I hope we live to tell the tale: Tears for Fears’ “Shout” & Arthur Janov’s Primal Scream Therapy

By on October 11, 2018

In this two-hour block of “Night Flight” from 1985, “Night Flight: Visions” took a virtual trip “Around the World,” checking in at destinations around the globe, some of them quite exotic and far-flung, but like a lot of our vacations, we ended up returning to familiar places we’d traveled to before, including the southwestern beaches of merry ol’ England, where Tears for Fears filmed parts of their “Shout” video.

Watch it now on Night Flight Plus.

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“Shout” — the third single from Songs From The Big Chair, released on November 23, 1984, in the UK, and on June 4, 1985, in America — was rooted in the idea that a person can protest the madness of the world by shouting and “letting it all out,” which continues to feel appropriate for our modern times, doesn’t it?

“Shout” was a a huge international hit, reaching the Top Ten in 25 countries, including the UK (where it was their sixth Top 40 hit, peaking at #4 in January 1985), the U.S (#1 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 in August ’85), Canada (#1), as well as Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

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Although the band’s Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith were both devoted adherents of American psychologist Arthur Janov and his Primal Scream therapy, the song, according to Orzabal, is “actually more concerned with political protest.”

Orzabal: “It came out in 1984, when a lot of people were still worried about the aftermath of The Cold War, and it was basically an encouragement to protest.”

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The Nigel Dick-directed video for “Shout” features footage of Tears for Fears’ dynamic duo shot in late 1984 on an isolated cliffside above a natural limestone arch called Durdle Door (or Durdle Dor), located on the Jurassic Coast near Lulworth in Dorset, England.

There’s also footage of the band in a studio — along with members of their full band, including Ian Stanley and Manny Elias — performing in front of family members and friends.

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The video — which reportedly cost just £14,000 to produce (a bit over $18,000 in today’s U.S. dollars) — received lots of airplay on MTV, which helped to further expose them to American audiences, although they’d had quite a lot of exposure already.

Read more about Tears for Fears below.

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Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith formed Tears for Fears in 1981.

They’d been playing together in the 2-Tone ska revival band Graduate, but neither of them were happy with some of the band’s decisions with regards to their musical direction.

Both were feeling frustrated that they were constantly being outvoted — their best-forgotten single “Elvis Should Play Ska” being one example — and so they decided to split off and become a duo who would only have to please themselves.

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They got their new band name from idea that you can trade a tear for a fear, something they’d read about in primal scream therapist Arthur Janov’s book, Prisoners of Pain, the basic idea being that you can cleanse yourself of fears by weeping copiously, trading your tears of the here and now for your fears of the past.

We’ve read that some of the other band names they’d considered were Ideas as Opiates (which became the title of a song released on the b-side of a 1982 single), The Upside Down Clinic and History of Headaches.

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Just like John Lennon — who used Primal Therapy techniques to channel the suffering of his own childhood into songs like “God,” “Mother” and “Working Class Hero” for his first solo album, Plastic Ono Band – Janov’s trauma-based psychotherapy would have a major influence on the songs they’d write for their own debut album, The Hurting, released on March 7, 1983.

Early on, Orzabal and Smith had made it a lifelong goal to travel to America, in fact, in order to meet with Janov and undergo Primal Therapy sessions, and the songs on The Hurting were their “ticket out,” so to speak, a means to that end.

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According to Tears for Fears’ Roland Orzabal — who co-wrote “Shout” with band member Ian Stanley, who played keyboards, wrote songs and produced all of the Tears for Fears releases between 1982-1988 — the song has a double meaning.

One is the reference to Janov’s Primal Scream book, and the other is the idea that you need to express your opinions in a democracy.

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The Hurting — which could be considered a concept album, since there are references to emotional distress and Primal Therapy in nearly every song — peaked at #1 on the UK album charts in the second week of release.

It spawned three Top Five singles: “Mad World,” “Change” and “Pale Shelter,” and remained on the charts for 65 weeks.

Bruce Eder, reviewing The Hurting for the All Music Guide website, said the album’s “unexpected” success in England in 1983 was “mostly by virtue of its makers’ ability to package an unpleasant subject — the psychologically-wretched family histories of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith — in an attractive and sellable musical format.”

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Songs From The Big Chair — their second album — is a reference to the 1976 American TV movie Sybil, starring Sally Field as a woman with sixteen distinct and different personalities, suffering from personality disorder.

She only feels comfortable sitting in her psychiatrist’s big chair (in the 1990s, the authors of the original Sybil book revealed that much of their work had been a hoax).

Fly “Around the World” with Night Flight while sampling the sounds of (nearly) every continent circa 1985 — we’ll stop off in Jamaica, Japan, Australia, and South Africa, among other destinations — in this special two-hour “Night Flight: Visions,” now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.