2020 ALBUM DRAFT- ROUND 1- PICK 2- ECLECTIC MUSIC LOVER SELECTS: SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR- TEARS FOR FEARS

2020 Album Draft- Round 1- Selection 2- Eclectic Music Lover selects- Songs From The Big Chair”- Tears For Fears.

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For Round One of the 2020 Album Draft, I’ve chosen one of my all-time favorite albums Songs From the Big Chair by British band Tears For Fears. Released in February 1985, it was their second album and also their most successful from both a critical and commercial standpoint. I’d first learned about them two years earlier when I heard their song “Change”, one of the singles from their excellent 1983 debut album The Hurting, on the radio. I really liked that song, but shockingly, had never heard “Mad World”, which was a huge hit in Britain, but received little airplay in the U.S. where I live.

Two years would pass before I would hear another song by them, and that was the magnificent and now classic “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, which I loved at first listen. The song was actually the third single from Songs From the Big Chair to be released (after “Mothers Talk” and “Shout”), but the first to receive radio airplay in the U.S. in the spring of 1985. For the album, Tears For Fears moved away from the predominantly synthpop feel of The Hurting, and toward a more sophisticated and fuller orchestral sound that would become their signature style – a style of music that I dearly love.

In addition to band front men Roland Orzabal on guitar and lead vocals and Curt Smith on bass and backing vocals, other working members included Ian Stanley on keyboards and backing vocals, and Manny Elias on drums and percussion. Under the guidance of producer Chris Hughes, the new Tears for Fears sound helped make Songs from the Big Chair become one of the biggest-selling albums worldwide in 1985, as well as receive near-unanimous critical acclaim.

The album was originally to be titled The Working Hour, but Orzabal fought to change it to Songs From the Big Chair, inspired by the 1976 television film Sybil starring Sally Field, about a woman with multiple personality disorder who feels safe only when she’s sitting in her analyst’s “big chair”. Orzabal and Smith have both stated that they feel each of the album’s songs had it’s own distinct personality. The album contains only eight tracks, but with five of them running more than five minutes each, it feels almost monumental in scope.

The album opens with the bombastic “Shout”, a spectacular protest anthem that makes you want to stomp your feet and pump your fists in the air. The song was a stylistic departure for Tears For Fears, with explosive percussion, screaming synths and a lengthy killer guitar solo that propelled it straight to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s arguably one of the most musically and lyrically satisfying songs ever recorded. Next up is the brilliant “Working Hour”, a dramatic song with jazzy overtones courtesy of the soulful wailing saxophone, accompanied by incredible guitar work, intense synths and resounding percussion that send chills up and down my spine.

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is an exceptional song, and perfection from start to finish. I love Orzabal’s fantastic and intricate guitar work, powerful driving rhythms, and both his and Smith’s impassioned vocals. It’s become Tears For Fears’ signature song, as well as one of the most beloved songs of the past 40 years. It ranks among my top 10 favorite songs of all time, and I never tire of hearing it. “Mothers Talk” has a progressive rock feel, with an intense galloping beat as a foundation, over which the band layers a fusillade of cinematic synths, along with a lively mix of jangly and chiming guitars, and lots of unusual sounds. They slow things down on the mysterious and jazzy “I Believe”, a live recording of their song about primal therapy. The highlights here are the haunting piano work and gorgeous sax played by Will Gregory, their touring saxophonist at that time.

Tracks 6 & 7, “Broken” and “Head Over Heels”, play like one long continuous song, with “Broken” serving as both a dramatic introduction and ending to “Head over Heels”, which is essentially a love song. Taken together, they’re a musical masterpiece as far as I’m concerned. The piano riff at the beginning of “Head Over Heels” is magnificent, and the synths, strings, guitars and percussion are all glorious. The song segues into “Listen”, an epic, nearly seven minute-long track of such incredible beauty it almost makes my heart ache. The lush instrumentals and cinematic synths are spectacular, then calm to a peaceful interlude as Curt Smith softly croons the hopeful lyrics “Mother Russia badly burned. Your children lick your wounds, your wounds. / Pilgrim father sailed away. Found a brave new world, new world. Listen...” The song ends with Orzabal and guest vocalist Marilyn Davis chanting the lines “Cumpleanos chica, no hay que ocuparse”, which roughly translates to “birthday girl, don’t worry”. They seem to be telling us that everything will work out alright (though now, some 35 years later, I’m not so sure.)

Songs From the Big Chair is one of the most beautiful and flawlessly-produced albums I’ve ever heard, and is a true masterpiece in every sense of the word.

12 responses to “2020 ALBUM DRAFT- ROUND 1- PICK 2- ECLECTIC MUSIC LOVER SELECTS: SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR- TEARS FOR FEARS

  1. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” — gives me chills every time; and I’m curious about other songs on the record. But I was unsure about purchasing the album because I dislike “Shout” (don’t hate me!) Maybe with the groove of the entire album it might grow on me? What do you think?

    • In listening to this last night for the first time in years- I knew it was good but it sounded better than ever…35 years later. Every song sounds like a hit to my ears.

  2. I had an advance look at the first six titles chosen (as probably the other writers chosen by Hans to take part did too) and this was the only one which was on my own list, though a ways down in the ten. No problem though – I’m glad others like the album as much as I do. truly a great album from start to finish, and one which holds up quite well 35 years on. By the way, for those of you who didn’t get the debut from TFF, “The Hurting”, it’s well worth a listen.

  3. Great album. I love those non-single tracks, too. A very 80’s album, but in the best way. It’s aging very well. Glad I got to hear them live a few years back; they still sound great.

  4. A massive favourite of mine! I bought it when it first came out (on vinyl obviously). “Everybody wants…’ was played on UK radio all the time when I first started dating my husband back in the day. Our song!

  5. Wonderful review of a great album from a great band, Eclectic. I recognize the songs that got airplay but not the others. I have the Seeds of Love album and love it.

  6. Great review…Great album…I started to appreciate this one much more after the 80s… I agree with introgroove…it has aged very well. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is an excellent single that is timeless.

  7. “Shout” reminds me of my late teenage and high school years. It was one of our favorite party songs that was pretty reliable in getting everybody on the dance floor.

    From today’s perspective, I feel “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” has aged better. As a huge Beatles fan, my favorite Tears for Fears tune is “Seeds of Love,” the title track from their third studio album.

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