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The Hurting

In 1981, I was noisily going about my business as editor of Smash Hits when I received a phone call from Mercury Records.  They had a new act, they said, who were quite poppy but they weren’t sure how to present them, so would I please write their introductory press biography?  The accompanying pre-release tape was indeed attractively poppy.  The two projected singles – “Pale Shelter” and “Suffer The Children” – were a tuneful blend of electronics with acoustic guitars, but they also had an intriguing emotional tension.  And their melancholy subject matter was not an obvious topic for the pop charts, then dominated by the likes of Shakin’ Stevens, Adam & The Ants and 2-Tone, though synthesiser-based acts such as Depeche Mode and Human League were coming along nicely.

Shortly afterwards I was introduced to two rather serious young men in their early 20s: Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith.  Both turned out to be products of less-than-happy upbringings on council estates in Bath: middle sons in three-boy families, brought up primarily by their mothers.  The pair had been in a five-piece ska band called Graduate but, frustrated by being at once its creative force but consistently outvoted, they’d left to start their own outfit.

“The reason we could leave,” Curt remembers, “was because technology had just got to the stage when you could actually do it without a band.  That was the main musical theme of ‘The Hurting’.  As far as compositions went, Roland wrote primarily most things.  Having said that, a lot of things were written while we were together, so I was chipping in all the time.  Everything was written on an acoustic guitar, because we had no equipment and no studio to work in.  It wasn’t until we met Ian Stanley – he had an eight-track in his house – that we got into the technology, that we could actually use sequencers and stuff like that.”

A clue to their big pre-occupation quickly became evident in their choice of name: Tears For Fears.  For the pair were attempting to work out the unresolved unhappinesses of difficult childhoods through the works of psychotherapist Arthur Janov, author of “The Primal Scream”.

“There was a sense of trying to get it out of your system,” Curt recalls, “the premise being that unless you talked about those things, there was no way you were going to get over them.”

“We’d read the books,” concurs Roland, “and in fact one of our ambitions was to make money to pay for the therapy.  At the time you could only get it in LA or New York, and for two kids on the dole it was a lot of money to fly out there.”

And yet for all the sombre weightiness of the topic, the songs were so catchy.  Had Roland himself been a pop fan?

“Yeah – big time!  I grew up on pop.  I used to get ‘Disco 45’, the magazine with all the song lyrics, and when ‘Top Of The Pops’ came on I would flick to the song and sing along.  I worshipped it.  I listened to the radio, and I couldn’t understand how the records were made.  An amazing noise!  I used to wonder at the magic of certain songs, and just try and do it myself.  I really, really loved it, believed in it a hundred per cent.”

Neither “Pale Shelter” or “Suffer The Children” were a hit, but the next single, “Mad World” (originally intended as the b-side of “Pale Shelter”) went to Number 3 in September 1982.  It was followed by “Change” (Number 4, January 1983) and a re-recorded “Pale Shelter” (Number 5, April 1983).  Against all odds, Arthur Janov was suddenly in the Top 10.

“Because it was such an alien topic,” Roland says, “no one really understood it.  Nor did they understand that it was a major, major part of the force behind the band.  His influence was massive on the songs.  ‘Ideas As Opiates’ is a chapter in one of his books.  ‘Prisoners Of Pain’ is another one of his books.  That system of psychology enabled me to write about my emotions.”

And so let’s run briefly through the tracks…

“The Hurting”  Roland: “Curt went to see the Thompson Twins when they were a seven-piece, and as he was telling me about it, I was playing it on guitar – ‘What? Like this?’ – and that’s how it started.  The lyric?  Typical feeling sorry for oneself and typical identification with the victim that runs throughout that album!”  Curt: “‘The Hurting’ is really the thing that personified the whole record.  If we’re talking about the writings of Arthur Janov, that’s the one that basically sums it up.”

“Mad World”  Roland: “That came when I lived above a pizza restaurant in Bath and I could look out onto the centre of the city.  Not that Bath is very mad – I should have called it ‘Bourgeois World’!  Curt: “‘Mad World’ was the first single off the finished album.  The intention was to gain attention from it and we’d hopefully build up a little following.  We had no idea that it would become a hit.  Nor did the record company.  I remember rushing off to London to do ‘Top Of The Pops’ and having to go shopping for clothes – things like that.”

“Pale Shelter”  Roland: “It’s a kind of love song, though more referring to one’s parents than to a girl.”

“Ideas As Opiates”  Roland: “That’s the chapter from Janov, and it’s really a reference to people’s mindsets, the way that the ego can suppress.  So much nasty information about oneself – the gentle way that the mind can fool oneself into thinking everything is great.”  Curt: “It really was all about that kind of thing – the psychological answer to religion being the opiate of the masses, whereas we thought ideas were, more than anything else.”

“Memories Fade”  Roland: “The whole notion of repression in psychology is that although things are shoved to the back of one’s mind, they still exert a force on your behaviour, creating phobias, depression, insecurities... You’re using up energy when you’re repressing things, which could be used for far better things, like a forehand volley!”

“Suffer The Children”  Roland [parental chuckle]: “So they bloody should!  No – we were really big on this at the time – we really thought that children were born innocent and good and holy… When you’ve got kids of your own you realise how bloody difficult it is.  But it’s that kind of thing – saying look at what you’re doing with your child.”  Curt: “‘Suffer The Children’ was the first song we did together when we left Graduate.  It was our very first experiment with sequencers and drum machines, with a guy called David Lord, who worked with Peter Gabriel and different people down in Bath.  So that was actually the first song we did as Tears For Fears.”

“Watch Me Bleed”  Roland: “Again, feeling sorry for oneself – I am a victim of a certain type.  [Embarrassed laugh] God bless me!”

“Change”  Roland: “It’s not really about much.  It’s just one of those cheap pop lyrics.”  Curt: “A strange little pop song.”

“The Prisoner”  Roland: “I liked ‘Gabriel III’ – all the scratchy noises of ‘Intruder’ and stuff like that, and that was our adolescent attempt at it.”  Curt: “There were certain times that we basically just got into musical atmosphere.  That’s what we did on pretty much all our b-sides early on – just a way of getting away from the actual lyrical content and melody and trying to create atmosphere.”

“Start Of The Breakdown”  Roland: “It was a reference to my father, who had a nervous breakdown.  ‘Dry skin flakes when there’s ice in the veins…’  He had arterial sclerosis, and breakdown is the nervous breakdown.  At the time there were certain bands that allowed you to be that morbid, and they were cool bands – people like Joy Division – who really glorified that kind of pain and suicidal instincts.”

Also included on this reissue is the subsequent non-album single “The Way You Are” (Number 24, November 1983).  It’s a long way from being the pair’s favourite but it turned out to have its place in their story…  Roland: “We were trying to become more and more arty, and it had a very odd rhythm, very intricate.”  Curt: “We’d just had all this success with ‘The Hurting’, we didn’t know where we were going next, but we were asked to go in and do a single.  We were just trying to be clever but again, it was the step that got us to ‘Songs From The Big Chair’.  After ‘The Hurting’ we went further into being anal about what we did, and very precise, and realising that that was a mistake led into being a lot more free on ‘Songs From The Big Chair’.”

Apart from the small matter of reaching Number 1, “The Hurting” struck a chord with the budding artists of the day.  Mansun, for one, have said that they’re fans.  “What’s very interesting,” smiles Curt, “is the amount of musicians who come up to me and say – ‘The Hurting’ was such a big influence on me when I was growing up.’  Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins) came over and said that ‘The Hurting’ was a huge influence on the way he produced stuff.  Also in America’s r&b world – Wyclef, hard core bands like Black Sheep and more black artists than white artists, strangely enough – come up and say that we were a big influence.”

Roland prefers to keep such personal tributes a private matter, but delights in telling this story.  “In 1995, we were doing a French TV programme based on duets with other artists, and we got in Julian Lennon.  Oasis were rehearsing in the next studio, and I remember doing ‘Seeds Of Love’ and the door being pulled open and Liam stood there with his thumbs up!”

– Ian Cranna


the hurting
Vocals – Roland and Curt

mad world
Vocals – Curt

pale shelter
Vocals – Curt

ideas as opiates
Vocals – Roland

memories fade
Vocals – Roland

suffer the children
Vocals – Roland

watch me bleed
Vocals – Roland

Vocals – Curt

the prisoner
Vocals – Curt

start of the breakdown
Vocals – Roland


pale shelter
(Long Version)
Vocals – Curt

the way you are
Vocals – Curt

mad world (World Remix)
Vocals – Curt

(Extended Version)
Vocals – Curt

1-10: Written by Roland Orzabal
Produced by Chris Hughes & Ross Cullum

11: Written by Roland Orzabal/ Curt Smith
Produced by Mike Howlett

12: Written by M. Elias/ R. Orzabal/ C. Smith/ I. Stanley
Produced by Chris Hughes & Ross Cullum
Engineered by Ross Cullum

13 & 14: Written by Roland Orzabal
Produced by Chris Hughes & Ross Cullum
Engineered by Ross Cullum

A&R Co-Ordination: David Bates

All Tracks: (P) 1983 Mercury Records Ltd. (London)
except 2 & 13: (P) 1982 Mercury Records Ltd. (London)

All lyrics Copyright Control


Vocals, Bass, Keyboards

Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Rhythm Programming

Drumming, Rhythm Programming

Keyboards Programming, Computer Programming


Rhythm Programming, Tuned Percussion, Conducting

Jazz High, Dynamic Toggle


Palmer Picking

Child Vocal on ‘Suffer The Children’

Supervising Producer for this compilation: Mike Gill at C-Dreams

Remastered by Jon Astley and Chris Hughes at Close To The Edge, Twickenham

Remastered graphics: JL at Graphyk

Special thanks to: Paul Reidy, Jon Astley, Chris Hughes, Lisa-Jane Mussellbrook, Mandy James,
Michael B. Chapman, Beano’s records, Andy Simmons, Richard Smith, Ian Cranna, Sean Egan, Roland Orzabal, Curt Smith, Max Hole, Howard Berman, Nick Stewart and JL.

Front cover photograph: Ashworth
Inside cover photograph: Davies/Starr

Originally released in 1983.

© 1999 Mercury Records Ltd. (London). Manufactured by the Island Def Jam Music Group. Distributed by Universal Music & Video Distribution, Inc. Warning: All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws. Mfd. for BMG Direct under license. Printed in U.S.A.

314 558 104-2

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