Producer Chris Hughes on the making of Tears’ For Fears “Shout”

I distinctly remember the making of “Shout.” I came to the studio on a Monday morning after the weekend, and (keyboardist) Ian Stanley walked in and he said to me, “I went over to Roland’s (Orzabal, Tears For Fears’ singer) house on the weekend, and he played me a little demo with a drum box and a little synthesizer. I don’t think he has recorded it yet as a demo, but you got to get him to play it for you.” So when Roland arrived, I said to him, “Ian tells me that he heard a new song that you got. Play it for me.” He set up a little drum box and a little synthesizer with a bass tone. He pressed the button on the drum box, and he programmed this little beat and it had these little chimey bells and a clapping drum beat. He pressed one of the keys and started singing, “Shout. Shout. Let it all out.”

It was astounding. I said, “Guys, we have to stop what we’re doing and record this now.” We spent months building that song from Roland’s original, unrecorded drum box and synthesizer idea. We spent months looking at rhythm, adding other drums, I played drums on the track, there were two drum boxes running, there was a Fairlight computer doing electronic stuff in the middle playing flute parts… That song was arranged by Roland, Ian, and I. It was essentially a Roland song, and Ian wrote, quite quickly, a medley which was a power piece in that song. Getting this track written, arranged, recorded, and mixed took months and months. Day in and day out we were working on it. It was a long slog to get that as great as we could get it. It was a long piece. The original recording was seven minutes long, but it got chopped down a bit. There were guitar solos in it. Up until then, there weren’t many synth bands putting in guitar solos. It was a long track that we built piece by piece by putting another verse on it and expanding the middle section. There was another little synthesizer break thing which Roland came in a few days later and said, “We need to put this in, we need to punctuate it, and break the track up.” So – we would come in and do bits and pieces for months.

While that was happening, every now and then, Roland would pick up a guitar, and he would be strumming two chords. I remember asking him, “Do you have something? What is it?” He replied, “Oh. It’s nothing. It’s just a couple of chords.” So I wrote the chords down and programmed the little drum box and these two chords. Every now and then, when we had a break, I would sit there listening to this programmed beat and these two chords. I kept saying to Roland, “You really, really must write a song with these two chords. It’s so great.” He wasn’t interested. One afternoon, his wife came into the studio and she heard me playing it, and she asked, “What’s that? What’s that? It’s great! It’s great!” I said, “Tell your husband because I’ve been telling him for two weeks now that he needs to write a song to it.”

Anyway, he came back a couple of weeks later, and he said, “Well, I haven’t got the song, but I have the two chords and I have a melody which goes, ‘Everybody wants to rule the world.’” I said, “Let’s write it now. Let’s make that song.” So Ian, Roland, and I sat down and wrote, recorded, and finished that track within a week. It was super quick. It didn’t take any time at all. It kind of built itself, meanwhile “Shout” was still waiting to be finished. [laughs] Those were two songs that were successful songs, but one took forever and one was done super quickly. I worked on those two tracks in my sleep. [laughs]

Via Red Bull Music Academy