Smith and the improbably named Roland Jaime Orzabal De La Quintana met in Bath,
England during the early 1970s. Orzabal thought Smith looked 'Indian' and
vaguely interesting, whereas Smith thought Orzabal was a foreign exchange
student. Hardly the best premise for forming their first band. But they went
ahead and did so anyway.
pop music careers of Smith
and Orzabal got off to a rather poor start. The two were in a group called
Graduate, which, unfortunately, neither of them were. They wanted to become
famous pop stars, which they didn't. To this end they released a single called
'Elvis Should Play Ska', which, of course, he never did. And so, after a few
more singles and an LP, Graduate came to an end.
afterwards they met Ian Stanley at a 'vegetarian disco' who offered them the
free use of his home recording studio, where the pair wrote songs that would
later make up their first LP.
for Fears first single 'Suffer the Children' failed to make any impact on the
UK charts. But the group quickly gained popularity. And, by their third single,
'Mad World', they had hit the top 20.
the time, synth-pop duos, such as Soft Cell and Yazoo, were becoming
increasingly popular. They all looked slightly gothic, in their dyed black hair
and black clothing; and Tears for Fears were no exception, with their
characteristic dark clothes and solemn expressions. The front cover of 'Mad
World' has Smith attempting to 'stare out' some ducks in what is otherwise a
beautifully autumnal picture of a lake.
for Fears had taken their name from a chapter in Arthur Janov's book on
of Pain1; and their first
(1983), full of tortured
tales of childhood experiences on council estates in the city of Bath,
Avon, UK, was similarly inspired2.
It was this that provided an intensity to their music, which was lacking in
that of the majority of popular groups, and began to garner them a larger share
of the pop market place.
was suitably minimal for a synth-pop duo, synthesizers and drum machines
playing a major role, with relatively little guitar work from Orzabal. The
whole album sounded sparse and, in some places, incredibly stark. Other than
'Mad World', this intelligent album provided the singles 'Change', 'Pale
Shelter', and 'Suffer the Children', together with some excellent album tracks,
such as 'The Hurting, Memories Fade' and 'Start of the Breakdown', all of which
were live favourites at the time.
recording, Orzabal developed his interest in the production side of music, and
he and Smith soon bought their own studio. This led to a truly abysmal sixth
single 'The Way You Are', during the recording of which they 'forgot about the
song' (according to Orzabal), concentrating instead on creating 'interesting'
sounds. Orzabal was later quoted as saying of the track,
think this was the point at which we realised we had to change direction.
and so they did.
Songs from the Big Chair
for Fears' second album took its name from the TV mini-series Sybil, which was about a woman with
who only felt comfortable when sitting in her psychotherapists 'big chair'.
the lyrical theme of The
continued to some extent on Songs from the Big Chair, the change in production
quality was enormous. Whilst they retained use of keyboards (played in the main
by Ian Stanley), Smith and Orzabal returned to their original bass and guitar. The album
also featured the drums
of Manny Elias, pianist Nicky Holland, and the saxophone of William
entire LP sounded far more rounded than its predecessor; and, despite being
released in 1985, it is still an immensely pleasurable listening experience.
Talk', the first single from the LP, was a much more rhythm-heavy affair than
anything the group had previously done, going some way to emphasise this by
titling the remixed 12-inch 'Beat of the Drum mix'. 'Shout' was the release
that propelled Tears for Fears towards mega-stardom. It was initially just a
repeated chorus of...
Shout, shout, let it all out,
are the things I can do without,
come on, I'm talking to you,
-Orzabal/Stanley, 'Shout', 1984
the addition of another verse and the production talents of Chris Hughes (who
was also the producer and drummer for Adam and the Ants
generated a single that stayed in the UK chart for 16 weeks and reached number
four in December of 1984. This was followed by the fantastic 'Head Over Heels',
the perennial '80s disco favourite 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World', and the
soulful 'I Believe'.
Wants to Run the World' (a cunning re-title) was released in 1985 to promote
the charity fun-runs organised alongside the Live Aid concerts. This
time the single reached a mere number five, as opposed to the number two slot
reached by the original release.
The Seeds of Love
for Fears took longer to record their third album than would seem possible...
four years. This was eventually put down to Smith and Orzabal being
perfectionists, having been through a number of recording sessions and
producers, including Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, who produced most of the
Madness releases. The
resultant LP was clear evidence of Orzabal's obsessive attention to detail, his
'muso' mentality. It also featured stars like Phil Collins and Pino Palladino.
the Seeds of Love' (the first LP release) was a beautiful Beatles pastiche (Orzabal
freely admitted that it was his attempt to rewrite 'I am the Walrus') that
lyrically was inspired by the 'decadence' of the 1980s. One line was obviously
a reference to the activities of Paul Weller (who was a member of The Jam and,
during the 1980s, The Style Council), something that Orzabal and Smith clearly
found to be indicative of 'the decade that taste forgot':
out the Style, bring back the Jam.
Orzabal/Smith, 'Sowing the Seeds of Love', 1989
was to be Tears for Fears' last top ten single.
the other singles 'Advice for the Young at Heart' stands out as being sung
gorgeously by Curt Smith (Orzabal usually took the vocal duties), while 'Woman
in Chains' was used to showcase the talents of Oleta Adams, who the pair discovered
singing in a Kansas bar. She was credited as 'authenticating soul', but was not
given a label credit until the reissue of the single three years later.
Tears Roll Down
1991, Orzabal and producer Alan Griffiths remixed the B-side of 'Advice for the
Young at Heart' and released it under the name 'Johnny Panic and the Bible of
Dreams', the same as the single title. The single fared rather well in clubs
and in the UK dance singles chart.
nearly 20 years of friendship Smith and Orzabal decided they had had enough of
each other, and Smith left the group. For the remainder of Tears for Fears'
career the band was essentially Roland Orzabal working with a variety of
a way of reassuring their fans, a hasty 'best of' LP, Tears Roll Down, was released together with
another B-side remix 'Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)', this time taken from the
'Sowing the Seeds of Love' single.
quickly (for him) set to work with Alan Griffiths; and in 1993 put out Elemental, an album on which he tried
desperately to reverse the unappealing trend of The Seeds of Love. The title track was a
precursor for many a plodding indie-rock band, while the drum-orientated 'Break
it Down Again', with its accompanying tempo changes and luscious vocals, was
deservedly a top 20 single in the UK.
album, on the whole, showed a more 'rock' approach to music than had previously
been demonstrated. Indeed, on the accompanying world tour Orzabal played a
version of 'Creep' by Radiohead.
The stripped-down nature of the song proved that Orzabal understood the power
of great music and did not need the stabs of distorted guitar present on the
original. Lyrically the LP was a tirade against his former partner in crime,
virtually every song contained lines that could be interpreted as referring to
in the way you're always hiding from the light,
Orzabal/Griffiths, 'Break it Down Again', 1993
cover of The
Seeds of Love
depicted Orzabal as the sun and Smith as the moon.
your Catholic taste,
listen Mr Pessimister Pessimister,
do not relate.
Orzabal/Griffiths, 'Mr Pessimist', 1993
and best of all,
always said you were the compassionate one,
now you're laughing at the sun.
all your high class friends you think you've got it made,
only thing you made was that tanned look on your face.
used to sit and talk about primal scream,
exorcise our past was our adolescent dream.
Orzabal/Griffiths, 'Fish Out of Water', 1993
Raoul and the Kings of Spain
and the Kings of Spain was Tears for Fears' last album, and was the one where, finally,
Orzabal stopped bemoaning the past. He claimed it 'encapsulates what Tears for
Fears were on about. It was my statement, in mature form'. His opinion that it
is his finest work is, well, his opinion; but it is not an opinion shared by
was, however, a very complete album and, like The Seeds of Love, featured some star names,
but unlike The
Seeds of Love,
their talents were muted and used to good effect. There were some good songs,
such as 'God's Mistake' and 'Goodnight Song', which were both released as
singles and 'Los Reyes Catolicos', which demonstrated once again Orzabal's
talent for creating beautiful music. But the stand-out song (and Tears for
Fears' last top 40 single) was the title track, a soaring tribute to all the
musicians involved. The guitar was simple yet catchy; the drumming was spot-on,
melding perfectly with the other instruments; and the vocals sounded more
confident than ever before.
After the Tears Had Fallen
leaving Tears for Fears, Curt Smith has released two albums: 1993's Soul on Board; and in 1998, an eponymous LP
recorded with his new band Mayfield.
Do not touch either with a barge pole.
years after Raoul
and the Kings of Spain, Roland
released his first LP under his own name: Tomcats Screaming Outside. While it still contained evidence
of his muso mentality - one song even had a bass solo - with tracks like the
Led Zeppelin-esque 'Dandelion' and the Massive Attack inspired 'Under Ether',
it was a superb return to form.
Records have, since 1993's Elemental, the label's last Tears for Fears album, released
three new 'best of' compilations:
0.Saturnine Martial and
(1996) included many B-sides
and two a-sides not available on Tears Roll Down: 'Johnny Panic...' and 'The
Way You Are'.
0.The Millennium Collection (2000) contained several of
the band's better known works, along with remixes of 'Mothers Talk' and
'Change', and the B-side 'Pharaohs'.
0.The Working Hour - an
introduction to Tears
(2001) featured a few singles alongside album tracks, such as the marvelous
'The Hurting' and the appalling 'Standing on the Corner of the Third World'.
and Smith also confirmed that they had spoken to each other for the first time
in nearly ten years, and at the time of writing have written four new songs
together, which they claim will definitely be released 'at some point' in the