B O O K R E V I E W S
Summer Reads: ‘Cured: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys’ by Lol Tolhurst, and ‘In Love with these Times: My Life with Flying Nun Records’ by Roger Shepherd
2016 was an excellent year for music books. Among these, memoirs were released by founding The Cure member Lol Tolhurst and Flying Nun record label founder Roger Shepherd. Ultimately, the experiences of both with their respective music projects have striking similarities, and both are great reads.
Overall ‘Cured’, written by Lol Tolhurst, the founding drummer, and then keyboardist for The Cure, is an excellent read. If you have been a long-term fan of The Cure, and have read 1988s ‘The Cure: Ten Imaginary Years’ - the year prior to Lol leaving The Cure - you will have heard many of the stories in the first half of this book before. That isn’t to say there isn’t some new information here though, particularly about Tolhurst’s early home life. One of the most interesting recurring characters in the first half of Cured was Chris Parry, the former drummer for Wellington band The Fourmyula (of the song ‘Nature’ fame) in the late ‘60s to early-‘70s; a nice New Zealand connection. When The Fourmyula visited the UK, and subsequently left, Parry remained and worked for Polydor Records before forming his own independent label, ‘Fiction’; one of his first signings was The Cure, and the strong influence he had on the band over a number of years becomes evident throughout the book. I regarded the first half of the book as enjoyable rather than fascinating, and by that point I thought it would end as a good read but ultimately a forgettable one. Perseverance pays off, however. The slow build really acts to provide a hard hitting end. The reader comes to the realisation that the first half is setting the scene, following the development of not just his involvement in The Cure but also of Lol’s problems with alcoholism. As hinted by the title, ‘Cured’, there is a happy ending to the book, but it is well worth reading for the journey, where he experiences the lowest of lows brought about by his own personal self-destruction, until he is finally able to stop blaming others and take ownership of his illness.
The second book, ‘In Love with the Times: My life with Flying Nun Records’ by Roger Shepherd, has a number of connections with Tolhurst’s, with its foci on illness, substance abuse and an independent record label. Unlike the former book, I found this one fascinating from start to finish, being difficult to put down at any stage. Similar to the Fiction label, a key band was important in the development of the Flying Nun label; in this case The Clean. They, along with The Bats and The Chills, get a good amount of content dedicated to them. Primarily, however, the book covers Shepherd’s life, with a focus on the ups-and-downs of the label and its key people (e.g., Chris Knox), from the labels essentially volunteer beginnings to Shepherd’s departure and recent re-involvement. As with Tolhurst’s book, it is extremely frank with respect to his personal issues through the time of his involvement, although instead of being a destructive force Shepherd finds on reflection his illness was a positive influence on the label. Nevertheless, for a Hamiltonian Shepherd’s book irks for his lack of respect for the city. No Hamilton bands were ever signed to the label, though many believe Watershed were more than worthy. His South Island bias comes through strongly when he refers to Dunedin as one of the country’s four major centres, which may have been true at the time the label was at its peak, but it certainly isn’t the case now. Finally, his only real mention of the city is to denigrate it by associating it with boy racers. Of local interest, however, there is also some discussion about now Hamilton-based Matthew Bannister, formerly of early Flying Nun band Sneaky Feelings; these sections are largely conciliatory, referring to criticisms made by Bannister in his own book, ‘Positively George Street’.
Despite some personal qualms in the latter book, on the whole I greatly enjoyed both books, and I highly recommend both to those interested in The Cure or Flying Nun. - Ian Duggan