Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Tears for Fears: A Retrospective, 1978-2022

Tears for Fears

A Retrospective: 1978-2022


Tears for Fears is a new wave group from Bath, England, which formed in 1981. Band members Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, both from broken homes, met as kids. The pair helmed three albums as Tears for Fears in the 1980s before Curt Smith departed. Orzabal continued the band for two more albums, although they were effectively solo projects at that point since there were no other members from the ‘80s heyday. They reunited for 2004’s Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, but then went on another lengthy hiatus, only releasing an EP in 2014 and a couple of new songs on a 2017 compilation before finally reconvening for 2022’s The Tipping Point.

The Players:

  • Roland Orzabal (vocals, guitar, keyboards, rhythm programming, songwriting: 1981-1995, 2004, 2013-14, 2017, 2022). Born 8/22/1961 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England.
  • Curt Smith (vocals, bass, keyboards, songwriting: 1981-1990, 2004, 2013-14, 2017, 2022). Born 6/24/1961 in Bath, Somerset, England.
  • Ian Stanley (keyboards and computer programming: 1981-90)
  • Manny Elias (drums, rhythm programming: 1981-86)
  • Nicky Holland (keyboards: 1984-86)
  • Alan Griffiths (guitars, keyboards, songwriting: 1993-95)
  • Tim Palmer (instruments, production: 1993-95)
  • Jebin Bruni (Hammond organ: 1995)
  • Gail Ann Dorsey (bass: 1995)
  • Brian MacLeod (drums: 1995)
  • Jeffrey Trott (guitar: 1995)
  • Mark O’Donoughue (backing vocals: 1995)

On the Web:


Spotify Podcast:

Check out the Dave’s Music Database podcast Tears for Fears: The Best of. It debuted February 22, 2022 at 7pm CST. Tune in every Tuesday at 7pm for a new episode based on the lists at Dave’s Music Database.


The Studio Albums:

In addition to Tears for Fears’ albums, this includes solo works by Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal. Hover over an album cover to see its title and year of release. Click on the album to go to its dedicated DMDB page.


Under each album snapshot, songs featured on the anthologies are noted. If the song charted, the date of the song’s release or first chart appearance and its chart peaks are noted in parentheses. Click for codes to singles charts.

Graduate: Acting My Age (1980):

Before forming Tears for Fears, Orzabal and Smith were in the ska-revival band Graduate from 1978 to 1981. The name came from the Dustin Hoffman movie The Graduate. They released one album and a few singles and started work on a second album that was never finished.

  • Elvis Should Play Ska (3/80, --)
  • Ever Met a Day (5/80, --)

Tears for Fears The Hurting (1983):

After Graduate, Orzabal and Smith formed Tears for Fears, a snyth-pop group who “were initially associated with new wave and the New Romantic movements, but quickly branched out into mainstream chart success.” WK The band’s name and first album were inspired by Arthur Janov’s primal scream therapy, which advocated for patients screaming, crying, and beating objects during therapy to express childhood feelings. The “lyrics reflected Orzabal’s bitter growing-up experiences with his parents.” WK

  • Suffer the Children [3:51] (11/2/81, 52 UK) SV
  • Pale Shelter [4:24] (3/31/82, 4 CO, 5 UK, 12 CN) TR, SV, RW
  • Mad World [3:46] (9/20/82, 2 CO, 3 UK, 12 AU) TR, SV, RW
  • Change [4:14] (1/24/83, 73 US, 22 AR, 6 CO, 4 UK, 23 CN, 29 AU) TR, SV, RW

Tears for Fears Songs from the Big Chair (1985):

For Songs from the Big Chair, Tears for Fears “broke out of the new wave mold; featuring instead” WK “a more streamlined and soul-influenced sound” STE “that would become the band's stylistic hallmark.” WK “Orzabal also took over the lion's share of lead vocal duty from Smith.” WK They shot to international success on the strength of #1 U.S. hits Everybody Wants to Rule the World and Shout.

  • Mother’s Talk [5:08] (8/6/84, #27 US, #14 UK, #87 CN) TR, SV, RW
  • Shout (11/19/84, 13 US, 12 CB, 13 RR, 6 AR, 1 CO, 4 UK, 12 CN, 11 AU) TR, SV, RW
  • Everybody Wants to Rule the World [4:13] (3/16/85, 12 US, 12 CB, 12 RR, 12, 2 AC, 2 AR, 1 CO, 2 UK, 11 CN, 2 AU) TR, SV, RW
  • Head Over Heels [5:24] (6/85, #3 US, #7 AR, #12 UK, #8 CN) TR, SV, RW
  • I Believe [4:57] (9/85, #23 UK) TR, SV, RW

Tears for Fears The Seeds of Love (1989):

“Instead of quickly recording a follow-up, Tears for Fears labored over their third album,” STE building up “a reported production cost of over a quarter-million dollars.” WK When The Seeds of Love finally emerged in 1989, it “retained the band’s epic sound,” WK while adding “psychedelic and jazz-rock-tinged” STE elements. There were also tinges of everything from the “blues to The Beatles, the last of which is extremely evident in the hit single ‘Sowing the Seeds of Love,’” WK “a joyous, profoundly Beatle-esque burst of rich melodic pop accompanied by an equally memorable video.” TF Second single featured Phil Collins on drums and Oleta Adams as a guest vocalist.

“Smith and Orzabal began to quarrel heavily” STE over “supposed creative differences and personal strenuous commitments.” MW “Following a charity performance at Knebworth in June 1990, Smith packed up and left Tears For Fears.” TF “’We had become hugely successful,’ he says. ‘And…with that comes a certain amount of pressure…Under pressure, I’m not very happy. I’m really not. And leaving was driven by pure unhappiness. I wasn’t enjoying it, it wasn’t doing anything for me anymore. I went through a marriage split-up at that point in time – I’d met somebody in America, my now wife, and we’d fallen in love and…I wanted to move to New York, I wanted to get away from England…To do that, Tears For Fears…couldn’t be part of that equation.” TF

  • Sowing the Seeds of Love [6:19] (8/21/89, 2 US, 1 CB, 4 RR, 29 AC, 4 AR, 1 MR, 5 UK, 1 CN, 13 AU) TR, SV, RW
  • Woman in Chains [6:31] (11/6/89, 36 US, 32 CB, 37 AC, 27 MR, 26 UK, 11 CN, 39 AU) TR, SV, RW
  • Advice for the Young at Heart [4:50] (2/19/90, 89 US, 62 CB, 24 AC, 36 UK, 25 CN) TR, SV, RW

Tears Roll Down

Tears for Fears

Released: March 2, 1992

Recorded: 1981-1992

Peak: 53 US, 2 UK, 19 CN

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.6 UK, 4.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: new wave

Tracks: (1) Sowing the Seeds of Love (2) Everybody Wants to Rule the World (3) Woman in Chains (4) Shout (5) Head Over Heels (6) Mad World (7) Pale Shelter (8) I Believe (9) Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down) (10) Mother’s Talk (11) Change (12) Advice for the Young at Heart

Total Running Time: 59:15


4.191 out of 5.00 (average of 16 ratings)

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About Tears Roll Down:

With Tears for Fears’ future in limbo, this compilation served as a memento of their first decade, gathering up all the major hits which had turned them into international superstars.

Tracks Not on Previously Noted Albums:

  • Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down) [4:44] (2/10/92, 10 MR, 17 UK, 28 CN) TR, SV

Curt Smith Soul on Board (1993):

After Smith and Orzabal parted ways, Smith released his first solo album while Orzabal continued on as Tears for Fears.

  • Words (3/93, --)
  • Calling Out (7/93, --)

Tears for Fears Elemental (1993):

In Smith’s absence, Orzabal collaborated with writer and musician Alan Griffiths, “pursuing more sophisticated and pretentious directions to a smaller audience.” STE “On the strength of the adult contemporary hit Break It Down Again, Elemental became a modest hit, reaching gold status in the U.S.” STE

  • Break It Down Again [4:31] (5/17/93, 25 US, 26 CB, 9 RR, 25 AC, 13 MR, 20 UK, 4 CN, 82 AU) SV, RW
  • Goodnight Song [3:53] (10/93, 44 CN) SV

Shout: The Very Best of

Tears for Fears

Released: September 25, 2001

Recorded: 1981-1993

Peak: --

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: new wave

Tracks: (1) Mad World (2) Change (3) Pale Shelter (4) The Way You Are (5) Suffer the Children (6) Mother’s Talk (7) Shout (8) Everybody Wants to Rule the World (9) Head Over Heels (10) I Believe (11) Sowing the Seeds of Love (12) Woman in Chains (13) Advice for the Young at Heart (14) Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down) (15) Break It Down Again (16) New Star (17) Goodnight Song

Total Running Time: 79:07


3.942 out of 5.00 (average of 7 ratings)

About Shout: The Very Best of:

This collection includes everything from Tears Roll Down plus two cuts from 1993’s Elemental. This set is also presented in chronological order – other than “Suffer the Children,” which was the band’s first single.

Tracks Not on Previously Noted Albums:

  • The Way You Are (11/21/83, 24 UK) SV
  • New Star (6/19/93, B-side of “Cold”) SV

Tears for Fears Raoul and the Kings of Spain (1995):

“Orzabal and Griffiths released another Tears for Fears album in 1995, Raoul and the Kings of Spain, a more quiet and contemplative work that showed a new Latin music influence. (Raoul was originally the name Orzabal's parents wanted to give him.) It failed to perform well on the charts but featured more of Orzabal’s outstanding songwriting.” WK

  • Raoul and the Kings of Spain [5:15] (9/25/95, 31 UK) RW
  • God’s Mistake [3:47] (10/21/95, 61 UK, 48 CN)
  • Secrets [4:41] (1/96, --)
  • Falling Down [4:55] (2/96, --)

Mayfield Mayfield (1997):

“Curt Smith was getting on with his new life stateside.” TF He “hosted shows for MTV, started a syndicated college radio show, and, significantly, found an able music partner in guitarist/songwriter Charlton Pettus, with whom he formed the group Mayfield. ‘I guess I got the bug again,’ he says. ‘We started writing songs and then he persuaded me to start playing. So I just started playing clubs in New York and I had the best time ever. Because I would leave my apartment, walk to the club, play, and then walk home. It was basically rekindling my love of music, which was kind of for the right reasons-you do it because you actually want to do it, as opposed it just being a business, which is the side I didn’t really like.’” TF

In late 1997, Mayfield ”released its self-titled debut. The material caught a slight buzz in the college music scene but quickly fell out of the loop. Also during this time, Smith married longtime girlfriend Frances Pennington and had a baby girl, Pennington Diva Smith.

  • Reach Out [4:38] (1997 single)
  • Snow Hill [4:17] (2000 single)

Curt Smith Aeroplane (EP, 2000):

His second solo effort, the Aeroplane EP, followed in June 2000, featuring new versions of Tears for Fears’ ‘Pale Shelter’ and ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World.’” MW

Roland Orzabal Tomcats Screaming Outside (2001):

With “two young sons at home in Bath, [Orzabal] then did “the semi-retirement thing,” working at home on technology-based music and in 1999 co-producing a solo album by Icelandic singer Emiliana Torrini.” TF “After a period of inactivity, Orzabal reteamed with Griffiths and released…Tomcats Screaming Outside as a solo project, under his own name. As Elemental and Raoul had essentially been solo projects, the sound is identical to Tears for Fears, combining big production values with varied songwriting influences.” WK

  • Low Life [4:38] (4/10/01, --)

Tears for Fears Everybody Loves a Happy Ending (2004):

“Still out on his own in the U.K., Roland notes, ‘every time I walked into a record company with any music, they were going, `Oh, this is great! Can you get back together with Curt?’ It was just on and on and on – market forces, and that kind of thing.’ Finally, the inevitable occurred – Curt and Roland again met, and the meeting was good. ‘We’ve always had business interests which have carried on after we split in ’90,’ says Roland. ‘So we’re always signing off on things together anyway. We have mutual friends, and it was just a matter of time, really, before so much water passed under the bridge. And it was like – well, what are we worried about? Let’s start chatting and see where it goes.’” TF

In a script they couldn’t have written better themselves, “the name of Tears For Fears re-emerged with some surprise at the end of 2003 when a dark, piano-only version of their debut hit Mad World, sung by Gary Jules and featured on the Donnie Darko soundtrack, reached the UK Number 1 spot for Christmas. Despite chart-topping success in the USA, Tears For Fears never themselves got to Number 1 in their home nation.” WK

In September 2004, the duo finally emerged with Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, their first collaboration in over a decade.” STE “Standout tracks like Closest Thing to Heaven, ‘Call Me Mellow’ and ‘Who Killed Tangerine,’ are spectacularly contemporary and unmistakably classic Tears For Fears.” TF “‘This is the album that should have followed The Seeds of Love in many ways,’ says…Orzabal.” TF

  • Closest Thing to Heaven [3:37] (2/9/04, 40 UK) RW
  • Call Me Mellow (9/18/04, 28 AA)

Curt Smith Halfway Pleased (2007):

Curt Smith’s second solo album included two cuts originally released on his 2000 EP Aeroplane.

  • Aeroplane [5:37] (2000 EP)
  • Where Do I Go [4:57] (2000 EP)

Curt Smith Deceptively Heavy (2013):

It took six years, but Smith finally returned with Deceptively Heavy, the follow-up to 2007’s Halfway Pleased. Meanwhile, Orzabal hadn’t released anything since Tears for Fears’ Everybody Loves a Happy Ending.

Tears for Fears Ready Boy & Girls? (EP, 2014):

A decade after Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, Tears for Fears were back – albeit only for an EP of three covers.

  • My Girls [4:36] (Animal Collective cover)
  • Ready to Start [3:24] (Arcade Fire cover)
  • And I Was a Boy from School [4:03] (Hot Chip cover)

Rule the World

Tears for Fears

Released: November 10, 2017

Recorded: 1982-2017

Peak: -- US, 12 UK

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.1 UK

Genre: new wave

Tracks: (1) Everybody Wants to Rule the World (2) Shout (3) I Love You But I’m Lost (4) Mad World (5) Sowing the Seeds of Love (6) Advice for the Young at Heart (7) Head Over Heels (8) Woman in Chains (9) Change (10) Stay (11) Pale Shelter (12) Mother’s Talk (13) Break It Down Again (14) I Believe (15) Raoul and the Kings of Spain (16) Closest Thing to Heaven

Total Running Time: 74:14


4.117 out of 5.00 (average of 7 ratings)

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About Rule the World:

This collection features all the songs on Tears Roll Down except for “Tears Roll Down (Laid So Low).” It adds one cut from each of the post-1992 albums and two new tracks.

Tracks Not on Previously Noted Albums:

  • I Love You But I’m Lost [4:21] (10/12/17, --) RW
  • Stay [4:29] RW

Tears for Fears The Tipping Point (2022):

Eighteen years after Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith reunited for this album.

  • The Tipping Point [4:14] (10/7/21, 17 AA)
  • No Small Thing [4:42] (12/2/21, --)
  • Break the Man [3:56] (1/13/22, --)

Resources and Related Links:

First posted 3/24/2008; last updated 2/23/2022.

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