Tears for Fears
is a successful British pop band formed in the early 1980s by Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, which emerged after the dissolution of their first band, the mod-influenced Graduate
. They were initially associated with new wave and the New Romantic movements, but quickly branched out into mainstream chart success.
The duo's name is derived from the primal therapy treatment formed by Arthur Janov. During primal therapy, the patient is encouraged to cry, scream, and beat objects to express childhood, perinatal and prenatal feelings; hence the name "Tears for Fears."
Orzabal and Smith met as teenagers in their home town of Bath, England. Their first professional stint came with the band Graduate
, a Mod Revival/New Wave act drawing on the major influences of the time, including The Jam
and Elvis Costello. In 1980 Graduate
released an album, Acting My Age
, which just missed the Top 100 in the UK and performed well in Spain and in Holland.
By 1981, Orzabal and Smith wanted to focus on emulating other artists of the time, including Talking Heads
and Brian Eno. They departed from Graduate
and formed a band called The History of Headaches
, a moniker which was quickly 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.Tears for Fears
was signed to Phonogram Records UK in 1981 by A&R manager Dave Bates. Their first single as Tears for Fears
, "Suffer the Children", was released on that label in November 1981, followed by the first edition of "Pale Shelter" in March 1982.
The success came with their third single "Mad World" which hit the Top Three in the UK in December 1982. Their first album, The Hurting
, was released in March 1983. For this album (and the next), keyboard player and composer Ian Stanley and drummer Manny Elias were considered full members of the band. The album showcased synthesizer-based songs with lyrics reflecting Orzabal's bitter childhood and upbringing. The Hurting
can be considered TFF's
only true concept album, as references to emotional distress and primal therapy are found in nearly every song. The album itself charted at number one in the UK and yielded the international hit singles "Mad World", "Change" and re-recorded "Pale Shelter".
At the end of 1983 the record-company rushed out an abstract single, "The Way You Are", to keep the band in the public eye while they worked on their second album. This single was Tears for Fears'
last immersion in New Wave synthesizers and sounds. In the notes to their B-side album "Saturnine, Martial and Lunatic" they wrote that "this was the point we realized we had to change direction".
Orzabal and Smith left their preoccupation with pop psychology behind and turned their attention to the global politics of the Reagan-Thatcher era. The album that resulted, Songs from the Big Chair
(February 1985), broke free from the synth-pop mold, featuring instead an enormous, intricate sound that would become the band's stylistic hallmark. Anchored in the production team of Chris Hughes and Ian Stanley, the new Tears for Fears'
sound, which showcased the Fairlight CMI, as well as the singles themselves, helped propel Songs from the Big Chair
to quadruple-platinum sales. The album's title was inspired by the book and television mini-series Sybil
, the chronicle of a woman with multiple personality disorder who sought refuge in "her big chair".
The album was a massive success on both sides of the Atlantic and yielded the hit singles "Mothers Talk", "Shout" (number one in the U.S. and a huge hit internationally, one of the biggest of the eighties), "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" (the biggest UK hit at number two and another number one in the U.S.), "Head Over Heels" and "I Believe". Following Songs from the Big Chair
, the band went on a World Tour, with Manny Elias leaving the group shortly afterwards.
In 1986, a slightly rewritten version of one of their biggest hits was recorded and released for the British fundraising initiative Sport Aid
, a splinter project of Band Aid
in which people took part in running races of varying length and seriousness to raise more money for African projects. The slogan was "I Ran the World"; therefore, Tears for Fears
released "Everybody Wants to Run the World" (number five in the UK). They were indirectly involved in the earlier Band Aid
single, Do They Know It's Christmas? (1984), which featured a slowed down sample of "The Hurting" in the introduction.
The band also released a video collection entitled Scenes from the Big Chair,
while the first two earlier singles were re-released.
It was 1989 before the group released its third album, The Seeds of Love
, at a reported production cost of over a million pounds. Moving from various studios and using various sets of producers, the band decided to take the reins themselves. Much of the material was recorded in jam-sessions and later edited down. The length of the production left the band with lumbering 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 last of which is extremely evident in the hit single "Sowing the Seeds of Love". Another single was "Woman in Chains" (Top 20 hit in France, Italy, Netherlands, etc.), on which Phil Collins played drums and Oleta Adams — whom Orzabal would guide to a successful solo career — shared vocals. The album was a worldwide success again, even if it charted lower than its famous predecessor. The band set out on a extensive "Seeds of Love" tour sponsored by Phillips 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" deliver minor chart success.
After The Seeds of Love
, Orzabal and Smith had an extremely acrimonious falling out. Though only in their late twenties, the two had been in the musical spotlight for nearly a decade, and as individuals they were no longer the angst-ridden teenagers they had been when they met at thirteen. A break was almost inevitable. The split was ultimately blamed on Orzabal's intricate but frustrating approach to production and Smith's distaste for the pop music world. Smith had also been deeply affected by the breakdown of his marriage. The two spent much of the 1990s continuing to attack each other through the media and through their music. Orzabal kept the band name alive by releasing in 1992 the hit single, "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)", to promote the greatest hits collection Tears Roll Down
(Greatest Hits 82-92
), featuring every single to date apart from "The Way You Are" and the Sport Aid
Smith relocated to New York City and took several years to recover from the spotlight. In 1993 he recorded the album Soul on Board
. Although Smith's loyal fans enjoyed the album, Smith has said on numerous occasions that he despised it. 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 analog equipment.
From 1996 to 1998 their band, Mayfield
, performed occasional sets in clubs throughout Greenwich Village and SoHo including Brownie's, the Mercury Lounge, and CBGB. The band's name is actually a play on the name Curtis Mayfield (i.e.: "Curt is Mayfield"). As a live band, Mayfield
performed with minimal production and no commercial obligations, and Smith's sense of musicianship was rekindled for the first time since his teenage years.
Eschewing major record labels, Smith formed his own label, Zerodisc, to release Mayfield's
music, and was an early advocate of using the internet to share and distribute music outside the mainstream industry. A second album, Aeroplane
, was released in 1998, showcasing the songs written during Mayfield's
club days. Smith also took on the management or co-management of several independent bands and musicians.
In 1993, Orzabal recorded the album Elemental
together with longtime co-collaborator Alan Griffiths, and released it under the Tears for Fears
moniker. It yielded the hit "Break It Down Again" (Top 20 in UK, France, Italy, Netherlands) and was supported with a successful U.S. college tour, where "Break It Down Again" charted at Number 25.
Despite being regarded by some faithful as "an album without Smith," many found the album to be an enjoyable blend of good songwriting and creative sampling. The singles "Cold", "Elemental" and "Goodnight Song" have some chart success on both sides of the Atlantic.
Orzabal and Griffiths released another Tears for Fears
album in 1995, Raoul and the Kings of Spain
, a more quiet and contemplative work that showed a new Latin musical influence (Raoul was originally the name Orzabal's parents wanted to give him, and is also the name of one of his children). Although it continued Tears for Fears'
legacy of outstanding songwriting, big production values, and varied influences, creating an album around the theme of an exotic Spanish heritage excluded all but its main single, "God's Mistake," from any chance of commercial success. Raoul and the Kings of Spain
also included a reunion with Oleta Adams who collaborates with Orzabal on "Me and My Big Ideas".
A worldwide tour, which included a frenzied welcome in South and Latin America, had the effect of straining Orzabal's energies rather than supporting them. The release of Raoul
was delayed for nearly a year due to a last-minute switch label from Mercury to Sony , and the ensuing confusion (Mercury had already begun promotion) did not help the album's chances either. Sony responded to the lack of commercial success by ending Tears for Fears'
In 1996 a collection of TFF's
impressive b-sides, Saturnine Martial & Lunatic
, was released on Mercury. The liner notes gave fans an insight into the songwriting process as well as a rare glimpse of self-deprecating humor from TFF
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 liner notes provided rich background and new insights into the music to even longtime fans. The remastered albums also had the effect of establishing Tears for Fears
as definitive artists, helping them to escape the dreaded "80's band" moniker.
The dizzying array of record company mergers and acquisitions in the late 1990s eventually placed Tears for Fears'
back catalogue into the Universal fold.
After undertaking production work for Icelandic singer/songwriter Emiliana Torrini, Orzabal reteamed with Griffiths and recorded the album Tomcats Screaming Outside
, released on Eagle Records as a solo project, under his own name. Where TFF's
work had remained guitar-based, Tomcats Screaming Outside
showcased a completely electronic style and a darker approach. The album had the unfortunate coincidence to be released on September 11, 2001, the same day the United States experienced its worst-ever terrorist attack, and drew little notice outside TFF's
core fan base.
In 2001, routine paperwork obligations led to Orzabal and Smith's first conversation in over 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, went so well that fourteen songs were written and recorded in less than six months (by contrast, the drum track alone for "Badman's Song" on The Seeds of Love
, an eight-song album, took six weeks to record).
The ensuing album, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending
, is in many ways what The Seeds of Love
was meant to be. Like their earlier work, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending
features Tears for Fears'
hallmarks of vibrant Beatlesque
melodies, solid songwriting, and turns of phrase, but the album also has a free spirit that Orzabal and Smith would have shunned in their earlier, more serious years. This spirit is largely the work of co-writer and producer Charlton Pettus, who succeeded at the formidable task of welding Orzabal's lush songwriting with the live energy of Smith's Mayfield
shows. Indeed, one of the highest compliments paid to the album was one reviewer's comment that "John Lennon and Paul McCartney are alive and well."
The twelve-track album was scheduled for release on Arista Records in late 2003, but a label switch to New Door, a new offshoot of Universal, delayed the release until September 14, 2004. Two successful U.S. tours followed. The 2004 tour included an unrehearsed guest appearance by Oleta Adams at the Kansas City show for a performance of "Woman in Chains".Everybody Loves a Happy Ending
was released in the UK and Europe in February 2005 on Gut Records. The UK and French releases contained all fourteen tracks written and recorded during the ELAHE sessions. A tour of larger UK venues followed in April. A performance at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris recorded in June 2005, was released on CD and DVD in France and Benelux, as Secret World Live in Paris in early 2006 and became an instant bestseller. It contains one new song, "Floating Down the River."
In 2006 the classic Songs from the Big Chair
gets the deluxe treatment with additional b-sides and rarities added. An extensive booklet relates the recording of the album.
In 2003 the legacy of Tears For Fears
re-emerged with some surprise when a haunting piano cover of their debut hit "Mad World," performed by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules, reached the coveted UK Number One spot for Christmas 2003, due mainly to being featured on the soundtrack to the cult film Donnie Darko
("Head Over Heels" was also prominently used in the film.) Despite chart-topping success in the USA, Tears For Fears
had yet to reach the top spot in their native country, and the cover marked "their" first Number One. However, the coincidental timing of the Andrews/Jules single and the release of Tears for Fears'
newest album, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending
, prompted some critics to accuse the band of capitalizing on the single's success for profit, although TFF
wrote and recorded their new album before Andrews and Jules had recorded theirs.
The success of the single also led to the re-emergence of the Tears Roll Down
greatest hits album, which spent eight weeks in the UK album chart, a dozen years after its release. Criticism had been leveled at the band for the release, over the years, of numerous "greatest hits" collections, compilations, DVDs, and repackaged reissues of the same, at times without the band's knowledge.
To their credit, Universal Records reprinted the first three albums for sale in the UK in early 2004 following the success of the Andrews/Jules cover, and these sold in astonishing numbers.