Sowing Success: Tears For Fears’ The Seeds of Love at 30

The third classic from Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith saw them channeling their inner Fabs

Promotional poster for “Sowing The Seeds Of Love” single

It’s not surprising that following up the album yielding Tears for Fears the biggest hit of their career would prove to be a formidable task. Yet given the fact that it took the band four years to release the LP which many have cited as their absolute masterpiece, it seemed nothing less than a heavy challenge.

Indeed, the effort taken to reach the high plateau they had attained courtesy of their previous hit single “Shout” appeared to have no regard as far as its expense was concerned. The album that would initially gel into The Seeds of Love reportedly cost over a million pounds to produce. Yet considering the band’s ambitions — mostly focused on replicating a sound similar to the Beatles as well as other iconic influences — that’s hardly surprising. Indeed, the album’s center point, the single “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” still stands out as an epic effort in itself.

 

VIDEO: “Sowing the Seeds of Love” by Tears for Fears

Happily then, their work panned out, as evidenced by the fact that The Seeds of Love was nothing less than a monumental success, climbing into the top ten in England, the U.S., Canada and most of Europe. Nevertheless, by every indication the core duo — Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith — had expended all the energies on the project. In fact, it would be the final album the pair collaborated on together for another decade.

Indeed, nothing about the record indicated that it was smooth sailing, at least not from the start. An early attempt to record the album was initiated in 1986 under the aegis of producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, but Orzabal and Smith indicated they weren’t pleased with the results and opted to start over with Chris Hughes, the man who had produced their earlier outings, back behind the boards. They also scrapped the electronics and computerized effects that were once the norm, and went back instead to real instrumentation and a decidedly organic approach. 

Tears For Fears The Seeds of Love, Fontana 1989

Still, other difficulties would remain. Both Hughes and longtime keyboard player Ian Stanley opted to leave the fold due to creative differences, leaving Smith and Orzabal to pick up the pieces and produce the album themselves. It acerbated the fraught relationship between the two men by furthering their divide and threatening to break up the band entirely.

Yet, for all the unfortunate circumstance, the album evolved as a true sonic masterpiece, as evidenced not only by its monster single, but also by such standout selections as “Badman’s Song,” “Advice for the Young At Heart” and “Famous Last Words,” among the many. In addition, the enlistment of the legendary American gospel singer Oleta Adams added a soulful component to the sound, an additive made obvious by the three songs on which she’s featured — “Badman’s Song,” “Woman in Chains” and “Standing on the Corner of the Third World.” 

While some fans still preferred their sophomore set Songs from the Big Chair and viewed The Seeds of Love as a concession to commercialism, in retrospect 30 years later, it’s evident that the Tears for Fears were at the crest of their accomplishment. The seeds sown with the record yielded an impressive harvest indeed.

 

AUDIO/VIDEO: Tears for Fears’ The Seeds of Love (full album)

 

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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