Before sitting down to write this blog, I couldn’t tell you the last time I listened to Songs From The Big Chair. It’s been more than ten years for sure, probably much more than that. But I recently saw Tears for Fears on Jimmy Kimmel Live and was very impressed and excited to see them, so I knew my next blog would have to be about this amazing album.
As soon as I placed the needle on the vinyl and heard the opening to “Shout,” I was reminded of why I loved this band in the 80s. I felt so happy to hear it. I also realized how much of that big, booming, powerful sound Tears for Fears shares with Oasis, one of my favorite bands of all time. I don’t know how much Oasis may have been specifically influenced by Tears for Fears, but I definitely hear it all these years later. It’s just one more way that all the artists I love have not only influenced me but are connected with one another, whether they know it or not.
I was in 6th grade when this album was released, and I loved Tears for Fears right away. I had no idea back then that any of these songs were as deep as they are. It’s obvious to me now that they had a message, that there was social criticism in so many of their songs. We were still dealing with Cold War bullshit in 1985. Reagan and Thatcher ruled the world. The rich were getting richer, the poor were getting poorer. There was a lot of bad stuff going down, lots of excess and craziness that Wall Streeters and the like thought was progress. Meanwhile, my friends and I were wearing fluorescent shirts, watching MTV every day, and worrying about math quizzes.
In violent times, you shouldn’t have to sell your soul
In black and white, they really, really ought to know
Those one track minds that took you for a working boy
Kiss them goodbye, you shouldn’t have to jump for joy
You shouldn’t have to
Shout, shout, let it all out,
These are the things I can do without
Come on, I’m talking to you, come on
This is an entirely commanding composition. Some of it sounds a little dated, but it’s very difficult to not feel moved when you hear it. This is the kind of song you feel, not just hear. It’s anthemic. It’s generation-defining. It’s larger than life. Roland and Curt’s vocals are perfection.
“The Working Hour” is a jazzy little piece of heaven. It was never a single, and it sounds a bit more 80s than much of the album—but I don’t mean that as an insult. I don’t know why it was never used in a John Hughes film.
“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is another one of those sweeping, anthemic songs that you just have to crawl inside of and let take you on a beautiful ride.
Welcome to your life
There’s no turning back
Even while we sleep
We will find you
Acting on your best behavior
Turn your back on mother nature
Everybody wants to rule the world
I remember this song being on the radio constantly and being quite excited whenever I heard it. I somehow felt like it was my song, and I don’t mean that I wanted to rule the world (at that time I was still planning on being a rock star and/or a DJ); it felt like a gift to me, like there was something special in it just for me. It’s at once a gigantic piece of work and very personal.
I had forgotten about “Mothers Talk” until just now. It starts off like the theme music to a gritty 1970s movie about a crooked cop, but then that glorious 80s-ness kicks in. And boy, is that fucking delicious!
“I Believe” is a wonderful little gem, a song that must be quite spectacular to hear performed live. “Broken” is sort of an intro to “Head Over Heels.” It’s got a big job.
“Head Over Heels” is another one of the big hits from this album. The video cracks me up because of the card catalogue—for you kids out there, a card catalogue was the Google of its day. Roland’s voice is really gorgeous on this song. I mean, he has one of the greatest voices from the past 30 years, but I really dig it on this song especially.
“Listen” reminds me of Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds,” but that is all right. It’s a softer song, something you could hear in the background of some really dramatic scene in a movie. I think it’s a lovely way to end an album like this.
Tears for Fears had their moment in the mid-80s, and I am so glad I was part of it. Their music is still relevant and formidable today. There was a lot of throwaway music in the 80s, and there’s even more of it right now. But the music that Tears for Fears gave us in 1985 is not that kind. It sticks with you, it gets into your soul. Even though I was a kid when I first listened to them, I can hear them now and still feel the unbridled happiness and inspiration I did then.