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, after which they cut two singles in the band 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)
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 primal therapist Arthur Janov.
They 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. Their first single, “Suffer the Children” (b/w “Wino”), appeared that November, produced by David Lord (The Korgis, Mobiles).
In early 1982, Tears for Fears partnered with producer Mike Howlett, the one-time Gong bassist who’d recently overseen recordings by Penetration, Punishment of Luxury, Fischer-Z, Athletic Spizz ’80, the Original Mirrors, and the Thompson Twins. He produced their second a-side, “Pale Shelter” (b/w the self-produced “The Prisoner”).
Their third single, “Mad World” (b/w “Ideas as Opiates”), appeared in September 1982. With its evolving, echoey layers and piano-thumping chorus, “Mad World” climbed to No. 3 on the UK singles chart.
- The Hurting (1983)
- Songs From the Big Chair (1985)
- The Seeds of Love (1989)
- Elemental (1993)
- Raoul and the Kings of Spain (1995)
- Everybody Loves a Happy Ending (2004)
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