Tears for Fears
Tears for Fears are a 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," and the content of the song "Shout."
Pre-Tears For Fears Days
Orzabal and Smith's professional music career actually started with the band Graduate. In 1980 Graduate released an album called Acting My Age. Graduate's sound was a cross between Mod Revival and New Wave. Much of their sound was similar to that of The Jam and early Elvis Costello.
Acting My Age had some success (just missing the Top 100 in the UK). Upon work on their second album, Orzabal and Smith left the group. Their reason for leaving the group was because they didn't want to be confined to a band. They formed a band called The History of Headaches which was quickly changed to Tears For Fears. The plan going forward would be that Orzabal and Smith would work in a "project" mode: In other words, Orzabal and Smith would form the nucleus and bring in surrounding musicians to help them complete the picture.
Their first album The Hurting (1983) featured synthesizer-based songs whose lyrics reflected Orzabal's bitter growing-up experiences with his parents. Its singles were "Mad World," "Change" and "Pale Shelter." A previously unheard single called "The Way You Are" was released at the very beginning of 1984 to keep the band in the spotlight while they worked on the second album. For The Hurting, keyboardist Ian Stanley and Drummer Manny Elias were considered full members of the band.
Their next album, Songs from the Big Chair (1985) - its title inspired by the 1976 US TV mini-series Sybil - broke free from the new-wave mold, featuring instead a big sound that would become the band's stylistic hallmark. Orzabal had been encouraged by producer Chris Hughes to pick up his guitar as he was a gifted player but wasn't using the instrument enough. Orzabal also took over the lion's share of lead vocal duty from Smith, who ended up with a comparative bit-part role of playing bass guitar.
The album was a massive success on both sides of the Atlantic and yielded the hit singles "Mothers Talk"; "Shout"; "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"; "Head Over Heels" and "I Believe." The album title stemmed from the B-side to "Shout," which was a song called "The Big Chair," though this song was absent from the album itself. Following "Songs From the Big Chair," Stanley and Elias would leave the group.
During 1985, a controversy broke out in regards to the band's plan to participate in Bob Geldof's Live Aid charity event. Tears For Fears was originally scheduled to perform at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, however on the morning of the historic event, July 13, 1985, it was announced that Tears For Fears had pulled out of the show. The official reason given for their non-appearance was that two of their backing musicians had quit - guitarist Andrew Saunte and saxophonist William Gregory. It was said that their contract expired. Instead, in place of appearing the band pledged to donate proceeds from their world tour played in Tokyo, Sydney, London and New York. However, six weeks later, it was revealed that the loss of the backing musicians was not the real reason for their non-appearance at Live Aid. The truth of the matter was that Orzabal questioned the practices of organizer Bob Geldof in raising money for famine relief in the first place. It was said that Geldof had actually pressured them into appearing by saying Tears For Fears would be 'responsible for the deaths of 'half a million Africans' if they did not perform. Smith responded back: "We both resented the way were made to feel guilty. Who is Bob Geldof to have the power to install guilt? I mean telling us that we personally would be held responsible for half a million lives if we didn't play..."He also hinted that we would get bad press. In my book that's blackmail" Curt fumed.
In 1986, a slightly rewritten version of their biggest hit 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." They were indirectly involved in the earlier Band Aid single Do they know it's Christmas? of 1984 which featured a slowed down sample of Mad World in the introduction.
It was 1989 before the group released its third album, The Seeds of Love, at a reported production cost of over a quarter of a million dollars. 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," on which Phil Collins played drums and Oleta Adams — whom Orzabal would guide to a successful solo career — shared vocals.
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 13. 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. The two spent much of the 90s continuing to attack each other through the media and through their music.
Curt Smith 1990s
Smith relocated to New York City and took several years to recover from the spotlight. In 1993 he recorded a "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. 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.
Breaking It Down Again
In 1993, Orzabal recorded the album Elemental in collaboration with longtime co-collaborator Alan Griffiths, and released it under the Tears for Fears moniker. It yielded the radio hit "Break It Down Again" and was supported with a successful US college tour.
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.
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.
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' contract.
In 1996 a collection of TFF's impressive b-sides, Saturnine Martial and 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 humour 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. As with Saturnine, the liner notes provided rich background and new insights into the music to even longtime fans. The remasters 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. As fate would have it, the album had the bad luck to be released on September 11, 2001, 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 melding 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. A successful US tour followed.
Everybody Loves a Happy Ending was released in the UK and Europe in February 2005 on Gut Records. The UK release contained all fourteen tracks written and recorded during the ELAHE sessions. A tour of larger UK venues followed in April.
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 1 spot for Christmas 2003, due much in part to being featured on the soundtrack to the cult film Donnie Darko. 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 1. 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 Tears for Fears' greatest hits album, Tears Roll Down, released in 1992, to spend eight weeks in the UK Top 40 a full twelve years after its release.
Adding to that criticism of the band has been the fact that over the years, branches of Universal Records have released numerous "greatest hits" collections, compilations, DVDs, and repackaged reissues of the same, at times without the band's knowledge.
To their credit, Universal 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.
- The Hurting 1983 Mercury; #1 UK, #73 US, #21 NL
- Songs from the Big Chair 1985 Mercury; #2 UK, #1 US, #2 NL
- The Seeds of Love 1989 Fontana; #1 UK, #8 US, #2 NL
- Tears Roll Down (Greatest Hits 82-92) 1992 Fontana; #2 UK, #53 US, #7 Germ., #15 NL
- Elemental 1993 Mercury; #5 UK, #45 US, #26 Germ., #22 NL
- Raoul and the Kings of Spain 1995 Epic; #41 UK, #79 US, #50 NL
- Saturnine Martial & Lunatic 1996 Mercury
- Everybody Loves a Happy Ending 2004 New Door / 2005 Gut Records; #45 UK (2005 release), #46 US, #28 France (2005 release), #35 Germ. (2005 release)
The Mercury released singles all had the catalogue prefix IDEA, obviously taken from the song "Ideas As Opiates", from The Hurting.
- "Suffer The Children" (1981, IDEA1) / re-released in 1985 in the UK
- "Pale Shelter (You Don't Give Me Love)" (1982, IDEA2) / re-released in 1985 in the UK
- "Mad World" (1982, IDEA3) #3 UK, #39 Germ.
- "Change" (1983, IDEA4) #4 UK, #73 US
- "Pale Shelter" (1983, IDEA5) #5 UK
- "The Way You Are" (1983, IDEA6) #24 UK
- "Mothers Talk" (1984, IDEA7) #14 UK, #27 US (1986 release)
- "Shout" (1984, IDEA8) #4 UK, #1 US (1985 release), #1 Australia, #1 Germ., #2 Italy, #1 NL
- "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" (1985, IDEA9) #2 UK, #1 US, #11 Germ., #2 NL
- "Head over Heels" (1985, IDEA10) #12 UK, #3 US
- "I Believe (A Soulful Re-Recording)" (1985, IDEA11) #23 UK
- "Everybody Wants to Run the World" (1986, RACE1) #5 UK
- "Sowing the Seeds of Love" (1989, IDEA12) #5 UK, #2 US, #11 Germ., #2 Italy, #3 NL
- "Woman in Chains" (1989, IDEA13) #26 UK, #36 US, #12 NL
- "Advice for the Young at Heart" (1990, IDEA14) #36 UK, #14 NL
- "Famous Last Words" (1990, IDEA15)
- "Johnny Panic and The Bible of Dreams" (1990, PANIC1)
- "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)" (1992, IDEA17) #17 UK, #40 Germ., #26 NL
- "Woman in Chains (reissue)" (1992, IDEA16)
- "Break It Down Again" (1993, IDEA18) #20 UK, #25 US, #16 NL
- "Cold" (1993, IDEA19)
- "Goodnight Song" (1993)
- "Elemental" (1994)
- "Raoul and the Kings of Spain" (1995) #31 UK
- "Secrets" (1995)
- "God's Mistake" (1996) / released in 1995 in the US
- "Closest Thing to Heaven" (2005) #40 UK, #38 NL
- "Everybody Loves A Happy Ending / Call Me Mellow (2005)
- List of number-one hits (United States)
- List of artists who reached number one on the Hot 100 (US)
- List of number-one dance hits (United States)
- List of artists who reached number one on the US Dance chart
- Tears for Fears
- Memories Fade: a multimedia Tears for Fears archive & information center
- Official web site for Curt Smith
- Official Tears For Fears Fan Site
- GigaFoto - Pictures
- Tears For Fears InfoCenter
- Tears For Fears Lyrics