Let it all out…”
There are some bands that are easy to categorize by genre, or even sub-genre – perhaps never more so than the early 80s. If you weren’t defined as “synth rock” or “new wave,” you were probably exploring “adult contemporary” or “pomp rock.” But for one particular band, Tears For Fears, definitions don’t come easy. They might have fallen into any of the aforementioned categories, or, perhaps they simply created their own. One thing is for certain; their original sound and songwriting skills made them on of the most successful and popular bands to emerge from the era.
The relationship between the two founders, Roland Orzabel and Curt Smith, was forged in childhood by their similar circumstances. Both were desperate to escape their broken and bitter family homes and both had turned to music to provide solace. They originally lent their talents to a ska band called Graduate, but soon decided to create a new group that would draw from their shared musical influences such as Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno and Talking Heads. They grabbed a few more musicians to round out the group and the result was Tears For Fears. Signed to Phonogram Records in 1981, they released The Hurting in 1983, and the result was a number of hits, most notably “Mad World” which went all the way to #3 on the British charts. The album would stay on the charts for 65 weeks, where it reached #1 in England and the Top-20 in various other countries.
Although these successes were impressive for a new band, 1985 would be the year that Tears For Fears really broke through, becoming internationally famous. The album Songs From the Big Chair was an impressive undertaking, with their usual synth-laden sound now accentuated by acoustic piano and plenty of guitars. And the effort paid off with a pair of chart-smashing #1 hits, “Shout,” with its machine-like pulsing chorus and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” an ethereal, driving shuffle. Another track, “Head Over Heels” would chart at #3. Combined with the significant exposure provided by regular rotation videos on the newly emerging MTV, Tears For Fears were soon legitimate stars and proved themselves a force to be reckoned with.
Not one to rush things, however, it would be another 3 years before the band released a follow-up album, Sowing the Seeds of Love. And indeed the album was a labor of love, utilizing four producers working in nine recording studios, it’s price tag would exceed a million dollars to create. The result of these ambitious endeavors was an album that pulled from a wide array of influences, from jazz to The Beatles, most notably in the title track, which would earn a #2 spot on the charts. Another song, Women in Chains” featuring the soulful voice of guest artist Oleta Adams also made it into the Top-10.
A creative fracture occurred within, shortly after the release of Sowing the Seeds of Love, when Curt Smith decided to depart the band (and eventually form the group, Mayfield.) Orbizal kept Tears For Fears alive on his own, with the band releasing Elemental in 1992, featuring the Top-30 hit, “Break It Down Again.” The band followed up with the latin-flavored, Raoul and the Kings Of Spain in 1995, but the album was critically panned and failed to produce a hit. It seemed that things might be over for Tears For Fears.
A chance meeting between Orzibal and Smith in 2000, however, led to a reconciliation of differences and a reunion. Back in the studio again, they produced 14 songs together, collectively called Everybody Loves a Happy Ending which was released in 2004. The album would feature a comeback single, “Closest Thing to Heaven” which became a Top-40 hit in Great Britain, the band’s first in over a decade. Tours followed, as well as a live album in 2005, Secret World Live In Paris. And as of 2010, the band was still touring and delighting fans around the world.
If Tears for Fears holds a special place in your heart, having helped to provide much of the the soundtrack for your 80s memories, we welcome your thoughts in our comments section.