Thanks to Primal Scream Theory, Tears for Fears Reluctantly Rules the World of Rock 'n' Roll
07/01/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT
The boys in the band are all aboard the ultralux Rock Star Cruiser, a tour bus equipped for maximum party potential, hurtling down the great North American highway from one sold-out, girls-screaming, fans-rushing-the-stage concert to the next. It's Tears for Fears on their way to rock Nirvana—having already hit No. 1 in the U.K. and the U.S.A.—in a bus that last saw combat with Van Halen, the group that polished up the long-tarnished side of rock excess. But something is wrong with this picture. Gone is the perfectly decadent leopard-skin interior David Lee Roth and the boys so enjoyed. TFF backup singer Nicky Holland, the only woman in sight, is listening to Eartha Kitt on her Walkman. Bass guitarist Curt Smith, 24, is napping in the back. Songwriter Roland Orzabal, 23, is quietly sipping a soda. Clearly these so-called rock stars are not into it. "They really aren't like most rock bands," says road manager David Wernham. "They are one of the most reserved bands I have seen." No joke.
In the midst of their first world tour—and a grueling, nine-month-long 50-city road show—this band is all business. The idea is to promote their second LP—Songs From the Big Chair, in the top five on Billboard's Hot 100—and their first No. 1 U.S. single, Everybody Wants To Rule the World. The two principal players look cute enough, in a dark and brooding sort of way. But Roland and Curt are both happily married men, very serious dudes whose songs address such topics as child rearing and the roots of neurotic behavior. Heavy stuff for guys who have girls fainting at their feet most every night. To no avail. "It is getting to the stage where we're getting quite a lot of women sort of available to us," Roland says. "But I've had sufficient experience to tell me that one-night stands are not great fun." Curt keeps his sexual priorities straight by telephoning his wife twice a day. "The last thing I want is to turn into a rock-'n'-roll lifestyle," he says.
Roland and Curt have been mates since they were 13, when they met in their hometown of Bath, a fashionable health resort 100 miles west of London. Both grew up on the wrong side of the village green, and most of the angst shimmering on the stylized surface of their recordings springs from their tortured childhoods. (Their haunting first LP, the hurting, features lyrics like "Learn to cry/ Like a baby/ Then the hurting won't come back," inspired by the writings of primal scream therapist Arthur Janov.)
"My father was a bit of a monster," Roland says of the constant fighting between his parents. "My brothers and I would lie in our room at night crying. I've always been distrusting of males since then." Curt, whose parents separated when he was very young, turned to vandalism and petty crime before striking up a friendship and musical partnership with Roland.
The childhood chums formed Tears for Fears in 1981, taking the name from their interpretation of Janov's concept that long-harbored childhood fears can be relieved emotionally—that is, by trading one's fears for tears. After signing on drummer Manny Elias and keyboard player Ian Stanley, Roland and Curt created a sound built around synthesizers rather than the guitar, rock 'n' roll's traditional backbone. Critics tend to lump the band in with Britain's "techno-pop" groups, which may have led to the addition of a heavy metal guitar riff on Rule the World. Anticelebrity, yes; anticommercial, no.
As the TFF tour progresses, the boys plan to keep a sharp eye on the road ahead. "I truly believe if we wanted to become the biggest band in the world, we'd achieve it," Roland says, envisioning what he calls "the Steely Dan route" of minimal promotion, interviewing and touring. TFF, he says, may "just make classic records and great videos and let everybody get on with it. We don't want the trappings of stars." This is one band, it seems, that does not want to rule the world.