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 Tears for Fears
Released 25 February 1985
Recorded 1984 ("Broken" (live) recorded December 1983 at Hammersmith Odeon)
Studio The Wool Hall, Beckington, Somerset, UK
Genre New wave
Length 41:19
Label Fontana/Mercury/Phonogram
Producer Chris Hughes
Tears for Fears chronology
The Hurting
Songs from the Big Chair
The Seeds of Love
Singles from Songs from the Big Chair
  1. "Mothers Talk"
    Released: 6 August 1984
  2. "Shout"
    Released: 23 November 1984
  3. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"
    Released: 22 March 1985
  4. "Head over Heels"
    Released: 10 June 1985
  5. "I Believe (A Soulful Re-Recording)"
    Released: 30 September 1985

Songs from the Big Chair is the second studio album by the British rock band Tears for Fears, released on 25 February 1985 by Phonogram Records. The album peaked at number two in the UK and number one in the US. It spawned a string of international hit singles, including "Mothers Talk", "Shout", "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", and "Head over Heels". It remains their best-selling album to date.


"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, March 1985[1]

The album title 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".

Once the band had finished a lengthy touring and promotion schedule for the album, they took an extended hiatus from the music industry. In 1989, their third album, The Seeds of Love, marked their return. A companion video documentary entitled Scenes from the Big Chair was released in late 1985.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[2]
Consequence of Sound A+[3]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[4]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[5]
Mojo 4/5 stars[6]
MusicHound 4.5/5[7]
Q 3/5 stars[8]
Record Collector 5/5 stars[9]
Smash Hits 8/10[10]
The Village Voice B[11]

In his review of Songs of the Big Chair, 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... [it's] 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."[12] 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."[11] Don Shewey of Rolling Stone 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."[13]

In a retrospective review published in AllMusic, Stanton Swihart commented: "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."[2] The album has been included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[citation needed] Slant Magazine listed the album at #95 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s".[14]


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 tracklisting 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 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).[15] 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.

Track listings[edit]

Original release[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Shout"   Roland Orzabal, Ian Stanley 6:32
2. "The Working Hour"   Orzabal, Stanley, Manny Elias 6:30
3. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"   Orzabal, Stanley, Chris Hughes 4:10
4. "Mothers Talk"   Orzabal, Stanley 5:09
5. "I Believe"   Orzabal 4:53
6. "Broken"   Orzabal 2:38
7. "Head over Heels/Broken (Live)"   Orzabal, Curt Smith 5:01
8. "Listen"   Orzabal, Stanley 6:48
  • "I Believe" is dedicated to 'Robert Wyatt (if he's listening)'[16]
  • In some US editions, the live reprise of "Broken" was omitted, and the end of "Head over Heels" led directly into "Listen". On these same US editions, the full 5:06 version of "Mothers Talk" was replaced with the 3:53 short version.
1999 remastered CD bonus tracks
No. Title Writer(s) Length
9. "The Big Chair"   Orzabal, Smith, Stanley, Hughes 3:21
10. "Empire Building"   Smith, Orzabal, Stanley 2:52
11. "The Marauders"   Orzabal, Stanley 4:16
12. "Broken Revisited"   Orzabal 5:16
13. "The Conflict"   Orzabal, Smith, Stanley 4:05
14. "Mothers Talk" (U.S. remix)   4:13
15. "Shout" (U.S. remix)   8:02
  • The original 1985 cassette version of the album contained many of the above as bonus tracks ("The Big Chair", "Empire Building", "The Marauders", "Broken Revisited", "The Conflict") as well as a Special Limited Edition version which also contained the short piano version of "The Working Hour".
  • "Mothers Talk" (U.S. remix) on the remastered CD is the correct version of this remix, but has had additional reverb applied to it. The 1999 remaster is the only CD on which this "extra reverb" version can be found.

Deluxe Edition (2006)[edit]

  • Track 4 was intended to be "Everybody Wants to Run the World" but was mistakenly replaced by a repetition of the album version (incorrectly labeled as the '7" version', but such a version does not exist); the album's liner notes confirm this.
  • Track 7 is labeled "U.S. remix" on the packaging but is in fact a different version from the real "Mothers Talk" (U.S. remix) on the original vinyl singles. On CD, the real "U.S. remix" can be found on the compilations The Millennium Collection: The Best of Tears for Fears and Shout: The Very Best of Tears for Fears.

Super Deluxe Edition (2014)[edit]


Tears for Fears
Additional personnel

Charts and certifications[edit]


Preceded by
No Jacket Required by Phil Collins
Reckless by Bryan Adams
Billboard 200 number-one album
13 July 1985 – 3 August 1985
24 August 1985
Succeeded by
Reckless by Bryan Adams
Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits


  1. ^ FitzGerald, Helen (9 March 1985). "On the Beach". Melody Maker (London, England: IPC Media): 20–21 & 29. 
  2. ^ a b Swihart, Stanton. "Songs from the Big Chair – Tears for Fears". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 October 2009. 
  3. ^ Roffman, Michael (11 November 2014). "Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair [Reissue]". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  4. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-84609-856-7. 
  5. ^ Gibsone, Harriet (11 December 2014). "Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair box set review – beefy, bizarre preposterous pop". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 11 July 2015. 
  6. ^ "Tears For Fears – Songs from the Big Chair CD Album". CD Universe. Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  7. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel, eds. (1999). "Tears for Fears". MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Visible Ink Press. ISBN 978-1-57859-061-2. 
  8. ^ "Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair". Q (154): 130–31. July 1999. 
  9. ^ Elliott, Mark (December 2014). "Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair". Record Collector (435). Retrieved 17 November 2015. 
  10. ^ Cranna, Ian (28 February 1985). "Album Reviews". Smash Hits (EMAP Metro) 7 (5): 21. 
  11. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (28 May 1985). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice (New York: Village Voice Media). Retrieved 9 January 2012. 
  12. ^ McIlheney, Barry (2 March 1985). "Review: Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair". Melody Maker (London: IPC Media): 23. 
  13. ^ Shewey, Don (23 May 1985). "Tears for Fears: Songs From the Big Chair". Rolling Stone (448). Archived from the original on 21 November 2007. Retrieved 23 October 2009. 
  14. ^ "The 100 Best Albums of the 1980s". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  15. ^ Pryor, Terrance. "Tears For Fears To Reissue 'Songs From The Big Chair'". Prefix Magazine. Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  16. ^ Songs from the Big Chair vinyl record (1985)
  17. ^ " – Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  18. ^ "RPM 100 Albums, April 13, 1985". RPM, Vol. 42 No. 5 (Canada: Library and Archives Canada). Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  19. ^ " – Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair". Hung Medien. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  20. ^ "Top 100 Longplay, 25.03.1985". Top 100 Longplay (Germany: Media Control). Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  21. ^ " – Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  22. ^ " – Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair". Hung Medien. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  23. ^ " – Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair". Hung Medien. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  24. ^ " – Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair". Hung Medien. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  25. ^ " – Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair". Hung Medien. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  26. ^ "1985-03-09 Top 40 UK Albums Archive". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  27. ^ "Billboard 200, retrieved from "Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair" Awards at Allmusic". Billboard 200 (United States: Nielsen Business Media). Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  28. ^ "Tears for Fears | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart Retrieved 16 Nov 2014.
  29. ^ "RPM's Top 100 Albums of 1985". RPM, Vol. 43 No. 16, p. 14, 28 December 1985. Canada: Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  30. ^ "Top 100 Albums". Music Week (London, England: Spotlight Publications): 11. 18 January 1986. 
  31. ^ "1985 Billboard 200 Albums". Nielsen SoundScan. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  32. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair". Music Canada. 
  33. ^ "Dutch album certifications – Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. 
  34. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Tears for Fears; 'Songs from the Big Chair')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. 
  35. ^ "British album certifications – Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Songs from the Big Chair in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Platinum in the field By Award. Click Search
  36. ^ "American album certifications – Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH