Tears for Fears

Tears for Fears were an English New Wave/art-pop band that emerged with the 1983 Mercury album The Hurting, which spawned the hits “Pale Shelter,” “Mad World,” and “Change.” They achieved global success with their 1985 second album Songs From the Big Chair, topping charts with “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” “Shout,” “Head Over Heels,” and “Mothers Talk.” After several abortive attempts at a followup, The Seeds of Love appeared on Fontana in 1989.

The band centered on the team of guitarist Roland Orzabal and bassist Curt Smith, who both sang and played keyboards. They first played together on a 1980 album by the mod-ska band Graduate and cut a 1981 electro-pop single in Neon, which also included the team of Pete Byrne and Rob Fisher, who subsequently formed Naked Eyes.

Members: Roland Orzabal (vocals, guitar, keyboards, programming), Curt Smith (vocals, bass, keyboards, 1981-90, 2000-present), Manny Elias (drums, percussion, 1981-86), Ian Stanley (keyboards, backing vocals, 1981-87)


Background

Tears for Fears was the brainchild of musicians Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, who met as teenagers in 1970s Bath, Somerset. They first played professionally in the mod-ska band Graduate, which issued the album Acting My Age in 1980 on Pye-subsidiary Precision.

Immediately thereafter, they joined the electro-pop act Neon, led by the duo of Pete Byrne and Rob Fisher. After the 1981 single “Communication Without Sound” (b/w “Remote Control”), Neon trimmed itself to the Byrne–Fisher duo Naked Eyes.

Looking to expand on the multi-layered electronic sounds of Neon, Orzabal and Smith tuned into the era’s ethno/art-pop (Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Japan) and drummer-less minimal wave (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Depeche Mode). After rehearsing as History of Headaches, they named their project Tears for Fears as an ode to American psychologist Arthur Janov (1924–2017), the creator of primal therapy: a trauma-based psychotherapy outlined in his 1970 best-seller The Primal Scream.


1981

Tears for Fears demoed a pair of Orzabal originals with keyboardist Ian Stanley, who granted them free use of his in-house 8-track studio. On the strength of these recordings, Phonogram signed Tears for Fears in late 1981.


“Suffer the Children”

On October 30, 1981, Tears for Fears debuted with “Suffer the Children,” a medium-slow electronic number backed with the acoustic “Wino,” both Roland Orzabal originals credited to the Orzabal–Smith partnership. Crescent Studios owner David Lord produced both sides in succession with titles by The Korgis and Mobiles.

A. “Suffer the Children” (3:36)
B. “Wino” (2:17)

“Suffer the Children” also appeared on a Mercury 12″ as an extended remix (4:15) paired with an instrumental version (4:26) backed with “Wino.”

BBC Radio 1 DJs John Peel and Peter Powell playlisted “Suffer the Children,” which later reached 52 on the UK Singles Chart when Mercury reissued the single to capitalize on the global success of their second album.


1982

In early 1982, Tears for Fears partnered with onetime Gong bassist Mike Howlett, a recent soundman for Penetration, Punishment of Luxury, Fischer-Z, Athletic Spizz ’80, the Original Mirrors, and the Thompson Twins.


“Pale Shelter”

On April 9, 1982, Tears for Fears released “Pale Shelter,” a textured electro-acoustic song backed with “The Prisoner.”

A. “Pale Shelter (You Don’t Give Me Love)” (3:55) Orzabal titled the song after “Pale Shelter Scene,” a 1941 drawing of huddled war refugees by British sculptor Henry Moore (1898–1986).

B. “The Prisoner” (2:40)

Tears for Fears worked with Mike Howlett on “Pale Shelter” because David Lord was occupied with Peter Gabriel on the ex-Genesis singer’s fourth solo album, the 1982 Geffen release Security. However, the due clashed with Howlett on select details, particularly his reliance on Linn drums. They self-produced “The Prisoner.”

Mercury issued the single on 12″ with an extended “Pale Shelter” (6:25) paired with the regular length version and its b-side. The original labels on the UK 7″ and 12″ contain mint variations of the face-planting child image.

On May 28, Tears for Fears made their live debut at the University of Manchester. Over the next three nights, they played Edinburgh (Valentino’s), Glasgow (Maestro’s), and Birmingham (Holy City Zoo). On June 6, they played their first hometown show at Tiffany’s.


“Mad World”

On September 24, 1982, Tears for Fears released their third single “Mad World,” an art-pop number backed with “Ideas as Opiates.”

A. “Mad World” (3:32) references theories put forth by Arthur Janov in The Primal Scream.

B. “Ideas as Opiates” (3:54) Ozabal titled the song after a chapter in Janov’s more recent book Prisoners of Pain.

Tears for Fears self-produced this single but subsequently re-recorded both songs with a sound team for their debut album. With its echoing layers and piano-thumping chorus, “Mad World” climbed to No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart.

The “Mad World” video takes place at Knebworth House, a Hertfordshire country house where Smith contemplates by the window at the kitchen table-side while Orzabal stands at the poolside. The camera zooms on the somber-faced Smith and cuts briefly to a birthday party hosted by his mother. Midway, Orzabal breaks into a clenched upper-body dance at the poolside (trench-coated) and in a valley (silhouetted) as Smith presses intensely against the window. Clive Richardson directed the video in sequence with clips for Depeche Mode.

Tears for Fears mimed “Mad World” in the October 14, 1982, broadcast of the BBC music program Top of the Pops, which thrice aired the clip amid autumn hits by America (“You Can Do Magic”), Blancmange (“Living On the Ceiling”), Carly Simon (“Why”), Culture Club (“Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?”), Dionne Warwick (“Heartbreaker”), Duran Duran (“Rio”), Hall & Oates (“Maneater”), The Human League (“Mirror Man”), Melba Moore (“Love’s Comin’ at Ya”), Men at Work (“Who Can It Be Now?”), Musical Youth (“Pass the Dutchie”), Olivia Newton-John (“Heart Attack”), The Pretenders (“Back On the Chain Gang”), Ultravox (“Reap the Wild Wind”), and Wham! (“Young Guns”).

Mercury also issued “Mad World” on 12″ with an alternate version of the b-side titled “Saxophones as Opiates” (3:54).

In the months that followed its initial release, “Mad World” broke Tears for Fears in Ireland (No. 6), South Africa (No. 2), and Australia (No. 12). In West Germany and New Zealand, the song peaked just outside the Top 20.


1983

Tears for Fears put the finishing touches on their debut album in January–February 1983 with producer Chris Hughes and engineer Ross Cullum. Hughes, a Liverpool native, produced the 1980 Dalek I album Compass Kum’pas and drummed for Adam & The Ants (as Merrick) on their 1980–81 albums Kings of the Wild Frontier and Prince Charming.

On January 28, Tears for Fears released “Change” as their fourth single. They mimed it on TotP, which twice aired the song amid March hits by Fleetwood Mac (“Oh Diane”), Fun Boy Three (“Tunnel of Love”), Icehouse (“Hey Little Girl”), Kajagoogoo (“Too Shy”), Madness (“Tomorrow’s Just Another Day”), and U2 (“New Year’s Day”).

For the upcoming album, Tears for Fears formed a four-piece band with drummer Manny Elias and keyboardist and longtime friend Ian Stanley. Elias partook in Neon and drummed for the pop-rock quintet Interview, which released the 1979–80 Virgin albums Big Oceans and Snakes and Lovers.


The Hurting

Tears for Fears released their debut album, The Hurting, on March 7, 1983, on Mercury and Phonogram. It features re-recordings of their first two a-sides (“Suffer the Children,” “Pale Shelter”) and both sides of the recent single (“Mad World,” “Ideas as Opiates”).

Guitarist Roland Orzabal composed all ten songs, which concern childhood trauma and the primal theories of Arthur Janov. He shares the role of lead vocalist with bassist Curt Smith, who sings the three recent a-sides and “The Prisoner.”

The album’s lead-off single (“Change”) appeared five weeks before the album, which topped the UK chart and went Top 20 in four international territories. They lifted the remade “Pale Shelter” as the second Hurting single to newfound chart success. The accompanying videos made inroads into the US market via MTV.

1. “The Hurting” (4:20) Roland
2. “Mad World” (3:35) Curt
3. “Pale Shelter” (4:34) Curt
4. “Ideas as Opiates” (3:46) Roland
5. “Memories Fade” (5:08) Roland

6. “Suffer the Children” (3:53) Roland. Roland’s wife Caroline sings the child vocal.
7. “Watch Me Bleed” (4:18) Roland
8. “Change” (4:15) Curt
9. “The Prisoner” (2:55) Curt
10. “Start of the Breakdown” (5:00) Roland

Sessions took place between autumn 1982 and winter 1983 with producer Chris Hughes and engineer Ross Cullum. Orzabal and Smith split keyboard duties and interacted with the sound team on production details.

Ian Stanley handled keyboard and computer programming while Manny Elias shared rhythm programming with Hughes, who added tuned percussion on select passages. The Hurting also features onetime King CrimsonCamel saxophonist Mel Collins and ex-Bliss Band guitarist Phil Palmer (credited with ‘Palmer picking’).

Hughes and Cullum worked on The Hurting ahead of Points On the Curve, the 1983 second album by Wang Chung.

UK and European copies sport a color version of the child face-palm image used on the 1981 original single version of “Suffer the Children.” North American and Japanese copies use the waterside image of Orzabal and Smith from the “Mad World” single, reproduced for the album in beige-white surround.

Tears for Fears lifted “Change” as the advance lead-off single with the non-album b-side “The Conflict.” Mercury also issued a 12″ version with an extended “Change” (5:54).

The Conflict” (4:02)

In the “Change” video, a somber-faced Smith sings to the camera as the green-screen pans across curtain-walled facades. Meanwhile, robed kabuki dancers join Orzabal in a procession through interior corridors and hallways.

On April 22, Tears for Fears lifted the re-recorded “Pale Shelter” as the second Hurting single backed with the non-album “We Are Broken.” The single’s 12″ EP version contains an extended “Pale Shelter” (6:41).

We Are Broken” (4:03) Tears for Fears re-recorded this song with an overhauled arrangement for their second album.

The “Pale Shelter” video opens at a poolside, where a woman dives for a swim before an alligator crawls in and swims toward her. The startled woman soars from the water as Smith lip syncs. Orzabal mimes with an acoustic guitar at a nearby tree. The video cuts between the duo and scenes of traffic controllers (street and runway) and school boys (on a soccer field; in a classroom throwing paper planes). The duo cuts walks between trees flanked with the paper planes and the runway (marked with a giant steaming iron print as a Pan Am flies overhead). Couples embrace as Orzabal grabs his acoustic from a field (strewn with paper planes) and throws it afar. The guitar takes flight and lands in the alligator’s mouth as the swimmer descends from the air.

Tears for Fears shot the video with Irish-British filmmaker Steve Barron, whose prior credits include music videos for Fleetwood Mac (“Hold Me”), Fun Boy Three & Bananarama (“It Ain’t What You Do….”), Heaven 17 (“Let Me Go”), Joe Jackson (“Steppin’ Out”), Michael Jackson (“Billie Jean”) Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (“Maid of Orleans”), and Simple Minds (“Promised You a Miracle”).

“Pale Shelter” reached No. 5 on the UK and Irish singles charts and peaked at No. 12 in Canada. Tears for Fears mimed the song on the April 28 broadcast of TotP, which also featured numbers by The Creatures (“Miss the Girl”), Cook da Books (“Your Eyes – La Boum”), David Bowie (“Let’s Dance”), Kissing the Pink (“The Last Film”), Nena (“99 Luftballoons”), and Spandau Ballet (“True”).

The Hurting reached No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart, where it displaced Thriller by Michael Jackson on the week of March 26. This was the second album (after the recent U2 release War) that momentarily unseated Jackson’s blockbuster release, which reclaimed the top spot in May after turns by Bonnie Tyler, Pink Floyd, Bowie, and Spandau Ballet.

Abroad, The Hurting reached No. 7 in Canada and peaked at No. 15 in Germany and Australia (No. 16 in New Zealand). It also reached the Dutch Top 30 and peaked in the upper-half of the US Billboard 200.


“The Way You Are”

On November 25, 1983, Tears for Fears released the non-album single “The Way You Are” backed with “The Marauders.”

A. “The Way You Are” (4:53)
B. “The Marauders” (4:14)

Mercury UK released a double-7″ version with live recordings of “Change” and “Start of the Breakdown” from their April 8 show at the Oxford Apollo. The single also appeared on 12″ with an extended version of “The Way You Are” (7:33).

“The Way You Are” peaked at No. 24 on the UK Singles Chart. Tears for Fears mimed it for TotP, which twice aired the song amid December hits by Billy Joel (“Tell Her About It”), Culture Club (“Victims”), Howard Jones (“What Is Love?”), Paul McCartney (“Pipes of Peace”), Paul Young (“Love of the Common People”), Slade (“Merry Christmas Everybody”), Thompson Twins (“Hold Me Now”), and Tina Turner (“Let’s Stay Together”).


1984


“Mothers Talk”

On August 6, 1984, Tears for Fears released “Mothers Talk” backed with “Empire Building.” Both songs make subtle use of prominent sampled sources.

A. “Mothers Talk” (3:53) culls its string introduction from an unspecified Barry Manilow song.

B. “Empire Building” (2:49) samples its drum pattern from “Today I Died Again,” a track by Simple Minds from their 1980 third album Empires and Dance.

Tears for Fears first recorded “Mothers Talk” unsuccessfully with Wessex Sound producer Jeremy Green (Death Cult, Fun Boy Three) and re-recorded the song with The Hurting producer Chris Hughes, who continued to work with the duo on their second album. The single’s picture sleeve debuts their stacked serif outline logo that appears on their four subsequent single sleeves. Mercury issued the 7″ on standard black and limited-edition green vinyl, as well as on picture-disc. In Germany, the single appeared on 12″ with the extended a-side “Mothers Talk (Beat of the Drum Mix)” (8:54).

Ian Stanley and Manny Elias join Orzabal and Smith on “Mothers Talk,” which features backing vocals by sixties soul singers Ruby James and Katie Kissoon (once known as Peanut), plus Zambian Stevie Lange (ex-Night) and English singer Nicky Holland (of the new wave auxiliary trio Ravishing Beauties).

In the original “Mothers Talk” video, Orzabal and Smith sing on a windy valley peak and cavort with a green kite. Midway, a bespectacled Orzabal sings to the lens from a bed strewn with newspaper. Onetime Stiff Records staffer Nigel Dick directed “Mothers Talk” and the subsequent four Tears for Fears videos.

“Mothers Talk” reached No. 23 in Ireland and No. 14 on the UK Singles Chart. Tears for Fears mimed “Mothers Talk” on the August 16 broadcast of TotP, which twice aired the song amid summer hits by A Flock of Seagulls (“The More You Live the More You Love”), Dan Hartman (“I Can Dream About You”), Depeche Mode (“Master & Servant”), Iron Maiden (“2 Minutes to Midnight”), Michael Jackson (“Human Nature”), The Pointer Sisters (“I Need You”), The Smiths (“William, It Was Really Nothing”), and Stevie Wonder (“I Just Called to Say I Love You”).


“Shout”

On November 23, 1984, Tears for Fears released “Shout” backed with “The Big Chair.” Roland Orzabal composed “Shout” with Ian Stanley, who produced the b-side.

Shout” (5:53)

The Big Chair” (3:20) is an instrumental with sampled dialogue from the 1976 NBC TV movie Sybil, which stars Sally Field as a young teacher who suffers from multiple personality disorder. She takes refuge in the big chair in her therapist’s office (hence the title). The soundbites involve Sybil and her father (William Prince).

“Shout” appeared in multiple durations: the original UK single version (5:53), the shorter European single edit (4:51), the longer album version (6:32), an extended 12″ version (7:35), and the later US single edit (3:59). In addition to the standard 7″ and 12″ versions, the original UK release appeared on limited-edition 10″ and box-set formats. The latter contains six calendar cards for 1985 with band photos.

The video to “Shout” takes place on the sands beside Durdle Door, a limestone arch in Dorset on England’s south coast. Orzabal and Smith walk the coastline and sing with intense expressions. Later, they join Stanley and Elias in a studio filled with children, teens, and elders.

In January 1985, “Shout” reached No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart. The song reached No. 1 in eight nations, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. It peaked at No. 2 in Italy and South Africa and No. 5 in Norway. In the US, “Shout” peaked in mid-1985 as a followup to the subsequent Tears for Fears single, which broke them stateside.


1985


Songs From the Big Chair

Tears for Fears released their second album, Songs From the Big Chair, on February 25, 1985, on Phonogram. It contains the two recent a-sides (“Mothers Talk,” “Shout”) and their eighth single “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” which broke them into the US mainstream. Side One also contains “The Working Hour,” a lavish jazz-tinged ballad first introduced in their autumn 1983 live set.

Side Two opens with “I Believe,” a stark walking-bassline number that cuts to “Broken,” an intense remake of their 1983 “Change” b-side “We Are Broken.”  In the “Broken” mid-section, a theme appears that forms the basis of “Head Over Heels,” a swelling blue-eyed soul ballad that became their third transatlantic hit. The album closes with the lengthy “Listen,” a harmonized ethereal track.

Despite its title, the album omits the recent instrumental b-side “The Big Chair.”

Guitarist–keyboardist and chief composer Roland Orzabal co-wrote “Listen” and all of Side One with keyboard Ian Stanley. Select songs feature writing contributions by bassist Curt Smith (“Head Over Heels”), drummer Manny Elias (“The Working Hour”), and producer Chris Hughes (“Everybody Wants to Rule the World”).

1. “Shout” (6:32)
2. “The Working Hour” (6:30)
3. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (4:10)
4. “Mothers Talk” (5:09)

5. “I Believe” (4:53)
6. “Broken” (2:38)
7. “Head Over Heels / Broken (reprise)” (5:01)
8. “Listen” (6:48) Soul sessionist Marilyn Davis provides the female voice.

Tears for Fears recorded Songs From the Big Chair during 1984 at Wool Hall, a 16-century building in Beckington village near Frome, Somerset. The earliest songs developed for the project were “Mothers Talk,” “Broken,” “Head Over Heels,” and “The Working Hour” — all performed on their 1984 PolyGram music video In My Mind’s Eye, culled from their December 14–15, 1983, showcase at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. “Head Over Heels” originated from the secondary theme in “We Are Broken,” hence its medley-like relationship to the Big Chair “Broken.”

Orzabal composed “I Believe” in the minimal jazz-vocal style of Robert Wyatt and first intended to pitch the song to the onetime Soft Machine frontman. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” took root in the album’s final stages when Orzabal seized on a two-chord sequence during an off-session jam. He recorded the song with Smith (vocals, synth-bass), Hughes (LinnDrum and MIDI programming), and onetime Neon guitarist Neil Taylor (also on “Broken”).

Hughes produced Songs From the Big Chair amid work with the Sheffield trio Vitamin Z on their 1984 single “Burning Flame” and 1985 album Rites of Passage. The engineer on Big Chair, Dave Bascombe, worked on earlier albums by Genesis (Duke), Level 42, Renaissance (Azure d’Or), and Tony Banks. His recent credits included titles by China Crisis, Echo & The Bunnymen (Porcupine), H2O, and It’s Immaterial.

“Shout” involved several months of studio work between Hughes and Tears for Fears, who viewed the song as Big Chair‘s centerpiece. Despite the non-inclusion of its b-side “The Big Chair,” Ozabal made the last-minute change of album title (from The Working Hour) to impart the theme of the 1976 psychological drama Sybil and the character’s comfort in the theraputic “big chair.”

Orzabal plays guitar and keyboards on Songs From the Big Chair in addition to grand piano (“I Believe”) and synth bass and LinnDrum programming (“Shout”). Smith plays bass throughout plus synth bass on “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Stanley handles additional keyboards and LinnDrum programming. Elias drums on everything apart from “Shout” (Hughs) and the Stanley-arranged “Listen.”

Big Chair features guest musicianship by onetime StackridgeKorgis keyboardist Andy Davis, who plays on “Head Over Heels” and “The Working Hour.” The latter also features veteran American session percussionist Jerry Marotta and saxophonists Mel Collins (a Hurting sessionist) and Will Gregory (also on “I Believe”).

Photographer Tim O’Sullivan took the monochrome photo of Orzabal and Smith that graces the Big Chair cover. The inner-sleeve has screen stills from the “Mothers Talk” and “Shout” videos.

On March 22, 1985, Tears for Fears lifted “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” as the album’s third single backed with “Pharaohs,” an exclusive track.

B. “Pharaohs” (3:42)

In the video to “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Smith cruises the South California desert, where he passes a toy-gun-toting Mexican boy and the Cabazon Dinosaur roadside attraction. Further moments cut between a Tears for Fears studio performance and scenes of dirt bikers, motor racers, LA freeway motorists, and a synchronised pair of tuxedoed dancers.

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” reached No. 1 in Canada and peaked at No. 2 in Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UK. On June 8, the song overtook “Everything She Wants” by Wham on the US Billboard Hot 100 and held the No. 1 spot for a fortnight before Bryan Adams took the honors with “Heaven.”

In light of this US breakthough, Mercury issued “Shout” as the second stateside Big Chair single. On August 3, “Shout” became Tears for Fears’ second No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it ousted “Everytime You Go Away” by Paul Young and crested for three weeks before Huey Lewis & The News triumphed with the Back to the Future theme “The Power of Love.”

Meanwhile, Tears for Fears lifted “Head over Heels” on June 10 as the fourth UK–European single backed with the non-album “When in Love with a Blind Man.” The a-side appeared as a “Broken”-free remix (4:14) and a 12″ ‘preacher mix’ (7:53) with the “Broken” bookends.

When in Love with a Blind Man” (2:22)

The “Head over Heels” video takes place in a library where Ozabal brings a stack of books to the counter and builds sexual tension with the bespectacled librarian (Joan Densmore). He copes with flying library cards as Stanley plays a portable keyboard at the counter and cuts off with “Yeah!” in the second verse. Smith (glasses), Elias (rabbi attire), and a chimpanzee appear as extras. The song’s climactic section plays out with group footage in a dark studio. On the final “time flies” utterance, Orzabal and the librarian appear in a domestic sepia scene as an older married couple.

“Head over Heels” reached No. 5 in Ireland, No. 8 in Canada, and No. 12 in the UK, Netherlands, and New Zealand. In the US, “Head over Heels” became the third Big Chair single in September 1985. It reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Cashbox Top 100.

On October 4, Tears for Fears released “I Believe (A Soulful Re-Recording),” a live version of the Side Two Big Chair opener. As sales of the album continued through autumn, this became its de facto fifth UK single.

To honor the Wyatt-style musical theme of “I Believe,” Tears for Fears backed the re-recording with a cover of “Sea Song,” the opening track on Wyatt’s 1974 second solo album Rock Bottom.

Sea Song” (3:52)

Songs From the Big Chair reached No. 1 in Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands and peaked at No. 2 in the UK and New Zealand. It also went Top 5 in Australia and Switzerland and reached No. 6 in Italy. Big Chair reached the Top 20 in Finland (No. 11), Japan (No. 13), Norway (No. 17), and Spain (No. 18).

In the US, Songs From the Big Chair reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200, where it ousted No Jacket Required by Phil Collins on July 13. Tears for Fears held the summit for one month before Bryan Adams took the honors with his 1984 release Reckless, which held the spot for a fortnight before Big Chair reclaimed No. 1 for a fifth and final week. Big Chair ranks No. 10 on the Billboard’s 1985 year-end chart. The Recording Industry Association of America later certified the album quintuple-Platinum with sales in excess of five million copies.


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