Tears for Fears
Tears for Fears were always more ambitious than the average synth pop group. From the beginning, the duo of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith were tackling big subjects — their very name derived from Arthur Janov’s primal scream therapy, and his theories were evident throughout their debut, The Hurting. Driven by catchy, infectious synth pop, The Hurting became a big hit in their native England, setting the stage for international stardom with their second album, 1985’s Songs from the Big Chair. On the strength of the singles “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Shout,” the record became a major hit, establishing the duo as one of the leading acts of the second generation of MTV stars. Instead of quickly recording a follow-up, Tears for Fears labored over their third album, the psychedelic and jazz-rock-tinged The Seeds of Love. While the album was a big hit, it was the end of an era instead of a new beginning. Smith left the group early in the ’90s, and Orzabal continued with the band.
Orzabal and Smith met as children in Bath, England. Both boys came from broken homes, and Smith was leaning toward juvenile delinquency. Orzabal, however, turned toward books, eventually discovering Arthur Janov’s primal scream therapy, a way of confronting childhood fears that John Lennon embraced after the Beatles disbanded. Orzabal turned Smith on to Janov, but before the duo explored this theory further, they formed the ska revival band Graduate in the late ’70s. After releasing a handful of singles, including “Elvis Should Play Ska,” Graduate dissolved in the early ’80s, and the duo went on to form Tears for Fears, a synth pop outfit directly inspired by Janov’s writings.
Riding in on the tail end of new wave and new romantic, Tears for Fears – which featured musical contributions from former Graduate keyboardist Ian Stanley on early albums — landed a record contract with Polygram in 1982. The following year, the band released its debut, The Hurting, which became a major hit in Britain, generating no less than three Top Five hit singles. Two years later, the group released Songs from the Big Chair, which demonstrated a more streamlined and soul-influenced sound. The album became a huge hit in America, rocketing to the top of the charts on the strength of the singles “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Shout,” which both hit number one, and the number three “Head Over Heels,” which were all supported by clever, stylish videos that received heavy MTV airplay.
Instead of quickly following Songs from the Big Chair with a new record, Tears for Fears labored over their new record, eventually delivering the layered, Beatlesque The Seeds of Love in 1989. Featuring soulful vocals from Oleta Adams, who dominated the hit “Woman in Chains,” the album became a hit, reaching number eight, while the single “Sowing the Seeds of Love” reached number two in the U.S. Again, Tears for Fears spent several years working on the follow-up to Seeds of Love, during which time they released the collection Tears Roll Down: Greatest Hits 82-92. Smith left the group in 1992, making Tears for Fears’ 1993 comeback Elemental essentially a solo record from Orzabal. On the strength of the adult contemporary hit “Break It Down Again,” Elemental became a modest hit, reaching gold status in the U.S., yet was hardly up to the group’s previous levels. Smith, meanwhile, released a solo album in 1993, Soul on Board. Orzabal returned with another Tears for Fears album, Raoul and the Kings of Spain, in 1995.
In 2000, routine paperwork obligations led to Orzabal and Smith’s first conversation in nearly a decade. The two patched up their differences and decided to work together again. Fourteen new songs were written and recorded, and the ensuing album, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, was eventually released in September 2004.
By this time, the band’s earlier song “Head Over Heels”, as well as a cover of “Mad World” performed by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews, appeared in the 2001 film Donnie Darko, providing the band with some extra exposure to newer generations. The Jules/Andrews version of “Mad World” was released as a single in 2003 and became a UK number 1.
Since the reunion, Tears for Fears has been touring internationally on a semi-regular basis. In April 2010, they joined the reformed 80s pop group Spandau Ballet on their 7-date tour of Australia and New Zealand, before a 4-date headlining tour of their own in Southeast Asia (Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan) and a 17-date tour of the USA. The band, then, continued to perform small scale tours on an annual basis. In 2011 and 2012, they played dates in the US, Japan, South Korea, Manila and South America.
In May 2013, Smith confirmed that he was writing and recording new Tears for Fears material with Orzabal and Charlton Pettus. 3-4 songs were worked on in the UK at Orzabal’s home studio, Neptune’s Kitchen, in April of 2013. Further work on a new Tears for Fears album commenced in L.A. in July of 2013. In August 2013, Tears For Fears released their first newly recorded material in nearly decade, with a cover of Arcade Fire’s “Ready to Start” made available on SoundCloud. The band is currently putting the finishing touches on a new album, their first in over 17 years.