#22 On My Player
Tears for Fears are a British pop rock duo formed in the early 1980s by Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith.
Founded after the dissolution of their first band, the mod-influenced Graduate, they were initially associated with the New Wave synthesizer bands of the early 1980s but later branched out into mainstream rock and pop, which led to international chart success.
The band have sold more than 22 million albums worldwide (including over 8 million in the United States alone).
Orzabal and Smith met as teenagers in their home city of Bath, England. The duo became session musicians for the band Neon, where they first met future Tears For Fears drummer Manny Elias. Neon also featured Pete Byrne and Rob Fisher who went on to
By 1981, Orzabal and Smith were becoming more influenced by artists such as Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno. They departed from Graduate and formed a band called History of Headaches, a moniker which was then changed to Tears for Fears. The plan was for Orzabal and Smith to form the nucleus of the group and bring in surrounding musicians to help them complete the picture.
The band's name was inspired by Primal Therapy, developed by the American psychologist Arthur Janov, which gained tremendous publicity after John Lennon became Janov's patient in 1970. In a 2004 interview with VH1 UK, Orzabal and Smith said that when they finally met Janov in the mid-80s, they were disillusioned to find that he had become quite "Hollywood" and wanted the band to write a musical.
Tears for Fears were signed to Phonogram Records, UK in 1981 by A&R manager Dave Bates. Their first single as Tears for Fears, "Suffer the Children" (produced by David Lord), was released on that label in November 1981, followed by the first edition of "Pale Shelter" (produced by Mike Howlett) in March 1982.
The album, produced by Chris Hughes and Ross Cullum, showcased synthesizer-based songs with lyrics reflecting Orzabal's bitter childhood and upbringing. The Hurting may be considered Tears for Fears' only true concept album, as references to emotional distress and primal scream therapy are found in nearly every song. The album itself was a big success and had a lengthy chart run (65 weeks) in the UK, where it reached no. 1 - also reaching the Top 20 in several countries and yielded the international hit singles "Mad World" (top 5 hit in South Africa), "Change" (top 40 hit in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands and South Africa), and a re-recorded version of "Pale Shelter" (all of which were Top Five in the UK).
Towards the end of 1983 the record company released a new, slightly more abstract single, "The Way You Are", to keep the band in the public eye while they worked on their second album. The single was a top 30 hit in the UK, but did not come close to matching the success of their three previous hits, despite a national concert tour in December of that year (captured on the "In My Mind's Eye" live video release). The single, which heavily featured sampling and programmed rhythms, led to a departure in Tears for Fears' musical approach. In the liner notes to their 1996 B-sides album Saturnine Martial & Lunatic they wrote that "this was the point we realised we had to change direction", although the somewhat experimental style of the single continued to be reflected to some extent in their forthcoming B-sides.
A change of direction was initially instigated as they began working with a new producer, Jeremy Green, on their new single "Mothers Talk" in early 1984, but the band were ultimately unhappy with the results and so producer Chris Hughes was brought back into the fold and the "Mothers Talk" single reproduced for release in August 1984. A distinct departure from their earlier works, the single became a top 20 hit in the UK, but it was the follow-up single "Shout" (released in the UK in November 1984) that was the real beginning of the band's international fame.
This top 5 hit paved the way for the second album Songs from the Big Chair (released in February 1985), which entered the UK album chart at no.2 and remained in the upper reaches of the chart for the next 12 months. They did away with the predominantly synth-pop feel of the first album, instead expanding into a more sophisticated sound that would become the band's stylistic hallmark. Anchored around the creative hub of producer Hughes, Stanley and Orzabal, the new Tears for Fears sound helped to propel Songs from the Big Chair into becoming one of the year's biggest global sellers, eventually being certified triple-platinum in the UK and quintuple-platinum in the U.S. (where it remained the #1 album for five weeks in the summer of 1985)
The album's success was in conjunction to the array of hit singles it yielded: "Mothers Talk" (the first to be released in the UK, but the last to be released in the US in a completely re-recorded form), "Shout" (#4 UK, #1 in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, etc., and a huge hit in other territories, in fact one of the biggest of the 1980s), "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", (their biggest UK and Irish hit at #2 and another #1 in the U.S. and in Canada), "Head over Heels" (UK #12, US #3, Ireland #5, Canada #8) and "I Believe (A Soulful Re-Recording)" (UK #23 and Ireland #10). Some territories even saw the release of limited edition 10" singles for these hits, in addition to the regular 7" and 12" formats.
Following the album's release, the band went on a world tour that lasted most of the year. During this tour, Orzabal and Smith discovered an American female singer/pianist, Oleta Adams, who was performing in a Kansas City, Missouri hotel bar, and whom they invited to collaborate on their next album.
The album's title was inspired by the book and television miniseries Sybil, the chronicle of a woman with multiple personality disorder who sought refuge in her analyst's "big chair", Orzabal and Smith stating that they felt each of the album's songs had a distinctive personality of its own. The band had a song entitled "The Big Chair" which they had put on the B-side to "Shout" but decided not to include on the album. They also released a video collection/documentary entitled "Scenes from the Big Chair" the same year, while their first two earliest singles were re-released, both reaching the UK Top 75. In 1986, upon completion of the lengthy and exhausting Big Chair world tour, Manny Elias left the group.
In 1986, Orzabal and Stanley collaborated together on a side project named "Mancrab". They released one single, "Fish for Life", which was written for the soundtrack of the film The Karate Kid, Part II. The track was written and produced by Orzabal and Stanley, and featured vocals by US singer/dancer Eddie Thomas.
It was 1989 before the group released their third album, The Seeds of Love (on which Ian Stanley appeared for the last time as a TFF member), at a reported production cost of over a million pounds. The album was written largely by Orzabal along with keyboardist Nicky Holland, who had toured with the band on their global 1985 "Big Chair" tour. Moving from various studios and using various sets of producers over many months, the band ultimately decided to scrap that previous work and take the reins themselves with assistance from engineer David Bascombe. Much of the material was recorded in jam sessions and later edited down. The length of the production left the band with towering debt and a record company eager to cash in on lost earnings. The album retained the band's epic sound while showing increasing influences ranging from jazz and blues to The Beatles, the latter being evident on the hit single "Sowing the Seeds of Love" the first record ever played on Atlantic 252, the UK and Ireland longwave radio station. The second single from the album was "Woman in Chains" (a Top 30 hit in the UK, in France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and Top 40 in the US), on which Phil Collins played drums and Oleta Adams — whom Orzabal would later guide to a successful solo career — shared vocals. The album was a worldwide success, entering the UK album charts at no. 1, making the Top 10 in the US (though charting lower there than its multi-platinum predecessor) and in numerous other countries, eventually going on to sell millions of copies worldwide. The band set out on an extensive "Seeds of Love" world tour sponsored by Philips to start recovering the debt incurred. The show would be captured on the "Going To California" video as the singles "Advice For The Young At Heart" and "Famous Last Words" delivered modest chart success.
A 64-page companion book, simply titled "Tears for Fears - The Seeds of Love", was released by Virgin Books in 1990 and offered extensive insight from Orzabal, Holland and Adams into the songwriting and production process for the album, as well as the musical scores for each track and rare promotional photographs from the era.
After The Seeds of Love, Orzabal and Smith had an acrimonious falling out and parted company in 1991. The split was blamed on Orzabal's intricate but frustrating approach to production and Smith's desire to slow down the pace of their work. Prior to The Seeds of Love, Smith had also been deeply affected by the breakdown of his marriage to Lynn Altman, whom he had met in his teens. Orzabal kept the band name alive by releasing the 1992 hit single "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)" in order to promote the greatest hits collection Tears Roll Down (Greatest Hits 82-92) which featured every single to reach the Top 20 either in the UK or internationally, apart from the Sport Aid fundraiser.
Smith relocated to New York City, and in 1993 he released his first solo album, Soul On Board. The album was a commercial failure and Smith himself has said on numerous occasions that he despised it, alleging that he only made it in order to fulfill his recording contract. In 1995 he met local songwriter and producer Charlton Pettus. The two formed a self-described "organic" partnership, writing simple, melody-based songs and recording them at home on vintage analogue equipment. The result was released under the name Mayfield and a short US tour followed.
In 1993, Orzabal (still under the name Tears for Fears) released the album Elemental together with longtime collaborator Alan Griffiths and co-producer Tim Palmer. It yielded the international hit "Break It Down Again" (Top 20 in the UK, France, Italy, etc.) and was supported with another successful world tour, including a college tour of the U.S. where "Break It Down Again" reached #25.
The album was a Top 5 hit in the UK and France, and Top 30 in several other countries. Although it charted considerably lower in the US than the previous two studio albums (#45), it was still earned a Gold disc there for sales of over half a million copies. The singles "Cold (Tears for Fears song)Cold", "Elemental" and "Goodnight Song" met with minor chart success in certain territories.
Orzabal, still working with Griffiths and Palmer, released another Tears for Fears album in 1995, Raoul and the Kings of Spain. This was a more contemplative work that delved into his own Spanish heritage and showed a new Latin musical influence (Raoul was originally the name Orzabal's parents wanted to give him, and is also the name of his own first son). Orzabal stated that it was not a concept album but that there was a theme, namely that of familial relationships. The album was not a commercial success by Tears for Fears standards, though minor chart success came via the single release of the title track (top 40 in the UK) and (to a lesser extent) the single "God's Mistake". Raoul and the Kings of Spain also included a reunion with Oleta Adams who collaborated with Orzabal on the track "Me and My Big Ideas".
A worldwide tour, which included a frenzied welcome in Latin America, had the effect of straining Orzabal's energies rather than supporting them. Conspicuously, Orzabal declined to tour his native UK this time but performed a single show in London. The release of Raoul was delayed for nearly a year due to a last-minute label switch from Mercury to Epic, and the ensuing confusion (Mercury had already begun promotion) did not help the album's chances either. Although the tracklisting for the album had been changed at the record company's request, Sony did not extend Tears for Fears' contract following the album's release.
In 1996 a B-sides collection, Saturnine Martial & Lunatic, was released on Mercury, which included B-sides and some rare tracks from the successful 1982-93 period. The liner notes, written by Orzabal and Chris Hughes, gave fans an insight into the songwriting process as well as a rare glimpse of self-deprecating humour regarding the tracks which they would rather forget.
In 1999, Mercury Records released remastered editions of Tears for Fears' first three albums which included B-sides, remixes, and extended versions. Supervised by producer Chris Hughes it proved to be a meticulous effort bringing new clarity to the recordings. As with Saturnine, the new liner notes for each album provided rich background details and new insights into the music for even longtime fans. The remasters also had the effect of establishing Tears for Fears as definitive artists, helping them to escape the dreaded "80s band" stereotype.
Due to record company mergers and acquisitions in the late 1990s, Tears for Fears' back catalogue was eventually placed into the Universal Music fold.
After undertaking production work and some songwriting for Icelandic singer/songwriter Emiliana Torrini on her 1999 album Love in the Time of Science, Orzabal reteamed with Griffiths and released the album Tomcats Screaming Outside, released on Eagle Records as a solo project under his own name. Whereas Tears for Fears' work had become guitar-based, Tomcats Screaming Outside showcased a predominantly electronic style and a darker approach. The album was released in April 2001 in the UK and Europe, but had the unfortunate coincidence to be released on September 11, 2001 in the US, the same day the United States experienced its 9/11 terrorist attack, and ultimately drew little notice outside the group's core fan base.
In 2000, routine paperwork obligations led to Orzabal and Smith's first conversation in almost a decade. The two patched up their differences and Orzabal flew to Smith's home in Los Angeles for what they assumed would be a hesitant attempt at songwriting.
The songwriting sessions, which included Charlton Pettus, Smith's collaborator since the mid-1990s, went so well that fourteen songs were written and recorded in less than six months. The ensuing album, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, is similar to The Seeds of Love, featuring vibrant Beatlesque melodies, solid songwriting, and turns of phrase.
The twelve-track album was scheduled for release on Arista Records in late 2003, but a change in management at Arista led to a last-minute label switch to New Door, a new offshoot of Universal, and delayed the release until September 14, 2004. Two U.S. tours followed, and the 2004 tour included an unrehearsed guest appearance by Oleta Adams at the Kansas City show for a performance of "Woman in Chains". The song "Who Killed Tangerine?" was used in the movie Fever Pitch.
Everybody Loves a Happy Ending was released in the UK and Europe in March 2005 on Gut Records, shortly after the comeback single "Closest Thing To Heaven" became the first Tears for Fears UK Top 40 hit in a decade. The promo video for the single was a colourful fantasy, featuring Hollywood actress Brittany Murphy riding in a hot air balloon. The European releases of the album contained all fourteen tracks written and recorded during the ELAHE sessions. A brief tour of larger UK venues followed in April.
In 2005, the band began discussions for the release of a comprehensive anthology of their work to date, including a new track entitled "Floating Down The River". However, the subsequent release was a compilation issued as part of Hip-O's generic "Gold" series.
A performance at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, recorded in June 2005, was released on CD and DVD in France and Benelux. Entitled Secret World - Live in Paris, it was released on the XIII Bis label in early 2006 and became a bestseller, with over 70,000 physical copies sold in addition to downloads. The CD contained the aforementioned new studio song, "Floating Down the River", and a remastered Mayfield track, "What Are We Fighting For?". The relationship with XIII Bis proved so successful that Smith chose the comparatively small French label to release his 2007 solo album, Halfway, Pleased.
In 2006, the Songs from the Big Chair album got the deluxe treatment with additional B-sides and rarities added, expanding further than the 1999 remastered version. The release did not include the lyrics as the artists had intended with the original release, but came with a 24 page booklet including rare photographs and newly written liner notes. The two-disc set contained four sections, including one with the album taken from the original remasters from 1999. It also included the piano version of "The Working Hour" which had previously only been available as a rare promotional item, as well as numerous B-sides and the 7" versions of the singles (including the aforementioned "The Way You Are" and the 1986 U.S. remix of "Mothers Talk"). The last section highlighted the true effect of five remixes, a common practice in the mid 1980s, heavily reliant on sequencers, sampling and programming.