The Cure’s South American Diary by Robert Smith – Part I

Three imaginary weeks

87-5-30-mm-cover

1st week

Saturday 14 march 1987
Get up at 9am after four hours sleep and hallucinate bitterly as the way to Heathrow. We are all there, smiling wanly save Bill (Chris Perry, Fiction head, tour function unknown), who is as usual late. Despite this obvious attempt at burying us early, we make our flight to Madrid (dle) with a good three minutes in hand…
We land in Spain at seemingly the same moment we leave London, and check into a nearby hotel to continue sleeping. What we actually end up doing is playing ‘Name that tune’ on Lol’s nauseating new Casio synth all through the afternoon and by the time we are on ‘See Emily Play’ the mini bar is looking bare.
We return to the airport at 8 and board the Aerolineas Argentinas 747 for Rio and Buenos Aires. I grit my teeth and settle back and so it begins…

Sunday
After a wonderless nine hours of drinking, talking, reading and fitful crashing-into-the-ground sleep, the plane lands in Rio. It is then cleaned, refueled, and, after a two hours delay, flown on to Buenos Aires. We land at 9am, local time, feeling less than well: it is hot here, and dreadfully sunny, and everyone is wearing shades. After being subjected to several brutally officious checks, we are led through a side door and into a waiting car: there are people everywhere, and we are followed all the way into the city by a bizarre motorcade of horn-blowing-screaming-waving cars. Buenos Aires is like the outskirts/underskirts of Mega City One, an unsettling mixture of the old and crumbling and the almost half-completed, out of which rises, suddenly, rudely and anachronistically, the enormous mirrored edifice of the Sheraton Towers – our home for the next four days.
There are around 500 people milling about outside here, and as we pull up, they surge towards us: Not quite feeling up to love and conversation, we jump out and rush into the hotel, and I realise that I am feeling most peculiar…
Six hours in bed does the trick, and 5pm sees Team Cure poolwide and beer. Gradually feeling restored, we decide to go out and mingle. The 100 or so people still waiting around outside are a friendly bunch, if almost totally incomprehensible, the exception being the head of the until-then-unknown ‘Official’ Cure ‘Bananafishbones Club’, who is gushingly clear in a Fawlty Towers sort of way. We have our photos taken endlessly before going off for a very sedate Italian (?) meal, and everyone gets to bed by 12. A strange day…

Monday
I awake from a delirious sleep at 11 and immediately put The Chiefton on. The curtains are opened and closed at 12: it is too hot and dreadfully sunny. I write a few letters then meet up with the others downstairs: today is press day, and over the next few hours we try to respond honestly and earnestly to questions of Killing An Arab, Maradona, Killing a Thatcher, and mental health etc, etc.
It is brave and interminable and the escape is quick and sneaky – and we land in my room once more for a reviving stroh rum!
Again braving the crowd, we go back down, get into the car, and speed off to the Ferro Carril Oeste football stadium looks remarkably like Loftus Road, and stepping out onto the glowing floodlit pitch, a lump jumps in my throat…
A football suddenly appears, and we are off and singing, but the game does not last long and Team Cure soon disintegrates amid a forest of blatant handballs and cries of ‘cheat’. The Argentinian participants feign benign ignorance…
Our soundcheck lasts a couple of hours, and ends around 10, and with a rowdy visit to Ristorante Fish, the day at last closes on the 24 th Floor at the hotel, mooning softly…

1987-03-17_buenos-aires

Tuesday
Struggling up at 1, drink several pots of coffee, and we go back to the ground: It is hot and dreadfully sunny, but we soundcheck to perfection for another couple of hours and then disappear beneath the stand into the visitors dressing room. I do another couple of interviews and am given on Argentinian Team strip, a bunch of blood-red roses, and a message from a man who looks insanely the same as Tootsie…
And then the sound of breaking glass.
There has apparently been some ‘confusion’, we are told, over ticket sales – 19,000 people have them, but only 17,000 can officially enter the ground, and, in consequence, there are more than a few irate punters trying to get in by other methods: a full scale riot ensues, with numerous police cars rolled, several security dogs killed, and a hot dog man suffering a heart attack before we go onstage.
For almost two hours we play amidst deafening bedlam, before rushing off, screaming, into the car and away. It is a while before our heads stop shaking, and we end up having an early breakfast in the bar before bed…

Wednesday
I pull open the curtains to the inevitable too hot and dreadfully sunny people camped outside, before rushing into Simon’s room for milk and gossip. We leave for the football stadium at 3, and as we start a short final soundcheck, the sun hits 100 degrees. We melt down into the change room and, between interviews, listen to Nick Drake and Billie Holiday. The noise above increases inexorably, and we look nervously at each other as we are told that tonight, disregarding another ticket ‘confusion’, there will be ‘no’ trouble’ …
The crowd surges forward as we go onstage, and despite the higher barricades and extra police (or more exactly because of the higher barries and extra police), battle begins. By half-way through the set there are several uniformed men on fire, with most of their comrades taking shelter under the stage from the ceaseless and merciless rain of coins, seats, stones and glass.
Unfortunately not all of it is accurately thrown, and Porl is the first of us to be hit: the longer this goes on, the more bitter we become, and when a coke bottle cracks me full in the face during ‘10.15’ I stop the song and go a touch beserk. We end with a gloriously punky thrash through ‘Arabs-a-go-go’ and then we are away. Outside the ground is not unlike downtown Beirut, and we are more than relieved to reach the sanctuary of the hotel. I go to bed shattered, the others spending varying amounts of time in the bar while I dream of murder…

Thursday
Get up feeling fresh at 11.30 and leave for the airport at one after a short but spirited ‘Reuters’ interview and a protracted farewell session outside with the crowd. The flight is bumpy and uncomfortable and it is a relief to touch down at 5.30 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. After a lengthy bout of form filling we are in through a 300 strong crowd and out onto a 40 seater coach! We drive bouncily to the hotel where we are confronted by even more people screaming hello and firing blinding flash as we dismount and squeeze into reception.
A quick visit to our flower-filled rooms is followed by the inevitable TV and press conference debacle. It is the usual 60 minute quiz, and then we eat: the food is fish and it is very fresh and yummy, as, we discover, is the local liquor, ‘Pinger’, though by the second bottle the round table has surely started to spin… so bed is late… late…

Friday
Up at 12 for the hot and dreadfully sunny. We do a couple of interviews, a photo session up a ladder: and then retire to the piano bar for coffee and waiting. We eventually go to the venue, the gloriously named Gigantinho, to find it is a strange hibrid of Brixton Academy and Wembley Arena. Everyone, however, is getting jarring but inexplicable 120V shocks, and the atmosphere is a strange mixture of apprehension, anger, and lethargy – the crew having been up most of the previous night trying to solve a multitude of problems.
We soundcheck for an unbearably humid hour, and then slip backstage to watch and wait as the doors opened and the crowd steams in.
By nine the building is a seething mass – the capacity is an “official” 12,000 – and the heat and the noise as we walk onstage is the most overwhelming that any of us have ever experienced in our lives. It increases gradually through the two hour set, and we are utterly devastated as we are rushed off, outside, and into the coach.
We return to the hotel in silence, and I go to bed: the others drag themselves out to eat, but claim calmness…

2nd week

Saturday 21 march
Up ‘Clean’ at 12. Hot and…
We do several more interviews and photos before returning through a growing crowd outside to the ‘Gigantinho’. We run through some obscure old songs, and some savagely under-rehearsed new ones, before settling down for the wait, Marc Almond and some ‘Washboard Rhythm Kings’ helps us to kill it, before we walk back out again at nine.
If anything, the response is even more manic than the night before, most of the audience correcting me as I forget the words to ‘The Blood’. We have oxygan before the encores and I counter them with ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’ “Ha ha – got you all there” I whisper as I float back down into the coach, and a siren escort whisks us home. After a shower and a beer I snap back on – and Shirley Bassey and Nancy Sinatra sing into the night; but I am gorgeously oblivious by four…

Sunday
The wake-up thudding on the door starts at 11 and continues remorselessly until my emergence at one. It is hot and dreadfully sunny. Seeing Lol over coffee however cheers us all up, and we sign autographs spiritedly outside for an hour. Then we jump back on the bus and again drive bouncily back to the airport. There is a delay during which Roy Walker runs us through his ‘My wife’s a red head, no hair, just a red head’ chestnuts over a Sunday lunchtime pint before… “We are flying down to Rio”…
We arrive at 6.30pm and go by car to our new home – The Copacabana Beach Hotel, a very posh building indeed, and one which serves to emphasise chillingly the poverty we have seen on our drive from the airport.
We eat thoughtfully before the cocktail bar erodes the pictures of dirt, and end up talking about the world in Simon’s room.

Tuesday
Hot and dreadfully up at 12. We mooch through nutters to the beach, and stand as happy as vampires while Undy clicks. Having kicked goodbye, we flee to the airport where there is once again, a draining delay. We have a brief confrontation with Ed Greek, his son spoiled Bastard, and their dog Johnny Jumble, before boarding what we are told is a plane but what actually turns out to be a 36,000 ft roller-coaster ride. We finally land in Belo Horizonte, and discover no bus, so we wait once more in the bar. Finally getting to the hotel at 7pm. I immediately ordered an iced cervezo, a slice of pizza, and a Portuguese dubbed Hammer horror film on the telly. The others slip out to gorge, but manage to have their rooms burgled while away… I am not unhappy to find myself suddenly asleep, dreaming I am a child-minder…

 

© Melody Maker

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