My brother and sisters took an instant disliking to Tears for Fears back in 1985, and at first, I agreed with them. I think it was "Shout", however, that made me break ranks and earn their pre-adolescent scorn.
Songs from the Big Chair ended up influencing me as a musician. I was taking my first steps as a songwriter in 1986, and "The Working Hour" seemed to leak its way into the stuff I wrote.
Rolling Stone magazine once described Tears for Fears as the missing link between Sade and the Cure. "The Working Hour" is perhaps emblematic of that bridge — there’s the requisite ’80s saxophone and that DX-7 piano. But at its heart, it’s still post-punk.
The Robert Wyatt-inspired "I Believe" also posesses a jazz influence, but the anthemic "Shout" and mostly instrumental "Broken" weigh in with the band’s rock credentials.
The most obtuse track on the album, "Listen", is a strange collage of percussion, non-sensical lyricals and operatic singing. It’s a beautiful but impenetrable track.
Songs from the Big Chair turned Tears for Fears into international stars, and the album sold in the multi-millions. Although only eight tracks long — a perfect fit for vinyl records back then — there’s a completeness to the entire work. The extra tracks on the deluxe edition are pretty miscellaneous.
A good portion of the first disc, which contains the full album, was already issued back in 1999, when the album was remastered. Tears for Fears put its more embryonic ideas on the b-sides of its singles. There’s an unfinished feel to these tracks that perhaps don’t even rise to the label of "song". They’re more akin to the band’s synthesizer-driven debut album, The Hurting.
"When in Love with a Blind Man", something of an alternate version of "The Working Hour", wasn’t included in the original 1999 remastered release, and it’s the most coherent of the bunch. A cover of Wyatt’s "Sea Song" shows how the reclusive songwriter influenced member Roland Orzabal.
The second disc of the deluxe edition doesn’t really illuminate much more on the album. It consists mostly of 7- and 12-inch edits of the band’s biggest hit singles.
The non-album single "The Way You Are", which opens the second disc, is also more akin to The Hurting. It demonstrates the giant creative leap between the two albums — Tears for Fears went from a cold synthetic duo to a dynamic live band.
The 12-inch mixes are incredibly low tech, spliced and repetitive. Editing software wouldn’t come to its own for another decade, so the content of the extended mixes stray as far as they can from its source.
The deluxe edition of Songs from the Big Chair doesn’t show much in the way of how the album was created — no demos, no previously unreleased alternate versions. It’s more of a collection for completists who wish to hear that era of material.