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 (1985-02-25)[1]
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: 10 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: 4 October 1985
  6. "Mothers Talk (US 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, becoming a multi-platinum seller and the band's most successful studio album to date. Songs from the Big Chair spawned the commercially successful singles "Mothers Talk", "Shout", "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", "Head over Heels", and "I Believe".

Background[edit]

Originally, the album was to be titled The Working Hour, but Roland Orzabal fought to change it to Songs from the Big Chair,[5] 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". The title of the album reflects the band's view of being targeted by a hostile English music press at the time.[6]

In an interview for the 2006 deluxe version booklet, Curt Smith noted that "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".[7]

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 studio albums.[7]

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).[citation needed]

Writing and recording[edit]

The album was recorded at The Wool Hall in 1984. Conceptually and musically, it was a development of the band's previous studio album The Hurting (1983), re-introducing guitars to their electronic sound and an overall lighter approach than before. Early songs written for the album included "Head over Heels" and "The Working Hour". "Mothers Talk" was released months before the album as a single. These songs, as well as "We Are Broken", were all performed on Tears for Fears 1983 tour.[8] The song "Shout" became a central work during the recording of the album, and the band and producer Chris Hughes spent months working on that track alone.[9]

The songwriting uses many different styles and influences, particularly progressive rock as a cited main influence on the album.[10] "I Believe" was influenced by the songwriting of Robert Wyatt.[3] "Broken", featuring a straightforward rock sound, was a reworking of an earlier song and a live version is repeated at the end of "Head over Heels", while the largely instrumental "Listen" has been described as a symphonic piece.[3]

Near the end of the completion of the album Roland Orzabal played two simple chords on his acoustic guitar that was the foundation of the song "Everybody Wants to Rule the World". Initially not very interested to work on it, Orzabal was convinced to write a song based on those two chords and eventually added the chorus line. The most straightforward song on the album, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" was completed in about a week and the last track recorded for the album.[9]

Release[edit]

Songs from the Big Chair was released on 25 February 1985[1] with a black and white photograph of Orzabal and Smith on the record cover.

The album reached number two on the UK Albums Chart and spawned five commercially successful singles: "Mothers Talk" (UK #14), "Shout" (UK #4), "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" (UK #2),[11] "Head over Heels" (UK #12),[12] and "I Believe" (UK #23).[13]

The radio-friendly "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" marked the band's breakthrough in the United States; both this single and its follow-up, "Shout", reached number one in the US. "Songs From the Big Chair" also reached number one on the Billboard 200 and sold five million copies in the US alone.[1] In the UK, the album spent 79 consecutive weeks on the album chart, remaining on the chart for eighteen months until September 1986.[13]

To mark the album's 30th anniversary, Universal Music released the album in five different formats on 10 November 2014.[14]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic[15]
ConsequenceA+[16]
The Guardian[17]
Mojo[18]
Pitchfork8.9/10[3]
Q[19]
Record Collector[20]
Record Mirror[21]
Smash Hits8/10[22]
The Village VoiceB[23]

Songs from the Big Chair received generally positive reviews. Barry McIlheney of Melody Maker wrote 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."[24] In Sounds Johnny Waller gave the album four and a half stars out of five and said that compared with their debut, "Tears for Fears have lovingly crafted a new masterpiece with softer, smoky vocals, more tempting melodies and less abrasive rhythms". He called the record "glorious pop" and that "within accepted confines, Tears for Fears are stretching and growing, expanding both their imagination and their horizons".[25] Ian Cranna of Smash Hits described the album as "looser, more exploratory" than the band's previous work and praised its "unflinching lyrical honesty".[22] Rolling Stone reviewer Don Shewey found Tears for Fears reminiscent of various other acts, noting traces of "U2's social conscience, the Bunnymen's echoing guitars and XTC's contorted pop wit" in the album's music, but commented that Chris Hughes' "sparkling" production "nudges Songs from the Big Chair slightly ahead of the pack".[26]

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 a prevailing "portentous" mood suggesting "a depth and drama English lads have been falling short on since the dawn of progressive rock".[23] In NME Danny Kelly called Songs from the Big Chair "a calculated and brilliant peak, a quintessence of polished pop putty ... perfect at its shimmering surface, worthless to its craven core". He described it as a descendant of 10cc's The Original Soundtrack (1975) and Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) – "a product of obsessional care and attention to (often unnecessary) detail".[27]

In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Stanton Swihart wrote that Songs from the Big Chair "heralded a dramatic maturation in the band's music, away from the synth-pop brand with which it was (unjustly) seared following the debut, and towards a complex, enveloping pop sophistication", deeming it "one of the finest statements of the decade."[15] Mark Elliott of Record Collector said that the album found Tears for Fears "making it big, coating their consistently interesting material in a high-gloss commercial sheen that captured the mid-80s zeitgeist perfectly",[20] while Q highlighted its "sound of spotlit, spacious sophistication plus anthemic choruses you'd bet your house on."[28] Writing for Stylus Magazine in 2006, 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".[29] Songs from the Big Chair was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[30] Slant Magazine ranked the record at number 95 on its list of the best albums of the 1980s.[31]

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.[5]

Track listing[edit]

Side one

  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

Side two

  1. "I Believe" (Orzabal) – 4:53
  2. "Broken" (Orzabal) – 2:38
  3. "Head over Heels" / "Broken" (Live) (Orzabal, Curt Smith) – 5:01
  4. "Listen" (Stanley, Orzabal) – 6:48

Personnel[edit]

Tears for Fears

Additional personnel

  • "Shout": Chris Hughes – drums, Sandy McLelland – backing vocals
  • "The Working Hour": Andy Davis – grand piano, Mel Collins – saxophone, Will Gregory – saxophone solos, Jerry Marotta – percussion and saxophone arrangements
  • "Everybody Wants to Rule the World": Neil Taylor – second guitar solo, Chris Hughes – LinnDrum and MIDI programming
  • "Mothers Talk": Stevie Lange – backing vocals
  • "I Believe": Will Gregory – saxophone
  • "Broken": Neil Taylor – guitar solo
  • "Head Over Heels": Andy Davis – grand piano, Marilyn Davis – backing vocals, Annie McCaig – backing vocals, Sandy McLelland – backing vocals
  • "Listen": Marilyn Davis – operatic vocal

Production[edit]

  • Chris Hughes – producer
  • Dave Bascombe – engineer
  • Tim O'Sullivan – cover photography
  • Paul King – management

Charts[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

Certifications for Songs from the Big Chair
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia 150,000[65]
Brazil 200,000[66]
Canada (Music Canada)[67] 7× Platinum 700,000^
France (SNEP)[69] Gold 100,000[68]
Germany (BVMI)[70] Gold 250,000^
Hong Kong (IFPI Hong Kong)[71] Platinum 20,000*
Netherlands (NVPI)[72] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[73] Platinum 15,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[74] 3× Platinum 900,000^
United States (RIAA)[75] 5× Platinum 5,000,000^
Summaries
Worldwide 9,000,000[76]

* 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]

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  2. ^ "The 50 Best New Wave Albums". Paste. 13 October 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Rosenberg, Tal (20 August 2017). "Tears for Fears: Songs From the Big Chair". Pitchfork. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  4. ^ Munro, Scott (21 July 2017). "Steven Wilson meets Bollywood in Permanating video". Prog.
  5. ^ a b "Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair". Classic Albums. 14 February 2020. BBC Four.
  6. ^ FitzGerald, Helen (9 March 1985). "On the Beach". Melody Maker. pp. 20–21 & 29.
  7. ^ a b Lester, Paul (2006). Songs from the Big Chair Deluxe Edition (booklet). Mercury Records. 983 073-9.
  8. ^ "Tears for Fears In My Mind's Eye (1984 Video) Soundtracks". imdb.com.
  9. ^ a b Classic Tracks: Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” mixonline.com 8 January 2007
  10. ^ Lester, Paul (26 February 2015). "How Prog Were Tears For Fears?". Louder.
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  56. ^ 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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  68. ^ "Les Certifications". Info Disc. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
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  73. ^ "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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  75. ^ "American album certifications – Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair". Recording Industry Association of America. 15 May 1995.
  76. ^ "Da Londra Curt e Roland portano "I semi d'amore"". la Stampa. 16 March 1990. p. 12. Retrieved 5 April 2022. Non a case lo scorsolo album “Songs from the big chair” era riuscito a vendedre ben nove million di copie

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]