On June 10, 1985, Tears for Fears released “Head Over Heels,” a song that further solidified the group’s place among the New Wave elite.
At the time, the band was enjoying the biggest hot streak of its career. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Shout” each hit No. 1 in the U.S., while the group’s album, Songs From the Big Chair, was on its way to selling more than 8 million copies worldwide.
Even though Tears for Fears had already had success in their native U.K., the LP marked their breakthrough in America. “We were the in thing,” guitarist and singer Roland Orzabal explained in a British radio interview.
“They go through peaks and troughs in America where sometimes they’re incredibly keen on what they call new music and they’re open to new influences and they see that something exciting is going on outside of America. And then they get very protectionist. That’s the other side of the wave. So, we were just very lucky that we made something that was accessible that appeared modern, contemporary, left-of-field. I mean, I don’t think it was left-of-field at all, but to America and Americans, it certainly was. So we were very popular and very hip.”
As the band’s star grew brighter in the U.S., its performances became bigger. “The gigs just grew and grew in size,” Orzabal recalled, “and we ended up playing to 17,000 in L.A. with helicopters and fireworks and all this kind of stuff.”
Still, the origin of “Head Over Heels” predated the band’s U.S. fame, going back several years. In 1982, Tears for Fears released a single “Pale Shelter,” with the song “Broken” as its B-side. As the band integrated “Broken” into its live set, the song began to evolve; most importantly, its distinctive piano part took on a life of its own.
Watch Tears for Fears’ ‘Head Over Heels’ Video
“We’d taken the song on the road and transformed it,” Orzabal explained. “And ‘Head Over Heels’ shares the [piano] motif at the beginning, and we did it as a segue. And it ended up like that on the album.”
Just as Orzabal alluded, “Head Over Heels” would be bookended on Songs From the Big Chair by two different versions of “Broken” – one recorded in the studio, the other live. The romantic tone of “Head Over Heels’” also marked a lyrical departure for the band.
“‘Head Over Heels’ is probably the closest we’ll ever get to a love song,” Orzabal remarked in an interview included in the 2014 Songs From the Big Chair re-release. “It’s a love song that kind of goes a bit perverse at the end.”
“Head Over Heels” peaked at No. 3 on the U.S. chart, continuing the band’s Stateside dominance. It’s video earned steady rotation on MTV, further aiding the group’s pop-culture infiltration.