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Curt Smith, left, and Roland Orzabal

Genre: pop/rock/new wave

Formed: 1981

Where: Bath, England

Disbanded: 1995

Reformed: 2003

The Most Prominent Players:

  • Roland Orzabal (v/g/k – Graduate: 79-81; Tears for Fears: 81-95, 04; solo: 01)
  • Curt Smith (k/b – Graduate: 79-81; Tears for Fears: 81-92, 04; solo: 93, 00; Mayfield: 95-98)
  • John Baker (g/v – Graduate: 79-81)
  • Steve Buck (k/flute – Graduate: 79-81)
  • Andy Marsden (d – Graduate: 79-81)
  • David Lord (k – Tears for Fears: 81)
  • Ian Stanley (k – Tears for Fears: 83-89)
  • Manny Elias (d – Tears for Fears: 83-86)
  • Nicky Holland (k – Tears for Fears: 84-86)
  • Alan Griffiths (g/k/writer: 93-95)
  • Tim Palmer (Tears for Fears: 93-95)
  • also used various session musicians over the years
v = vocals; g = guitar; b = bass;
k = keyboards; d = drums

The Studio Albums:

Hover over an album for the name and year of release. Click to see its DMDB page.

Graduate: Acting My Age (1980) The Hurting (1983) Songs from the Big Chair (1985) The Seeds of Love (1989) Curt Smith: Soul on Board (1993) Elemental (1993) Raoul and the Kings of Spain (1995) Curt Smith: Mayfield (1997) Roland Orzabal: Tomcats Screaming Outside (2001) Everybody Loves a Happy Ending (2004) Curt Smith: Halfway Pleased (2007)


(Organized by dates of recording, not release)

Tears Roll Down (1982-92) Saturnine Martial & Lunatic (B-sides, 1983-93)

Live Albums:

(Organized by dates of recording, not release)

Secret World (2006)

Key Tracks:

  • Elvis Should Play Ska (1980) GR
  • Ever Met a Day (1980) GR
  • Ambition (1980) GR
  • Pale Shelter (1982)
  • Made World (1982)
  • Change (1983)
  • Mother’s Talk (1984)
  • Shout (1984)
  • Everybody Wants to Rule the World (1985)
  • Head Over Heels (1985)
  • I Believe (1985)
  • Sowing the Seeds of Love (1989)
  • Woman in Chains (1989)
  • Advice for the Young at Heart (1990)
  • Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down) (1992)
  • Calling Out (1993) CS
  • Break It Down Again (1993)
  • Goodnight Song (1993)
  • Raoul and the Kings of Spain (1995)
  • God’s Mistake (1996)
  • What Are We Fighting For? (1997) CS
  • Snow Hill (1998) CS
  • Aeroplane (2000) CS
  • Low Life (2001) RO
  • Closest Thing to Heaven (2004)
  • Call Me Mellow (2004)
  • Secret World (2006)
  • Perfect Day (2007) CS
GR Graduate
RORoland Orzabal solo
CS Curt Smith solo

Album Sales (in millions):

sales in U.S. only 8.0
sales worldwide - estimated 22.0

Singles Sales (in millions):

sales in U.S. only 0.5
sales worldwide - estimated 0.5



One of my personal top 100 acts of all time. Click to learn more.

The duo of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, who would form the heart of Tears for Fears, “met as children in Bath, England. Both boys came from broken homes, and Smith was leaning toward juvenile delinquence. Orzabal, however, turned towards books, eventually discovering Arthur Janov’s primal scream therapy, a way of confronting childhood fears that John Lennon embraced after the Beatles disbanded.” STE “During primal therapy, the patient is encouraged to cry, scream, and beat objects to express childhood, perinatal and prenatal feelings; hence the name ‘Tears for Fears,’ and the content of the song ‘Shout.’” WK

Graduate (1979-81)
First, though, “they formed the ska-revival band Graduate” STE in 1979. They took their name from the well known Dustin Hoffman film The Graduate. They “did the normal local club circuit gigs, growing a fan base and improving as they went. Soon the band moved on from the club scene to national touring, opening for other acts. In 1980…the guys recorded a debut album, Acting My Age, under the Precision Records label” CD and released “a handful of singles, including ‘Elvis Should Play Ska.’” STE “There were more tours…but real success and popularity stayed just out of reach.” CD

They “went back to…the recording studio in 1981. A number of demo tracks were recorded for a sophomore album that was to be titled Ambition, but the finish product never came to be. Two decades later the debut album was released again, with the bounce added of those demos.” CD

Tears for Fears and The Hurting (1981-84)
“A short two years after the birth of the Graduate, things came to a sudden end.” CD However, Orzabal and Smith went on to form Tears for Fears, “a synth-pop outfit [that was] more ambitious than the average synth-pop group.” STE “They were initially associated with new wave and the New Romantic movements, but quickly branched out into mainstream chart success.” WK

Tears for Fears’ debut album, The Hurting, was “driven by catchy, infectious synth-pop.” STE “Janov's primal scream therapy, and his theories were evident throughout;” STE the album’s “lyrics reflected Orzabal's bitter growing-up experiences with his parents.” WK The album “became a major hit in Britain, generating…three Top Five hit singles.” STE “Previously unheard single…The Way You Are was released at the very beginning of 1984 to keep the band in the spotlight while they worked on the second album.” WK

Songs from the Big Chair (1984-86)
For the next album, Tears for Fears “broke out of the new wave mold; featuring instead” WK “a more streamlined and soul-influenced sound” STE “that would become the band's stylistic hallmark.” WK “Orzabal had been encouraged by producer Chris Hughes to pick up his guitar as he was a gifted player but wasn't using the instrument enough. Orzabal also took over the lion's share of lead vocal duty from Smith, who ended up with a comparative bit-part role of playing bass guitar.” WK

They “never anticipated the…success that would greet them…1985’s Songs from the Big Chair was an international sensation…catapulting the pair to superstardom.” TF “The album title stemmed from the B-side to Shout, which was a song called ‘The Big Chair’, though this song was absent from the album itself.” WK The former song shot to #1 in the U.S. as a follow-up to the band’s already chart-topping Everybody Wants to Rule the World. These songs, and the #3 Head Over Heels, “were all supported by clever, stylish videos that received heavy MTV airplay,” STE “establishing the duo as one of the leading acts of the second generation of MTV stars.” STE

“In 1986, a slightly rewritten version of their biggest hit was recorded and released for the British fundraising initiative Sport Aid, a splinter project of Band Aid in which people took part in running races of varying length and seriousness to raise more money for African projects. The slogan was ‘I Ran the World’; therefore Tears For Fears released ‘Everybody Wants to Run the World.’” WK

“In an attempt to satisfy the international demand for the band, the group then spent an extended period touring and promoting the new album around the world-a time that, as we would later see, would take its toll on the band in the days to come.” TF

The Seeds of Love (1989-1990)
“Instead of quickly recording a follow-up, Tears for Fears labored over their third album,” STE building up “a reported production cost of over a quarter-million dollars.” WK When The Seeds of Love finally emerged in 1989, it “retained the band's epic sound,” WK while adding “psychedelic and jazz-rock-tinged” STE elements. There were also tinges of everything from the “blues to The Beatles, the last of which is extremely evident in the hit single ‘Sowing the Seeds of Love,’” WK “a joyous, profoundly Beatle-esque burst of rich melodic pop accompanied by an equally memorable video.” TF That song went to #2 in the U.S. and led the album into the top ten. Also released as a single was “Woman in Chains,” “on which Phil Collins played drums and Oleta Adams — whom Orzabal would guide to a successful solo career — shared vocals.” WK

“Smith and Orzabal began to quarrel heavily” STE over “supposed creative differences and personal strenuous commitments.” MW “Following a charity performance at Knebworth in June 1990, Smith packed up and left Tears For Fears.” TF “’We had become hugely successful,’ he says. ‘And…with that comes a certain amount of pressure…Under pressure, I’m not very happy. I’m really not. And leaving was driven by pure unhappiness. I wasn’t enjoying it, it wasn’t doing anything for me anymore. I went through a marriage split-up at that point in time – I’d met somebody in America, my now wife, and we’d fallen in love and…I wanted to move to New York, I wanted to get away from England…To do that, Tears For Fears…couldn’t be part of that equation.” TF

The Split – Orzabal Continues On (1993-95)
“Orzabal continued with Tears for Fears, pursuing more sophisticated and pretentious directions to a smaller audience.” STE “In 1993, Orzabal recorded the album Elemental in collaboration with Alan Griffiths, and released it under the Tears for Fears moniker.” WK “On the strength of the adult contemporary hit Break It Down Again, Elemental became a modest hit, reaching gold status in the U.S.” STE The album also “included the song ‘Fish Out of Water’, a personal swipe at Smith,” WK who’d set out on his own, recording the solo album Soul on Board, released in 1993.

“Orzabal and Griffiths released another Tears for Fears album in 1995, Raoul and the Kings of Spain, a more quiet and contemplative work that showed a new Latin music influence. (Raoul was originally the name Orzabal's parents wanted to give him.) It failed to perform well on the charts, but featured more of Orzabal's outstanding songwriting.” WK

Solo Outings (1997-2001)
With “two young sons at home in Bath, [Orzabal] then did “the semi-retirement thing,” working at home on technology-based music and in 1999 co-producing a solo album by Icelandic singer Emiliana Torrini.” TF “After a period of inactivity, Orzabal reteamed with Griffiths and released…Tomcats Screaming Outside as a solo project, under his own name. As Elemental and Raoul had essentially been solo projects, the sound is identical to Tears for Fears, combining big production values with varied songwriting influences.” WK

“Meanwhile, Curt Smith was getting on with his new life stateside.” TF He “hosted shows for MTV, started a syndicated college radio show, and, significantly, found an able music partner in guitarist/songwriter Charlton Pettus, with whom he formed the group Mayfield. ‘I guess I got the bug again,’ he says. ‘We started writing songs and then he persuaded me to start playing. So I just started playing clubs in New York and I had the best time ever. Because I would leave my apartment, walk to the club, play, and then walk home. It was basically rekindling my love of music, which was kind of for the right reasons-you do it because you actually want to do it, as opposed it just being a business, which is the side I didn’t really like.’” TF

In late 1997, Mayfield ”released its self-titled debut. The material caught a slight buzz in the college music scene but quickly fell out of the loop. Also during this time, Smith married longtime girlfriend Frances Pennington and had a baby girl, Pennington Diva Smith. His second solo effort, the Aeroplane EP, followed in June 2000, featuring new versions of Tears for Fears' ‘Pale Shelter’ and ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World.’” MW

The Reunion (2003-04)
“Still out on his own in the U.K., Roland notes, ‘every time I walked into a record company with any music, they were going, `Oh, this is great! Can you get back together with Curt?’ It was just on and on and on – market forces, and that kind of thing.’ Finally, the inevitable occurred-Curt and Roland again met, and the meeting was good. ‘We’ve always had business interests which have carried on after we split in’90,’ says Roland. ‘So we’re always signing off on things together anyway. We have mutual friends, and it was just a matter of time, really, before so much water passed under the bridge. And it was like – well, what are we worried about? Let’s start chatting and see where it goes.’” TF

In a script they couldn’t have written better themselves, “the name of Tears For Fears re-emerged with some surprise at the end of 2003 when a dark, piano-only version of their debut hit Mad World, sung by Gary Jules and featured on the Donnie Darko soundtrack, reached the UK Number 1 spot for Christmas. Despite chart-topping success in the USA, Tears For Fears never themselves got to Number 1 in their home nation.” WK

In September 2004, the duo finally emerged with Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, their first collaboration in over a decade.” STE “The album was slightly overdue, having been scheduled for release in late 2003.” WK “Standout tracks like Closest Thing to Heaven, ‘Call Me Mellow’ and ‘Who Killed Tangerine,’ are spectacularly contemporary and unmistakably classic Tears For Fears.” TF “‘This is the album that should have followed The Seeds of Love in many ways,’ says…Orzabal.” TF

The pair have toured since and released the live album Secret World in 2006, but have not recorded together again. Smith released his third solo album, Halfway Pleased, in 2007.

Biography Sources: