On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!
Tears for Fears – Mad World (1982)
We’re back to the UK today, dear reader, and find ourselves in Bath in Somerset, home to Roman baths and many other things. Formed in 1981 by Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal, Tears for Fears would become one of the most successful groups of the 1980s. When we join them in 1982 they are working on their debut album, The Hurting, and 1001 Songs have gone with one of the singles – Mad World.
Mad World was written by Roland Orzabal when he lived in a flat above a pizza restaurant in Bath. While he worked on his music his girlfriend, Caroline, later his wife of 25 years worked multiple jobs to support him. Looking out of the window upon the busy world around him, Mad World took shape in Orzabal’s mind. The song is from the perspective of an individual who sounds depressed and disillusioned with the world. They come across as very much an outsider with the world disconnected from them and how they feel. We even hear of difficult days at school, being an unknown, and having teachers that stare right through them. Much has been made of the lyrics concerning dreams of dying and how these relate to suicidal thoughts but Orzabal has confirmed this is more in line with the work of Arthur Janov who suggested intense dreams such as these can lead to a release of tension and thus make a person feel better.
Mad World is one of the earliest songs by Tears for Fears and it remains one of their best. It was interesting to read the background with the band not believing it would be a hit when in actual fact it went to the Top 5 in the UK. Orzabal originally tried to sing the song too but was unhappy with his vocals. As soon as Curt Smith sang the track, Orzabal was blown away by how good it sounded. This talented duo continued to make great songs until they parted ways in 1991 after a vicious argument or two. Orzabal kept the group name as a solo artist but he reunited with Smith in 2000 and the pair have worked together ever since. Thank goodness for that.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)
Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)
The Police – Message in a Bottle (1979)
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (1980)
Ultravox – Vienna (1980)