Top Ten 80s Songs #1: Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Tears For Fears

Songs from the Big Chair

I’m a child of the eighties and proud of it. Musically, it was a funny old decade with some serious songs but also many bizarre ones as well. I think of the eighties as a colourful, fun decade of dominant cheesy pop but with some timeless masterpieces not far behind the chart toppers. Over the next ten days I will attempt to disclose what are for me the ten greatest songs of the eighties. It’s always hard to compile a list of this nature and my opinion is likely to change in the near future, but for now here are my golden ten.

I am indebted to and to all those that have contributed to some very interesting discussions about all the songs featured here. It’s important that everyone finds their own meaning in any song but some of the opinions I heard were certainly eye openers for me. I intend to share my own thoughts on these songs and how, after all these years, they still have a profound impact on my life.

Tears For Fears: Everybody Wants to Rule the World (1985)

Songs from the Big ChairArguably, the finest song of the 80s. Written by band members Roland Orzabal, Ian Stanley and producer Chris Hughes, and sung beautifully by bassist Curt Smith, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” was released in the UK in March 1985 and amazingly only reached no.2, though it was a chart topper Stateside. As with Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” Tears For Fears didn’t believe the song had the best possibility of success, being the third single to be released from the “Songs From The Big Chair” album and originally considered to be something of a black sheep with the rest of the other songs recorded. I’ve read a variety of interpretations of the song with one suggestion being a contemporary reflection on the world in the mid-eighties with the Cold War still ongoing. Curt Smith once revealed, “the concept is quite serious – it’s about everybody wanting power, about warfare and the misery it causes.” I’ve always struggled to decipher the song’s meaning so it was interesting to gain some enlightenment.

The music video to “Everybody Wants To The Rule The World” interchanges between Curt Smith driving around America, his strange hairstyle blowing in the wind, and the group performing the song in the studio. A notable highlight is two men in tuxedos and sunglasses dancing outside a service station. I like to think this was a regular occurrence in America in the eighties but I’m a hopeless dreamer!

I’ve been listening to “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” for years, it’s one of the songs I can remember vividly from childhood and I will never tire of hearing it. Mrs B does a very good rendition of the song on Singstar though yours truly isn’t good enough to sweep the floor in Tears For Fears’ studio let alone try and match Curt Smith’s singing. Both Smith and Orzabal contributed some great singing to the group’s hits but it’s credit to Orzabal that he took a step back and allowed Smith to sing what turned out to be their biggest hit as well as “Mad World.” Orzabal proved with “Head Over Heels,” another favourite of my mine, that he could sing really well. I would argue for “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” to be in any list of the ten best songs of the eighties. Personally, I don’t hesitate in seeing it at the top.

Top Ten so far:

1) Tears For Fears: Everybody Wants To Rule The World (1985)

2) Soft Cell: Say Hello Wave Goodbye (1982)

3) The Smiths: I Know It’s Over (1986)

4) Erasure: Ship of Fools (1988)

5) Ultravox: Vienna (1981)

6) Nik Kershaw: The Riddle (1984)

7) Marillion: Kayleigh (1985)

8) U2: Pride (In The Name Of Love) (1984)

9) Guns ‘N’ Roses: Sweet Child O’ Mine (1988)

10) Depeche Mode: Just Can’t Get Enough (1981)

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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  1. Thank you so much for your wonderful blog on TFF. I am a TFF fan and I really find their songs timeless and should be up there with the best of the best. Their first two albums (The Hurting and Songs from the Big Chair) are all very well-thought, emotional-driven songs that each can stand on its on. Again, thanks for featuring Tears for Fears…much appreciated :-)

    1. Hi Olivia. Thanks for your feedback on the blog. Always nice to hear from readers. Glad you felt I did the wonderful Tears for Fears justice. You are right. They have given us many timeless songs and I'm sure they will continue to endure for decades to come. Thanks again for your feedback

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