Songs from the Big Chair

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Songs from the Big Chair
Tears for Fears Songs from the Big Chair.jpg
Studio album by
Released25 February 1985
Recorded1984[a][b]
StudioThe Wool Hall (Beckington, England)
Genre
Length41:52
Label
ProducerChris Hughes
Tears for Fears chronology
The Hurting
(1983)
Songs from the Big Chair
(1985)
The Seeds of Love
(1989)
Singles from Songs from the Big Chair
  1. "Mothers Talk"
    Released: 6 August 1984
  2. "Shout"
    Released: 19 November 1984
  3. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"
    Released: 18 March 1985
  4. "Head over Heels"
    Released: 10 June 1985
  5. "I Believe (A Soulful Re-Recording)"
    Released: 30 September 1985
  6. "Mothers Talk (U.S. remix)"
    Released: 1 April 1986

Songs from the Big Chair is the second studio album by English pop rock band Tears for Fears, released on 25 February 1985 by Phonogram Records. The album peaked at number two in the UK and at number one in the US and Canada, becoming a multi-platinum seller in all three countries. It also reached number one in Germany and the Netherlands and the top 10 in various other countries including Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland. It spawned the commercially successful singles "Mothers Talk", "Shout", "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", "Head over Heels", and "I Believe". It remains their best-selling album to date.

A companion video documentary entitled Scenes from the Big Chair was released in late 1985. Once the band had finished a lengthy touring and promotion schedule for the album, they took an extended hiatus from the music industry.

Background[edit]

"The title was my idea. It's a bit perverse but then you've got to understand our sense of humour. The 'Big Chair' idea is from this brilliant film called Sybil about a girl with 16 different personalities. She'd been tortured incredibly by her mother as a child and the only place she felt safe, the only time she could really be herself was when she was sitting in her analyst's chair. She felt safe, comfortable and wasn't using her different faces as a defence. It's kind of an 'up yours' to the English music press who really fucked us up for a while. This is us now – and they can't get at us anymore."

Curt Smith explains the album's title in an interview with Melody Maker, March 1985[3]

Originally, the album was to be titled The Working Hour, but Roland Orzabal fought to change it to Songs from the Big Chair,[4] which was derived from the 1976 television film Sybil about a woman with multiple personality disorder who only feels safe when she is sitting in her analyst's "big chair". While a mostly-instrumental track called "The Big Chair" (which includes dialogue samples from the film) was released as the B-side of "Shout" in 1984, it was not included on the album (but was available on its "special limited edition" cassette version, released in the UK in 1985[5]).

In an interview for the 2006 deluxe version booklet, Smith noted that "The Hurting really was influenced by modern technology at that time. Songs From The Big Chair expressed our desire to move on from there [...] It was an attempt to be less insular. We were very introverted on The Hurting; it was a very dark album. We found the need to be more outgoing on The Big Chair, and the use of big guitars and the things that we shied away from before allowed us to do that [...] I remember Chris Hughes bringing in more American stuff; that's when we started listening to Steely Dan – even, dare I say it, to Bryan Adams, before he took off. And Bruce Springsteen. It was really to broaden our horizons more than anything else [...] As usual, it started with us demoing songs, but the demoing turned into the recording as we became attached to the original demos:' The band started to generate new material around the beginning of 1984. The first song written for the album was "Head Over Heels", which the band played live during a tour undertaken between the two albums. Regarding the recording sessions for the album, Smith said: "They weren't bad. There wasn't any real pain involved in doing Songs From The Big Chair. I certainly think not being as precious and breaking out allowed us to relax a little. I don't remember it as particularly a painful experience."

On the need to reach out to a bigger audience, "That certainly was the plan, more of Chris Hughes and the record company than ours. They saw the capability within us to really reach a bigger audience. I don't think we ever were concerned with it. But we liked the idea of doing something different; we definitely embraced that. That conscious effort to bridge the ocean between here and America was really more down to Chris Hughes and Dave Bates [Tears for Fears' A&R]: I'll give Chris Hughes his due: he was a big supporter of 'Rule The World' and we weren't that sure of it, and in America that was the first single they really went for. And it broke the market for us.' Furthermore, "'Shout' is the obvious stadium thing. We consciously started with the chorus. It was kind of a sing-along; a protest song-like 'Give Peace A Chance,' or 'Hey Jude,' even. It had a really in your face chorus. But we never imagined it would take off like that. We're from Bath. We're not part of any scene. We've never been fashionable. We're quite insulated when we make records. What happens afterwards is really out of our hands. It's not something you can really plan for. We certainly can't. I don't think we're that clever."[6]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[7]
Consequence of SoundA+[8]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[9]
The Guardian3/5 stars[10]
Mojo4/5 stars[11]
Pitchfork8.9/10[12]
Q4/5 stars[13]
Record Collector5/5 stars[14]
Smash Hits8/10[15]
The Village VoiceB[16]

Songs from the Big Chair received critical acclaim. In his review, critic Barry McIlheney of Melody Maker stated that "none of you should really be too surprised that Tears for Fears have made such an excellent album", calling it "an album that fully justifies the rather sneering, told-you-so looks adopted by Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal on the sleeve", before concluding, "An awful lot of people will, of course, go on and on about overcoats, The Lotus Eaters and an alleged lack of depth. And an awful lot of people will have to eat an awful lot of words."[17] Ian Cranna of Smash Hits described it as "looser, more exploratory than before" in nature, and noted its "unflinching lyrical honesty".[15] Rolling Stone critic Don Shewey wrote that Tears for Fears "sounds a lot like a lot of other British bands" and observed traces of "U2's social conscience, the Bunnymen's echoing guitars and XTC's contorted pop wit" on the album, but commented that Chris Hughes' production "nudges Songs from the Big Chair slightly ahead of the pack."[18] Robert Christgau was less enthusiastic in his review for The Village Voice, observing some substantial lyrics, particularly on "The Working Hour", and musical elements such as an "uncommon command of guitar and piano, Baker Street sax, synthesizers more jagged than is deemed mete by the arbiters of dance-pop accessibility". However, he felt these are all beneath grandiloquent lamentations suggesting "a depth and drama English lads have been falling short on since the dawn of progressive rock."[16]

In a retrospective review published on AllMusic, Stanton Swihart wrote: "In the loping, percolating 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World', Tears for Fears perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the mid-'80s while impossibly managing to also create a dreamy, timeless pop classic. Songs from the Big Chair is one of the finest statements of the decade."[7] Mark Elliott of Record Collector agreed, while adding that it contained the band's "most consistently interesting material".[14] Q remarked that the album "zeroed in on every angsty adolescent's desire to feel heroic, with a sound of spotlit, spacious sophistication plus anthemic choruses you'd bet your house on."[13] In Stylus Magazine, Andrew Unterberger concluded that "even today, when all rock musicians seem to be able to do is be emotional and honest, the brutality and power of Songs from the Big Chair's catharsis is still quite shocking."[19] Songs from the Big Chair has been included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[20] Slant Magazine listed the album at number 95 on its list of the best albums of the 1980s.[21]

In February 2020, the album was the focus of an episode of the BBC's Classic Albums documentary series. The episode included new interviews with key personnel including Orzabal, Smith, Ian Stanley, producer Chris Hughes, engineer Dave Bascombe, and A&R man David Bates. Additional interviewees included Oleta Adams and John Grant.[4]

Re-issues[edit]

In 1998, MFSL remastered and re-issued the album with an extended "Head over Heels" (running 5:24) and two bonus tracks (extended mixes of "Shout" and "Everybody Wants to Rule the World").

The album was remastered and re-issued on CD in 1999 with bonus tracks, including B-sides and remixes. The track listing is based on the Special Edition cassette version of the album, which featured five B-sides as bonus tracks—including three tracks ("The Conflict", "The Marauders" and "Broken Revisited") from The Hurting period. In addition to these tracks, it includes two remixes.

The album was re-released again in a deluxe edition 2-disc format in 2006 with the full collection of B-sides and many alternate versions and remixes of the album's tracks.

In 2014, the album was released by Universal Music Japan on SHM-SACD.

To mark the album's 30th anniversary, Universal Music released the album in five different formats on 10 November 2014, including a 6-disc Super Deluxe Edition which includes four CDs and two DVDs (1 audio, 1 video).[22] This edition also includes a 30-page replica 1985 tour programme and a 32-page booklet. Additional formats released simultaneously include another 2-disc Deluxe Edition, a single disc remastered edition, a 180-gram heavyweight vinyl album, and a "Pure Audio" Blu-ray edition. The 5.1 surround sound mix is done by renowned remixer and progressive rock musician Steven Wilson. The 6-disc set was reissued in 2020, to commemorate the album's 35th anniversary, along with a new vinyl picture disc of the album.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Shout"6:32
2."The Working Hour"
6:30
3."Everybody Wants to Rule the World"
4:10
4."Mothers Talk"
  • Orzabal
  • Stanley
5:09
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."I Believe"Orzabal4:53
2."Broken"Orzabal2:38
3."Head over Heels/Broken (live)"
5:01
4."Listen"
  • Stanley
  • Orzabal
6:48

Personnel[edit]

Tears for Fears[edit]

Additional personnel[edit]

Production[edit]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Certifications for Songs from the Big Chair
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Brazil 200,000[53]
Canada (Music Canada)[54] 7× Platinum 700,000^
Germany (BVMI)[55] Gold 250,000^
Hong Kong (IFPI Hong Kong)[56] Platinum 20,000*
Netherlands (NVPI)[57] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[58] Platinum 15,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[59] 3× Platinum 900,000^
United States (RIAA)[60] 5× Platinum 5,000,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Broken" (live) recorded December 1983 at Hammersmith Odeon
  2. ^ "Mothers Talk (U.S. remix)" recorded 1986

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jackson, Josh. "The 50 Best New Wave Albums". Paste magazine.
  2. ^ Munro, Scott (21 July 2017). "Steven Wilson meets Bollywood in Permanating video". Team Rock.
  3. ^ FitzGerald, Helen (9 March 1985). "On the Beach". Melody Maker. London, England: IPC Media: 20–21 & 29.
  4. ^ a b "Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair". Classic Albums. 14 February 2020. BBC Four.
  5. ^ References and details on Discogs.com
  6. ^ Lester, Paul (2006) Booklet for the Songs from the Big Chair Deluxe CD
  7. ^ a b Swihart, Stanton. "Songs from the Big Chair – Tears for Fears". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 October 2009.
  8. ^ Roffman, Michael (11 November 2014). "Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair [Reissue]". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  9. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  10. ^ Gibsone, Harriet (11 December 2014). "Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair box set review – beefy, bizarre preposterous pop". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  11. ^ "Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair". Mojo. London: 115. 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World''s lens flare and Robert Wyatt homage 'I Believe' prove durable.
  12. ^ Rosenberg, Tal (20 August 2017). "Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair". Pitchfork. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  13. ^ a b "Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair". Q. London: 115.
  14. ^ a b Elliott, Mark (December 2014). "Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair". Record Collector. London (435). Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  15. ^ a b Cranna, Ian (13 March 1985). "Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair (Mercury)". Smash Hits. London. 7 (5): 21.
  16. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (28 May 1985). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  17. ^ McIlheney, Barry (2 March 1985). "Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair". Melody Maker. London: 23.
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  29. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
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  39. ^ "Official Scottish Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
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  44. ^ Bakker, Machgiel; Inglis, Cathy (23 December 1985). "Pan-European Awards 1985" (PDF). Eurotipsheet. Vol. 2 no. 51/52. p. 7. OCLC 29800226 – via World Radio History.
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  54. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair". Music Canada. 29 March 1990.
  55. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Tears for Fears; 'Songs from the Big Chair')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie.
  56. ^ "IFPIHK Gold Disc Award − 1990". IFPI Hong Kong. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  57. ^ "Dutch album certifications – Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Enter Songs from the Big Chair in the "Artiest of titel" box.
  58. ^ "New Zealand album certifications – Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair". Recorded Music NZ. 2 June 1985. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
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Bibliography[edit]