In 1983 Tears For Fears released their debut album. The story of ‘primal scream’, unexpected success and sincere emotion.
Tears For Fears
Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith met at the end of the 1970s in Bath, Somerset, England and founded the band Graduate, which was influenced by the mod and ska revivals. It spawned an album (Acting My Age) and the single Elvis Should Play Ska (referring to Elvis Costello). In 1981 Graduate disbanded, but Orzabal and Smith kept on working together.
Particularly Orzabal decided to give more attention to his song writing skills. Orzabal and Smith decided to continue under the moniker History Of Headaches, which was probably inspired by the youth of both men, which wasn’t happy (to say the least).
At a relatively early age, Orzabal came into contact with the book The Primal Scream by psychotherapist Arthur Janov, the book that introduced Janov’s ‘primal scream’ theory. This theory states that youth trauma is best relived again in order to dissolve them by screaming them away. In 1970, that very same theory had inspired John Lennon to release his beautiful debut album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, which contains the impressive and moving Mother, in which Lennon literally screams out his deep pain and sorrow about his mother who had died way too soon.
History Of Headaches was soon renamed to Tears For Fears, a term Janov used in his books.
Another source of influence was the music of the era: Talking Heads’ Remain In Light, David Bowie’s Scary Monsters, Peter Gabriel’s third solo album (known as Melt) and the synthesizer heavy music of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Tubeway Army, Ultravox and Depeche Mode. Orzabal and Smith came into contact with Ian Stanley. Orzabal: “He was the person that really taught us the nuts and bolts of technology and recording”.
Orzabal, Smith and Stanley recorded a number of demos, that almost immediately led to a recording contract with Phonogram. Because the group wanted to use live drums, drummer Manny Elias was added to the band line-up. The four made their first proper recordings, which led to the singles Suffer The Children and Pale Shelter. The third single Mad World was an unexpected hit in the UK. Early 1983 the fourth single by Tears For Fears was released: Change, another success. Not bad for a starting band.
On March 7, 1983, The Hurting, the debut album by Tears For Fears, was released. The album contained all the previously released singles and most of their B-sides, complemented with some extra songs. Both Suffer The Children and Pale Shelter were re-recorded for the album.
The almost improbable success was continued. Within 3 weeks the album reached the first place of the UK album charts, displacing Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The album would be certified platinum.
Tears For Fears fared well in Europe’s mainland as well. Both the singles and the album sold well. No small feat considering the heavy lyrics. The album addresses lost youth, (child-)abuse, depression, pain and trauma. The album cover really says it all.
But, it still caught on, in a way both the band and the record company hadn’t anticipated. Was it because of the group’s honesty, or was it something more? Did many of the listeners recognize themselves in the music and lyrics?
Those lyrics are filled with doubt and sorrow. The opener The Hurting sets the tone dealing with (receiving) pain. The conviction of knowing something isn’t right, even though it’s being normalized by the surroundings: Is it an horrific dream? / The hurt, hurt, hurt. Huge hit and classic Mad World doesn’t lift the mood: And I find it kind of funny / I find it kind of sad / The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had. In Suffer The Children parenthood is the subject, or better, the lack thereof: He’s an only child in an only room / And he’s dependent on you.
The dark lyrics never come across as pathetic or cheap sentiment. The sincerity of the performance contrasting with the lighter musical mood probably helps a lot. Lyrics like Memories fade but the scars still linger are packaged in beautiful music and melodies.
The album was a success. It’s quite rare that the general audience is so right. The Hurting truly is a beautiful album, with great instrumentation, musical novelties and lyrics that possess true merit. The overall mood of the album moves, evokes nostalgia, but also demands repetition, a lot of repetition.
The fact this album is a debut album, makes the album even more impressive than it already is in itself. No less than 6 of the 10 songs in total, serve as classics of early 1980s music. Songs like Mad World, Pale Shelter, Suffer The Children and Change are beautiful and genuinely moving and are capable of conjuring up an entire world of their own. The fact those songs were released as singles, shows vision (and courage).
Needless to say, but The Hurting comes highly recommended!
No less than five singles are culled from this album.
- Suffer The Children
(released on October 30, 1981)
- Pale Shelter (You Don’t Give Me Love)
(released on March 29, 1982)
- Mad World
(released on September 20, 1982)
(released on January 24, 1983)
- Pale Shelter (Second Version)
(released on April 18, 1983)
All songs written by Roland Orzabal.
- The Hurting
- Mad World
- Pale Shelter
- Ideas As Opiates
- Memories Fade
- Suffer The Children
- Watch Me Bleed
- The Prisoner
- Start Of The Breakdown
The cassette version of the album contained the extra track Change (New Version).
- Roland Orzabal – vocals (The Hurting, Ideas As Opiates, Memories Fade, Suffer The Children, Watch Me Bleed and Start Of The Breakdown), background vocals, guitar, keyboards, rhythm programming
- Curt Smith – vocals (The Hurting, Mad World, Pale Shelter, Change and The Prisoner), background vocals, bass, keyboards
- Manny Elias – drums, rhythm programming
- Ian Stanley – keyboards programming, computer programming
With help of:
- Chris Hughes – rhythm programming, percussion
- Ross Cullum – jazz high, dynamic toggle (percussion)
- Mel Collins – saxophone
- Phil Palmer – Palmer picking (guitar)
- Caroline Orzabal – child’s voice on Suffer The Children
After The Hurting
Following the success of The Hurting the band was pressured into releasing a single by their record company: The Way You Are. In December 1983 the band went on tour in the UK (recordings of that tour were released on the video In My Mind’s Eye).
Early 1984 work commenced on the successor to The Hurting. In August 1984 the new single Mothers Talk was released, followed by the single Shout in November. Shout was dedicated to Janov’s theory (Shout, shout, let it all out / These are the things I can do without). It signaled the start of the international breakthrough for Tears For Fears. The song was a worldwide phenomenon.
In February 1985 the album Songs From The Big Chair was released. The sound of The Hurting was traded in for a more grand rock sound and it struck a nerve. The album was a huge success as well. Tears For Fears had turned into a super band. Subsequent singles, such as Everybody Wants To Rule The World, became huge hits as well.
While on tour the band met their hero, Arthur Janov. He was kind and invited them for lunch. That wasn’t the best of times. He had written a musical (about himself) and wanted to work with the band. The commercial idea behind it all didn’t work well for Orzabal and Smith. Orzabal: “I just walked away thinking, ‘Hmm. Never meet your heroes!'”. The status of Janov as a psychotherapist and his theories is controversial, to say the least. His theories have officially been disproved by the American Psychological Association.
In 1989 the group released their third album, The Seeds Of Love, another huge success. Upon ending the corresponding tour, Orzabal and Smith fell out and the band imploded. In 1992 the compilation Tears Roll Down (Greatest Hits 82-92) was released.
Orzabal kept on using the name Tears For Fears and released the albums Elemental (1993) and Raoul And The Kings Of Spain (1995). Both albums were less successful than the preceding albums. In 1996 the B-sides compilation Saturnine Martial & Lunatic was released.
In 2000 Orzabal and Smith reconnected, resulting in the release of Everybody Loves A Happy Ending in 2004, followed by Secret World – Live In Paris in 2006. Following re-releases of their older albums, a few tours and the release of EP’s, their album The Tipping Point finally saw the light of day in 2022.
What’s your taker on Tears For Fears and The Hurting? Let me know, it’s highly appreciated!
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Tears For Fears – The Hurting. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
Tears For Fears – Live Cologne 1983 image: youtube.com
Arthur Janov – The Primal Scream image: etsy.com
Tears For Fears – The Hurting, Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair & The Seeds Of Love images: spotify.com
Tears For Fears – Change video image: totally80s.com
Tears For Fears – The Hurting – Singles image: discogs.com
Tears For Fears – The Hurting – Gold record image: bonhams.com
Tears For Fears – 2022 image: facebook.com/tearsforfears