British rag Rip It Up said of The Cure’s fourth album, Pornography, “Ian Curtis, by comparison, was a bundle of laughs”. The album, which came out in 1982, developed its style toward post-punk and gothic rock, featuring songs like ‘The Figurehead’, ‘Cold’, and ‘A Strange Day’.
This was the era when Robert Smith began wearing lipstick, spraying his hair, and painting his nails. Really, it was the advent of The Cure we know today. However, things weren’t all peachy on the other side. In fact, Robert Smith admits that this was a rough time for the band as a whole. “During Pornography, the band was falling apart, because of the drinking and drugs,” he said. “I was pretty seriously strung out a lot of the time, so I’m not sure if my recollection is right.”
Although this might not add up entirely, that’s also what led to their recording in some… well, strange places to say the least. “I know for a fact that we recorded some of the songs in the toilets to get a really horrible feeling, because the toilets were dirty and grim. Simon doesn’t remember any of that, but I have a photo of me sitting on a toilet, in my clothes, trying to patch up of some of the lyrics. It’s a tragic photo.”
While the idea of recording in the toilets might sound somewhat silly, for the band, it seemed to be anything but. Smith continued to say: “We immersed ourselves in the more sordid side of life, and it did have a very detrimental effect on everyone in the group. We got ahold of some very disturbing films and imagery to kind of put us in the mood. Afterwards, I thought, ‘Was it really worth it?’ We were only in our really early twenties, and it shocked us more than I realised – how base people could be, how evil people could be.”
The results that came out of it seemed to mirror this experience, too. Robert Smith admits: “I don’t have particularly fond memories of Pornography, but I think it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done, and it would have never got made if we hadn’t taken things to excess. People have often said, ‘Nothing you’ve done has had the same kind of intensity or passion.’ But I don’t think you can make too many albums like that, because you wouldn’t be alive.”
It takes a lot to admit that what’s “good” for the art might not always be the best for mental health, but being able to find that balance creates the opportunity for more creativity in the future.
If you want to take a listen to the album that had The Cure recording in the toilets, you can find it down below.