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  • Writer's pictureJO'B

The Songs That Saved My Life #13: Shout by Tears For Fears

George Orwell's 1984 (well, JO'B's version of it). It was a bright cold day in November, and the clocks were striking thirteen. JO'B, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Havelock Road, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage - it must have been Wednesday, so it was boiled bacon and cabbage day. In the box bedroom, a coloured poster, almost too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about twenty-three, with a heavy black hair that was thick and back-combed and ruggedly handsome features….the poster didn't say "Big Brother Is Watching You!". It said "Shout".

I started buying records in April 1984. By the end of that year, it was an obsession (and clearly still is). The first band I was hooked by was the Thompson Twins, but my tastes soon progressed. Depeche Mode, David Sylvian and Tears For Fears quickly took over. The latter were my favourites. I had loved Mother's Talk and bought its transparent green vinyl 7 inch single, on its release in August 1984. It came with a window sticker, which I lovingly place on the inside of the clear lid of my little stereo.

I then bought a cassette of their debut album, 1983's The Hurting, which I played to death (see Decades: 1983). It was around the end of 1984 I got a Walkman (clunky, orange foam headphones and terrible sound, but I loved it). It was my halo of distortion, protecting me from a world that was changing rapidly, and I found a little baffling. I wore down batteries at alarming speed, as I loved side one of The Hurting and would rewind and repeat its first three tracks (The Hurting, Mad World and Pale Shelter over and over). Often, I would use my school pencil to wind the tape back to the beginning to protect expensive and valuable battery life.

I made an expensive mistake at this stage, buying more albums on cassette than vinyl. Cassettes were poor quality; vinyl lasts. My need for instant gratification with my Walkman meant I made some poor choices. I have bought so many albums on vinyl again (at great expense!!). If only I had bought vinyl in the first place and kept it!

Mothers' Talk came out six months ahead of its parent album, and Tears For Fears' second full release, Songs From the Big Chair. It was followed in November by Shout. I remember reading that Roland and Curt had taken a step back after the relatively poor showing of the "between albums" single The Way You Are. Though it had reached 24 in the UK charts, it was considered a bit weak in every sense.

For Mothers' Talk, they had "strapped on the guitars" - I think Roland said this in a Smash Hits interview (this UK teen music magazine was my bible then; it was a while before I muscled up to buying the NME, Melody Maker and the "grown up" music news). By Shout they were hitting thunderous drums and producing soaring, screaming guitar solos and huge bellowing vocals. This was a very different Tears For Fears compared to The Hurting, which was all childhood angst and therapy.

I picked up Shout in Woolworths in Bexleyheath, the next town from us. I splashed out my hard-earned pocket money on the 12-inch single. I went to an all boys' school, so interactions with girls were rare. I bumped into two girls I had been to primary school with, and they asked what was in my record bag. I proudly announced "Shout" to which they responded loudly "what's the record???". I looked bewildered and repeated the title, and they burst out laughing. I had missed the joke and it would not be the last time that teenage girls would laugh at teenage JO'B. Hey ho.

I was still an inexperienced vinyl buyer and failed to check the record before I left the shop (buyer beware). When I got home, I realised that the record was warped beyond belief. I had also failed to keep my receipt. I was a rank amateur. However, the record still played and sounded amazing. And I loved watching the arm of my stylus flying up and down precariously as the record span around.

Its B-side, The Big Chair, was a title derived from the 1976 American television film Sybil about a woman with multiple personality disorder who only feels safe when sitting in her analyst's "big chair". It was the first song I had ever come across that had no vocals, just film dialogue samples. This was VERY different from the initial pop hits I was first hooked on.

The song rarely left my turntable, but again I made the mistake of buying its parent album on cassette. I've bought it at least twice since on CD and vinyl again. Damn! Short-term satisfaction vs long-term cost.

Shout was probably the first BIG song I loved. Along with What Difference Does It Make? by The Smiths with its multilayered guitars, Shout was huge. It had the big, catchy chorus, the sing along ending - it was the first stadium crowd pleaser I really loved. Simple Minds and U2 were to follow. Songs that were made to fill big spaces. It was an early lesson in size does matter.

It was a while before I got to see it live. I finally saw them on The Seeds Of Love tour in 1990. I went two out of three of the nights they played Wembley Arena, primarily because two friends of mine wanted to go but had fallen out with each other and I was being nice, going with each separately. It was very expensive to see exactly the same set two nights running. I still didn't realise that bands rarely mixed up their sets each night.

The gigs were great, though I was less of a fan of Sowing The Seeds Of Love, but Shout ended each show and was a fantastic singalong. I saw them later that summer at a huge charity gig in Knebworth, alongside Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney and more. They were the opening act and I was surprised they didn't play Shout - maybe time ran out (at least tells me they didn't play it, my memory is a little hazy on the detail!). It would be Curt and Roland's last gig together for 14 years.

I loved Elemental, Roland's first post-Curt album, but lost track of them after then. I didn't see them when they first reformed, I was a little unsure of Everybody Loves A Happy Ending, their comeback album in 2004. And didn't see them for years, until they played the O2 Arena in London in 2019. The gig was great, but they barely spoke to each other. It came across as the archetypal "top up the pension" tour. But since then, they have released a new album (The Tipping Point), which feels like a real partnership between Roland and Curt. It's ridiculously good. And the hair is much better these days...

Shout is still a song that I still love, and when I hear it, have to stop myself from indulging in some inept and embarrassing air-guitaring. And if nothing else, it made me listen before I respond and think about what I say when people are gently taking the piss out of me!

Stay safe, and if you enjoyed this, please subscribe (see link below), x

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