gets transferred.
And one should never apply Central-European standards to Italian airports: When we want to fly from Milano to Zurich we are there one hour before departure. We haven’t even got the tickets, when the plane already takes off. About 80 people are standing there in front of two ticket offices of Alitalia but the employees show absolutely no interest in getting off their five-minute-time per issue.
Into the taxi then and off to Zurich. Cost: 900 marks. Still cheaper than the flights. But certainly there are more pleasant ways of travelling than five of us shaken in a Mercedes along curvy mountain roads through heavy holiday traffic.
Zurich: international match Germany vs. Italy. Congested streets make us look at the watch increasingly. 15 minutes before the beginning of the show we arrive at the hall where the driven ahead crew almost is about to cancel the show. In spite of all the strains and rush the band does one of those magical performances nobody can explain. Just: “Man, sheer madness….”
Then Germany: Munich, Duesseldorf, Hamburg and Berlin are on the schedule. Meanwhile the team is working well together, everything takes a smooth course apart from small difficulties which arise when one wants to get hold of drinks at 5 a.m. in so-called luxury hotels. 4,500 people at Duesseldorf’s “Philipshalle” witness the best German concert – and the same promoter who made a loss of 10,000 marks with only 800 Cure-fans two years before at the same place now really got a smile upon his face considering today’s number of visitors.
On the free day after the “Metropol”-gig in Berlin everything is pointing towards a conflict again. Robert flew home to inform Siouxsie & The Banshees of not having the strength anymore to keep playing in their band simultaneously.
The trucks transporting the equipment set off at 2 p.m. towards Holland, where the last three shows of the tour are supposed to be done. Late in the afternoon a call from a GDR-police station: The back-line-truck started skidding because of aquaplaning and got off the road. The “Vopos” (= members of the “People’s Police” in the German Democratic Republic) preventively grabbed the two terrified Englishmen and demanded a fine. Of course the drivers don’t have a penny, but after three hours of “interrogation” they are released.
The trucks with the shattered drivers don’t arrive at the German-Dutch border until 5 a.m. I talk to them on the phone – and I suggest them getting a shuteye but driving on not later than 10, otherwise they wouldn’t reach Utrecht in time. And before they'd set off I told them to definitely give me a call. Which wouldn’t happen. To top it all we miss our direct flight to Amsterdam since we've been told the wrong departure time, so we have to change our booking via Frankfurt.
When we finally arrive at Utrecht, there’s no trace of the back-line-truck We wait till half past 7 – then the show is cancelled. Five minutes later the truck arrives. And I had been so proud of accompanying a Cure-tour where (almost) nothing went wrong, no extreme excesses, no fights, no cancellations – and then that! Fortunately a second gig in Utrecht is scheduled anyhow – and since this concert falls on a holiday, it’s no problem to push in a replacement-concert in the afternoon. But still, due to such things automatically the crew’s mood hits rock bottom. All the effort, all the strains – all for nothing! At night in a disco in Amsterdam we dance the frustration out of ourselves. It gets even really funny when early in the morning Robert, in his phlegmatic manner, tries to shake a leg to crispy funk-rhythms.
Then the last two gigs of this tour in Utrecht, where nearly 100 fans from Berlin, Munich, Duesseldorf, Paris, Italy and England assembled to see the band one more time before the end of the tour. The concert turns out to be a worthy ending of the six weeks that cost a lot of substance of man and material. Specially during the last days a tour inevitably gets out of control. When on top of it all these concerts take place in a country where a few things are easier to get than a bottle of beer, you can picture the rest to yourself….
20,000 English pounds were calculated as profit before the tour. Unforeseen charges (such as the unplanned flights) deducted, still a net profit of more than 10,000 pounds is left. Which is more than a rarity in today’s tour business. However, but in return I lost five kilograms….
Jade Kneip/Martin Brem
the text for the little pic on the left in the middle (page 2):
The brains behind it
Every evening a bag of money changes hands.
Jade Kneip (r.) receives the day’s takings for the band.
for the pic on the bottom left (page 2):
The band can’t complain about the reception among the female gender. Usually there are – as here at the stage entrance of the Hammersmith Odeons in London – rather punky creatures.
THANKS to: Llini for the TRANSLATION.