Tears For Fears: Songs From The Big Chair Page 2

Some of the push towards those broader strokes came from producer Chris Hughes, who Tears For Fears had re-hired after a version of 'Mothers Talk' overseen by Jeremy Green didn't hit the spot for either band or label. 'The tendency in Britain at the time was to make clever, introverted synth-pop records, and we had done that with The Hurting', Chris Hughes told Mix magazine in 2007. 'I thought Roland's songwriting was universal and that we could have a more American, if you will, type of record. The overall impression when we started Songs From The Big Chair was that it was a big record, so it felt like everything was already moving in that direction.'

Bath Time
'What he did really was try and get us out of the synthesiser rut we were in', Orzabal told Radio One. 'We wanted everything programmed. He forced me to pick up a guitar and smash the hell out of it.' Taking that advice on board, Orzabal spent a month off at home in Bath, midway through recording, writing more material. He came back to the studio with the bare bones of 'Shout', 'Everybody Wants To Rule The World' and 'I Believe'.



Ad and press shot show the duo in 1984

The first of those tracks would prove to be the Top 5 single that launched the album, after Orzabal presented keyboard player Ian Stanley and producer Chris Hughes with the chorus, and they worked up the verse and other aspects of the song in the studio. Orzabal admitted that the song's initial beat was 'stolen off a Talking Heads track from Remain In Light. It was that rhythm, plus me and a Prophet synthesiser in a big echoey room. I went into a semi-hypnotic state and "Shout"' just popped in from the ether'. The songwriter described it as the sound of The Hurting growing up.


On the cover of the 2005 DVD Scenes From The Big Chair, a video of the band originally made in 1985

World Beater
While many would take 'Shout' as the latest example of Tears For Fears' focus on the importance of emotional expression as a therapeutic tool, Orzabal pointed out that it's as much about the need to make our voices heard in the face of injustice and pressing issues, such as the growing nuclear threat that was dominating thinking at the time.


Smith at the 2016 Camp Bestival in Dorset

'I Believe' was more in line with previous themes: 'If I'm crying while I write these words, is it absurd? Or am I being real?'. The song was inspired, Orzabal has said, by 'the vulnerability of Robert Wyatt's music', to the point where 'You could almost hear him sing it'. In fact, Orzabal did consider offering it to the musician, but eventually kept it for his own band.

Yet it was the last song recorded for the album that would turn out to be its biggest hit, after a long gestation process was followed by a relatively straightforward production.


Smith sings into the mic at Rock in Rio 2017

Orzabal had played his late wife Caroline a song that then featured the line 'everybody wants to go to war', in keeping with a lyric alluding to the selfish, short-termist attitudes its author saw around him. But such a brutal slogan jarred with the sunny guitar and singalong chorus, so he didn't consider it ready for public consumption until that line was changed to something a touch more subtle.

Musical Therapy
'Everybody Wants to Rule the World' was 'probably the most straightforward recording on the record', Chris Hughes would tell Mix magazine. 'Other tracks were recorded onto two 24-tracks, then we would do edits on tape, and any piece of technology that could have gone wrong or held us up probably did.


Smith and Orzabal in a publicity shot for their 2022 album The Tipping Point

'But "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" was so simple and went down so quickly, it was pretty effortless, really. In fact, as a piece of recording history, it's bland as hell.'

As a piece of pop, though, it's sublime. And along with the rest of Songs From The Big Chair, it's among the best 42 minutes of musical therapy you're ever likely to find.