35 years of Singing From The Big Chair
February 25, 2020 9:28 PM   Subscribe

Feb 25, 1985, Tears For Fears' second album Songs From The Big Chair was released. The album was a giant international success, both in its own sales and the success of its many singles. Perhaps you haven't listened in a while, or perhaps never listened before! 80s pop with a confrontational, deeper vein! Side A: Shout [video], The Working Hour, Everybody Wants To Rule The World [video], Mothers Talk [video] posted by hippybear (38 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
As a 13 year old Night Tracks addict I was vociferously anti-Shout but I was always a fan of Everybody Wants to Rule the World.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:42 PM on February 25, 2020

Everybody Wants to Rule the World is not only a very fine song by itself, but it also plays over the end of one of my favorite movies, Real Genius.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:02 PM on February 25, 2020 [16 favorites]

First record (actually cassette!) that I bought, and bought new and on release day at that! Still listen to it (in more modern media) from time to time, something that can be said about fairly few 1980s records.
posted by MattD at 10:04 PM on February 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Not sure if this was one of my 12 cassettes for a penny, but I'm pretty sure that this showed up via the Columbia tape and record club.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:17 PM on February 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

One of the greatest things ever said to me and my friend at 17 (or any age, if I'm honest)...
"Oh my god, you guys look just like Tears for Fears!".
She was cute too.
Saw them on the tour for this album and they were a bit underwhelming, but it's still on my heavy rotation list.
posted by conifer at 10:23 PM on February 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

The video for "Head Over Heels" is not to be missed, especially the surprise one-finger keyboard solo with aggressive eye contact.
posted by The Tensor at 11:20 PM on February 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

UK mefites might be interested in the recent BBC classic albums documentary about the record, up for another fortnight or so. If you love watching record producers sit at mixing consoles and fade different parts of a track in and out then this one's for you. The KLOS Sessions, which breaks down individual songs into their constituent parts, covered the intensely layered production Everybody Wants to Rule the World a while back.
posted by srednivashtar at 1:52 AM on February 26, 2020 [7 favorites]

Rick Beato did an episode on "Head Over Heels" as well

the intensely layered production Everybody Wants to Rule the World
Funny, that came up as a little aside in another production video I just watched
posted by thelonius at 4:49 AM on February 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

Holy cow, I was not ready for what Smith and Orzabal look like today! (from the BBC link)
They don't look bad or anything, just, you know, old. In my mind the image of them was stuck in the 80s.

Anyway, it's weird to see the videos from the Big Chair and how Tears for Fears was presented as a band, I've gotten so used to thinking of them as a duo.
posted by oddman at 4:58 AM on February 26, 2020

These guys were big when I was in HS and I was a fan-ish. In a minor fit of scotch soaked nostalgia the other week I was poking through various 80s videos and came across a very current video of TFF, and of course they are OLD now. And I thought, this is how my parents must have felt when Peter, Paul and Mary, and Kingston Trio reunions would get trotted out on PBS during fundrasing week in the 80s and early 90s.
posted by hearthpig at 5:23 AM on February 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

This album introduced me to the music of Robert Wyatt! by way of their lovely version of his lovely "Sea Song", a b-side on the "I Believe" single.
posted by lasagnaboy at 5:31 AM on February 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

A couple of things: I Believe was written with Robert Wyatt in mind (hence the cover of Sea Song). Knowing that, it's very difficult not to have an unrecorded Wyatt version in the back of one's mind.

Has anyone ever done anything on The Bath Sound? It has been home to a lot of ornately produced, quite solemn pop music - Peter Gabriel has his Real World Studios nearby; Peter Hammill has long had Sofa Sound there; David Lord produced (or, some might say, overproduced) albums for Gabriel, Hammill, Peter Blegvad, XTC, The Korgis (including the majestic Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime) and The Icicle Works there.
posted by Grangousier at 5:35 AM on February 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

Shout, both from production and lyrics, is basically proto-NIN. The whole album is really well produced all around. It's astonishing to listen to it today because it sounds so modern.
posted by hippybear at 6:05 AM on February 26, 2020 [5 favorites]

Haven’t thought about these guys in years, but Shout and Everybody Wants To Rule The World are part of the soundtrack of my early twenties, first full time job, first apartment... really nice memories. Thanks for posting!
posted by bookmammal at 6:11 AM on February 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Saw them three years ago at HoagieFest in Philly and they were outstanding. I didn't realize how many of their songs I knew and loved. SO. GOOD.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:22 AM on February 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

This album more than any other reminds me of my freshman year of college. It was everywhere. Thanks for the post!
posted by sundrop at 6:26 AM on February 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Kinda surprised nobody's yet posted the Head Over Heels literal video. :)
posted by LeDiva at 6:27 AM on February 26, 2020 [5 favorites]

I was a big Joe Jackson fan in the early to mid '80s. I remember hearing the New song "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" on the radio and thinking "This is the new Joe Jackson!"

Just feels like a JJ song.
posted by SoberHighland at 7:41 AM on February 26, 2020 [5 favorites]

Shout was one of the first music videos I ever saw, and until that moment I had never heard any music like it. I remember feeling like someone had pulled up the edge of my country boy hick world and shown me the deeper workings of the universe.
posted by JohnFromGR at 7:52 AM on February 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

I still think "Shout" is a boring song, but the rest are awesome, including my favorites from their earlier album "The Hurting" Change and Pale Shelter. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" is what I think of as the perfect midtempo song - slow but not sang slow and not particularly repetitive or boring.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:12 AM on February 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

For me every song on the album is interesting in some way, but my favorite is The Working Hour. So 80s, in its reverb-soaked, saxy glory, but so good.
posted by mubba at 8:15 AM on February 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

In 1996 TFF put out a B-sides compilation titled Saturnine, Martial, and Lunatic, with some pretty interesting liner notes.

In the entry for "The Way You Are", a cheesy poppy semi-hit single released after The Hurting but not included in Songs, Roland Orzabal notes the song as "the point we realized we had to change direction".

And we got Songs from the Big Chair from that pivot. The single never made it into the album.

(Personally, the Broken->Head Over Heels combo is the best thing in that album and my favorite thing they ever did before they found Oleta Adams singing in a Kansas City Hyatt)
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:44 AM on February 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

(That B-sides compilation also has a really solid cover of "Ashes to Ashes", BTW. Go check it out.)
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:51 AM on February 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

I was obsessed with this album when it came out. I think it still holds up, but I figured for a long time it was just me being old. Then, a few years ago, I was at Bonnaroo and saw Tears For Fears were playing. I went to the stage, expecting to not see too many people, because there was some other big band playing at the same time. To my surprise, it was packed, and not just with Olds, either! The band were killing it, and the kids were eating it up. Tears For Fears still got it.
posted by vibrotronica at 11:18 AM on February 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

"Shout" is what kept me from doing actual violence to my lying, deceitful, emotionally abusive stepmonster back in high school.
posted by dnash at 12:00 PM on February 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Synchronicity. My 9 year old just started getting into this album. It's the first album she's been really into where she puts on the CD and reads the lyrics along with it. I hadn't really heard the stuff for the past 30 or so years but it holds up really well.
posted by Liquidwolf at 12:07 PM on February 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

My son is today about the age I was when the album was released and this post prompted a discussion between us on how it is holding up. I loved it then and I still put it on from time to time and enjoy it, even though I think it shows too much of it's 80s-ness to escape that time.

My son, OTOH, finds it a fantastic and massively popular pop record but with a distinctive and sometimes cliched 80's sound, highlighted by the saxophone in Working Hour.

We both agree that being dated does not prevent either of us from enjoying it. In fact, I am not sure if there is an era in pop music that carries the weight of the period than popular 80's records, late 70's disco excluded.
posted by MorgansAmoebas at 12:51 PM on February 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

“Spotify Landmark: Tears For Fears”—Spotify, Nov 25, 2014
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of their blockbuster album "Songs From The Big Chair," Tears For Fears convened in historic LA Studio The Village to perform some of their biggest hits for an intimate audience of 50 superfans.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:47 PM on February 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

I saw them when they toured a few years back and they were so impressive I bought tickets for the next night’s show too.
posted by Jubey at 2:34 PM on February 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

Great post hippybear.

In my own music bio, Songs from the Big Chair was the apex and swan song of the eighties UK pop invasion of my tween years -- that glorious time of the Thompson Twins and Culture Club and Duran Duran and lots of bands that don't even have internal alliteration like Yaz, Frankie, The Police, etc.

Nothing from the UK after Big Chair was as good, and much of what came before it was glorious. The Arcade Fire Funeral record holds the exact same position in North American indie rock for me.

Shout was the banger on Big Chair for twelve-year-old me and still is -- all those glorious synth sounds, that inexorable demiprofound chorus, and a fucking gorgeous guitar solo to take it home. But lots of records have great songs -- I think Big Chair's real achievement is the flow of the second half.

It's a sidelong suite with an exquisite flow, and even in the mp3 era I won't ever listen to any of the tracks in isolation. Starting with the earnest falsetto idealism of I Believe -- this song is a veteran of a thousand of my teenage romantic mixtapes. Then we dip in and out of Broken, another fierce banger, especially the live bits, with a pop single in the middle, and how awesome was it to hear that song in Donnie Darko? We close with the relentless Listen, a gorgeous duet of clean synth and mournful voice and deep chants, the real deep cut on this record, a song that made twelve-year-old me feel sophisticated.

Here's some great synth nerd stuff about the gear and patches used to make Shout.
posted by Sauce Trough at 3:41 PM on February 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

also holy god that percussion loop on Shout is so dope with that little dee dee dee dee doop cowbell lick at the end.

(is that a cowbell?)
posted by Sauce Trough at 3:53 PM on February 26, 2020

Sauce Trough: “Here's some great synth nerd stuff”
If we're going to link synth nerd stuff….

“Synth Sounds of Tears for Fears ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’”—Reverb, 29 March 2018

Tears for Fears Heritage Synth Restoration Series, Behringer “E-mu Drumulator Tears For Fears ‘Shout’ drums”—Synthmania, 10 November 2019

Bonus: “Tears For Fears - Everybody Wants To Rule The World - Solo Acoustic Guitar”—Kent Nishimura, 03 January 2020
posted by ob1quixote at 6:17 PM on February 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Oh, and as I revealed many years ago, yes even to this day I can't hear the outro for “Everybody Wants To Rule the World” without expecting “Smuggler's Blues” to come on next. Just like on my taped-off-the-radio mix I made in the spring of 1985.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:38 PM on February 26, 2020 [5 favorites]

wow. I haven't heard that extended mix of Shout since before Big Chair was released in Canada. That was the first version of the song I knew, I secretly dubbed it from my big brother's 12" single and lost the tape shortly after he was kicked out of the house. He was human sewage but his record collection was a solid consolation prize.

listening feels like opening a damn time capsule. I'd totally forgotten the weird cool abrigato-sounding lyric around 2:45.

omg those huuuuuge gated-reverb drums. the Linda Evans shoulder pads of pop music. timeless.
posted by Sauce Trough at 11:13 PM on February 26, 2020

sometimes cliched 80's sound, highlighted by the saxophone in Working Hour.

Hey, the saxophone is back, or maybe never left indie music. For a few years in the '90s it was shunted off to big band and ska, but now it's back in regular pop/rock again.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:29 AM on February 27, 2020

Ted Yoder did this hammer dulcimer version of "Everbody Wants to Rule the World"; after it went viral and picked up millions of views, Curt Smith stopped by and sang along with him.
posted by billm at 10:15 AM on February 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

Songs from the Big Chair is and was a time marker as it came out as I was getting ready to transfer to a new college to move away from home. The videos around it were tied to home, but for the selection stages, driving around Northern California to interview to sort out where I was actually going to go, and the moving Songs from the Big Chair was constantly playing along with Sting's Dream of the Blue Turtles.

Songs from the Big Chair was my college driving music for road trips home. I had the LP and put it on a tape and often just looped Everybody Wants to Rule the World. One late late night I was driving to my parents house from the Bay Area and was falling asleep and was one of the few times I looped Shout, as it wasn't a favorite because it agitated me a bit. I made it hope with no incidents.

The tape also made the trip with me to England where I took my last semester of undergrad. I think I had retaped it before that trip as the tape had worn a bit. I still have the first tape around but no longer / currently don'e have anything to play it in.

I've been a huge fan of Tears' music up through Saturine Martial & Lunatic. Often Tears is driving music and I have stretches of road that are tied to songs on certain drives. Seeds of Love album is tied to San Francisco and just listening to it in my room and apartment.
posted by vanderwal at 10:38 AM on March 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

ob1quixote: “Tears for Fears Heritage Synth Restoration Series, Behringer”
“LinnDrum Rescue – Part I” — 06 March 2020
posted by ob1quixote at 12:22 PM on March 19, 2020

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