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"Tears For Fears: Tales From The Big Chair" by Will Hall

Even with the writing marred with misspellings, this holds as one of the rare books ever published about the duo who went on to "rule the world."

Very seldom do I get to read and review biographies of musical artists. However, personally, I've been a huge fan of this duo famous for singing about shouting, ruling the world, going head over heels, and to a lesser extent, sowing the seeds of love and freeing a woman in chains, as well as owning almost all their albums and memorizing nearly all their songs in their library.

The first chapters talk about where Tears For Fears—Roland and Curt—grew up and how their early lives were (not a very pleasant one), as both met from a friend. You learn that these guys are/were like brothers: born in the same year, had a similar educational goal (Roland wanted to be a Math teacher, and Curt was an English teacher). Above all, they love playing guitar and making music. These guys literally left education to pursue music. What Curt said about school is interesting, as Roland seems to agree, and can be debated today:

"We both still feel that school is the most impersonal place around—it destroys children's personalities and turns them into what society wants them to be—faceless. If you've got intelligence, people will recognize it." (Curt, quoted by Hall, 1985, p.11)

When they left school, they began launching their music careers, starting off playing for a band Graduate. As with most bands, not all, Roland and Curt couldn't stand the "fascism" of having to do something musically that they feel doesn't work. It wasn't long that the duo left the band, signed to Phonogram under the name "Tears For Fears." (According to MemoriesFade.com, TFF had other names considered such as History of Headaches, Upside Down Clinics and Ideas As Opiates—a name that eventually became a song title.) The name "Tears For Fears" is just what the name implies: tears as a replacement for fears. Curt states this was inspired from a book "Primal Therapy" by Arthur Janov.

The author then discusses TFF's rising success, as presented in the middle chapters. Although Curt didn't see it as depressing, critics and the public never sought and listened to such an allegedly depressing album, The Hurting, at the top of the charts. Roland claims, "feelings of hurt and pain aren't really that popular." You also learn along the way how Roland and Curt deal with the recognition and fame, despite their subtle, introverted personalities. Roland finds and mentions he can extend his creativity in producing unique sounds where not many artists are able to produce as technology improved more and more. In addition, as their hits top the charts, they suddenly come to halt in terms of content direction when they realize about their most disliked track produced: "The Way You Are."

Then suddenly, it happened: having produced "Mother's Talk" approaching the mid-1980s, keeping up with the success from their first album, came the songs which made TFF (literally) rule the world: "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" and "Shout." They also arrived in the US, performed and promoted their music, making them a household name. If you saw the official music video of "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," it was shot in California featuring Curt driving a nice sports car. Not only were their songs topping the charts, their album itself Songs From The Big Chair succeeded entirely. (The name was derived from a movie Sybil: a film about a girl suffering from multiple personalities, and only feels safe from her psychiatrist's big chair.)

Lastly, things got a bit personal. Roland begins talking about his father and why his mother left him at a young age. As Roland publicly stated the friction that he and his father had during his youth, his father begged to differ but didn't like what Roland said about him in an interview:

"He was a very difficult boy, forever bullying his two brothers. He even bullied his elder brother and local children who were much older than him. I've met his partner Curt and he seems such a nice young man. I am surprised he has put up with Roland for so long. I'm sure he won't be able to stand it much longer." (George Orzabal, quoted by Hall, 1985, p.59)

As great as the book is, providing lots of commentary and interviews you may never find elsewhere, the grammatical writing wasn't very good. Lots of run-ons and misquotations can confuse the reader who said what. I felt more proofreading was needed. Other than that, this is an excellent book and you'll learn a whole lot from a duo known for producing unique and timeless hits. Even better, the interviews with Curt and Roland saying a lot of thought-provoking opinions should provide the reader with a lot worth quoting.

Despite that, this is the first and only edition ever published; There isn't a republished version, having corrected the mistakes, making this book an extremely rare piece. Depending on condition, you're looking to pay a price close to college textbooks (maybe more). Unless you're a huge fan of the eighties, or TFF themselves, this is a perfect item to add to your collection. Speaking of rare, TFF has another book by Philip Kamin, published by Robus Books, mainly consisting of photos from their concerts, photoshoots and more—another rarity. Being the first collectible book reviewed on this website, and if you have the money, this book is an excellent investment.

Not only did I learn about the duo's history and their lives, I also learn about the meanings behind their songs (few of them were talked about). For example, Curt simply stated for "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" that it's about everyone wanting power and the misery it causes. Roland states very well that they speak through their music; He then compares themselves from other eighties musical acts, including the US, and how artificial and repetitive their music sounds (a critique that can be said about today's music). I'm no musician myself, but I won't find anything meaningful behind an artist's intent singing about assaulting someone's mom, being a billionaire so freakin' bad, etc.

As the book unveiled the interview with Roland and his father, Roland wrote and sang "Wino" which, to this day, is the rarest song from TFF's music library. If you look above on what George said about Roland, it suddenly became true: tensions arose as TFF went to produce their third album The Seeds of Love (this was supposed to be titled Raoul And The Kings Of Spain). Curt then split with Roland in 1990 then released Elemental as a solo act, while using the TFF name. That album also featured Roland's attack about Curt from the song "Fish Out Of Water," comparative to John Lennon's "How Do You Sleep"—an attack song about Paul McCartney. As TFF went on, so did Curt's and Roland's solo albums, where Curt produced a song "Sun King" in response to Roland's attack song. Having been idle for about 7 years, Roland and Curt reunited and released Everybody Loves A Happy Ending filled with vibrant and happy songs, few of which became movie soundtracks.

Since the book was written to cover the successes of TFF's first two albums, this is certainly enough for the diehard fan. You can find and learn the rest of their histories and stories through my favorite resource MemoriesFade.com for everything and everything Tears For Fears. For exclusive in depth interviews about the split, I recommend Elemental Interview Disc, though it is difficult to find, but you can find an exclusive TFF album only available on iTunes. The album consists of their hit songs sung live—some from Everybody Loves A Happy Ending—and interview tracks (highly recommended!).

Note: the reason for my rating was the writing. The book itself, as a collectible—something to invest on to add to one's collection, I would definitely rate it five stars.





  • Excellent biography about the website owner's favorite artist of all time.
  • Great collector's item for the fans.
  • A fine dive into music history from the eighties.
  • Lots of misspellings.
70% (C-)
Fan Rating
Title Tears For Fears...Tales From The Big Chair

The first bio on the duo who rule the world!
Author(s) Will Hall
Description They were teenagers tearaways—now Tears For Fears sing and shout their way around the world!

Beginning in 1982 with their first hit single, Mad World, Tears For Fears have risen through the rock ranks to star status. From their base in the rural English town of Bath, Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal have released an unbroken series of international hit singles including Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Shout and Pale Shelter. Coupled with two worldwide bestselling albums The Hurting and Songs From The Big Chair, the partners look set for an extended and established music career.

Rock journalist Will Hall has followed Tears For Fears from their roots in Avon to adulation in Los Angeles. He reveals their pastime pursuits and musical influences, not least the truth about Arthur Janov's book Primal Scream on their recordings. He also relates how the dynamic duo produce successive hit singles, play sell-out concerts all over the world, and yet remain remarkably untainted by the pressures of international stardom.
Tales From The Big Chair is the story of an (ad)venture that's turned the world Head Over Heels!
Dedication --
ISBN 0-946391-77-7
Book Dimensions Width: 7.0″
Height: 10.0″
Depth: 0.19″ (3/16″)
Page Count 64
Contents Acknowledgements, Quotes, eight (8) chapters, Discography
Typeset Cambridge Photosetting Services
Book / Cover Design Tina Dutton
Mark Lovell
Edited by Lyndsay McMorrow
Author Photograph --
Published August 1986
Picture Credits Rex Features, Retna Pictures, David Redfern Photography, London Features International, Carole Segal/S.I.N., James McGregor
Production Services Book Production Consultants, Cambridge
Publisher Zomba Books (Willesden High Road, London) / Cherry Lane Books (Port Chester, New York)
Copyright © Will Hall
Printed by Bemrose Printing C.I.P., Derby / Thetford Press Limited, Thetford, Norfolk
Book Format Paperback
Quoted Reviews --
Best Seller's List --
Other --
Library of Congress
Cataloging-in-Publication Data
CIP Number ???
LC Control Number ???
LC Call Number ???
DDC Call Number ???


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