July , 1985
By David Huff
Tears for Fears
Tears for Fears Finally Clock in for the Working Hour
"We have never wanted to rule the world," remarked Tears for Fears co-founder Roland Orzabal, "and we are not ruling the world."
Orzabal was dead serious.
Tears for Fears may owe their current musical existence to a catchy four-minute tune, but that's as far as it goes. The only rule that Orzabal and fellow band members Curt Smith, Manny Elias and Ian Stanley reign supreme over is their musical direction and that, according to Orzabal, is to "always start over from the beginning each time. We will dismiss this album and start over again when it's time to write the next record."
Orzabal and Tears for Fears indeed will have a tough act to follow. Songs from the Big Chair, the hand's second LP, (the first one was The Hurting ), already has topped both the English and the Amen-can album charts. The group’s international hit, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," is solidly entrenched in the Top Ten where it's been up and down for a month. The follow-up single, "Shout," most assuredly will also receive the Top Ten roller coaster treatment as well. This seems to be the perfect building block of an album to create future projects from. Or is it?
“Things have to evolve in a band,” explained Orzabal. "I don't think it is a question for people to expect the same quality and excellence for a future project, just not the same kind of music. We have had a pretty jerky life so far. I mean, nothing has been smooth."
Tears for Fears was a creation that grew out of a friendship between two :hildhood friends, Orzabal and Smith. It began in Bath, England over a decade ago. Bath, a fashionable health resort 100 miles west of London, is not known for spawning musical talent, but it was here nonetheless that Orzabal and Smith saw their musical futures molded snd shaped through childhood traumas.
"My father was a bit of a monster," said Orzabal in an interview with People magazine. "My brothers and I would lie on our room at night crying because of he constant fighting between our par-ants." And Smith, his parents separated .vhen he was very young. Vandalism and. 3etty crime was a way of life before he struck a musical friendship with Orzabal. Starting off in a 60's styled band called Graduate, Orzabal and Smith split from the group when they realized their musical ambitions contrasted sharply. In 1981, Tears for Fears were born.
"We didn't take that name” replied Orzabal, “because we wanted to use it as a way to stand out from other English acts. We never thought we were competng with anybody. We were a couple of kids from Bath."
The name came from an Arthur Janov interpretation of a concept that long harbored childhood fears can be relieved emotlonally, that is, by trading one's fears for tears. Orzabal and Smith are treat believers in Janov. Some of his vork they transformed into songs on their debut LP The Hurting. The British press has written much about Smith and Orzabal's fascination with Janov's primal scream therapy and its relation to their coming from broken homes.
"Music is a direct reflection of the people that write it,” chimed in the band leader. “That in itself depends on what your perception of reality is. We are more interested in the roots of problems, and that is what we concern ourselves about with in our music. There is no great mission for us. Janov is not something to construct an album from. I mean, it is not even a very good thing to construct a press campaign out of. We have gotten a lot of flack from it, but the Janov books are Incredible and I think that everybody should read them. Reading our lyrics and reading his books really make sense."
Tears for Fears first album went virtually unnoticed in this country when it was released in 1983. A couple of singles, "Pale Shelter," and "Change," made their way into some dance clubs, but outside of England, the group was just another English techno-pop group.
The subsequent two-year hiatus between Songs From the Big Chair and The Hurting was by no means intentional on the part of the band. The confusion and pain that the initial recording created within the group left the musicians virtually directionless moving forward.
"By the end of The Hurting," recalled Orzabal, "we wanted to get completely away from rock and roll and away from music all together. We wanted to become completely arty, so we got wrapped up in our recording studio learning about reverbs and stuff like that. It was beneficial and we learned a lot, but we took so much time to learn all the elements of a recording studio, we forgot about the songs and we stopped doing records."
When the band did get around to writing music, Orzabal says they discovered the music being written was the same material they had composed for The Hurting. They were doing backing tracks of songs and found themselves in a bit of a funk they just couldn’t quite snap themselves out of. Needless to say, the period between albums was quite confusing.
The Hurting was intended to be an optimistic album that pointed out the darker side of life to people in hopes that it would encourage change. But, says Orzabal, "We didn't make it clear. On this album, we were more blatant in our statements."
And blatant they are. From "Shout," to "The Working Hour" to “Head Over Heels”, Songs From the Big Chair is sprinkled with messages whose sole intention is to make people think.
"I don't necessarily think,” revealed Orzabal, “that people should pay attention to everything we say. It depends upon how good you are as to how you get your message across. You have to be on a certain level of anything to get across what you think. The better you are at accessing your feelings, the easier it is to express from the heart your thoughts and to expose your true self. When you do that, that's when you communicate.
"When we do a concert, we expect people to enjoy themselves. Yes we want to entertain, but we don't entertain with ignorance. We aren't entertaining with stupidity when we are asking people to dance. We expect them to listen and feel the music. We also expect people to learn something in the process. Tears for Fears encompass a deeper level of thinking than most groups ask for.
"Any artist that attains a level of success in this business starts to regurgitate and they don't get better. They become one dimensional and really don't have much to say. Those are the bands that probably don't concern themselves with world problems and refuse to think. We on the other hand do."
Tears for Fears will be one of the featured superstar acts that will participate in the July 13 benefit concert for Ethiopia that's been dubbed the Live Aid show. It is expected to raise some $25 million for starving Africans. Though Orzabal believes strongly in the Ethiopian Relief Organization, he does have some reservations about a growing charity record trend that's developing in England.
"One could say that it is only in the 1980's that we can exploit the commerciality of music to a better end and that's true," he said bluntly. "What you see today is something that could have only been dreamed about in the 1960's, not actually done. I think that selling records to make money for charity is great, but it doesn't have a lot to do with music. We're starting to get a throwback on that in England right now."
Orzabal said that the No. 1 album in England right now is a charity record where the proceeds are going towards the people who suffered in a fire at the Bradford City Football Club. "Now everybody in America is saying, 'Who's Bradford City?'" mocks Orzabal.
Another record on the British charts entitled, "Ben," is sending its proceeds to a British youth to help pay for his double liver / heart transplant. "It does make you wonder, where does it all stop." said Orzabal. "It's like, why don't we all make records to sell to charity. I don't know."
Orzabal is quite forward when discussing the bands next album.
"I am not worried about the next project at all," he said sternly. "All I really know is we have to write some really good songs and everything else will take care of itself. That's what I'm the best at and it's all I have to worry about. Music is only an expression of what has been inside of me. Yes, I know that people are now paying attention to what I say, but I don't believe there's a certain purpose a musician should be obligated in fulfilling when it comes to writing music.
"Music is always growing and evolving. To a degree, you could call Tears for Fears a trend setting type of band. The thing is we are always going to be around and that system is just for the moment. We are like a hot property, an overnight success now. The same thing happened to us over in England. IThere, however, being No. 1 is not enough. You can be on top and be absolutely hated. The English are incredibly sarcastic and cynical when it comes to music. If you just want praise and to make everyone think that you are great, you come to America."
Tears for Fears are currently in the midst of a nine-month, 50-city tour. And whether Orzabal wishes to acknowledge the obvious, this exodus across the fruited plains of the country was only made possible because of a four-minute song tied around the theme of wanting to rule the world.
Orzabal admits the incredible success of that song caught the band by surprise. It has made life a lot easier both financially and musically for the band.
"'Everbody Wants to Rule the World’," conceded Orzabal, “has taken a great deal of pressure off the band. But in this business, one minute you'll be up and the next minute you'll be down. Therefore, we won't build on our present success.
"As far as money gees, it signifies achievement, that's all. It is not that important. Obviously it's good to have something to live on so that you don't have to worry about it, but I think that if you enjoy what you are doing, then the concept of money falls into place anyway: My wife and I used to live on 23 quid a week on the dole and we had a great time. I don't feel any different today than I did back then.
"Our music will always be growing, changing. I think that the better musicians are the most expressive ones like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder. That is the level I'd like to see this band get to."
But aren't you asking just a little bit too much of yourselves considering you have only two albums to your name?
"No, because it's like this,” replied the singer. “If you shoot for the stars, you’ll reach the moon. If you don’t shoot for the moon, you might never leave the planet.”