The Seeds of Love, released in 1989, is the third studio album by English progressive pop group Tears for Fears. Coming out nearly half a decade after the smash critical and commercial success of Songs from the Big Chair, the album dives even further into the eclectic experimentalism that the band had leaned into on their sophomore album, amplifying their jazz influences and incorporating elements of soul and Gospel Music. Additionally, the sound becomes much denser and more organic; public preferences had already shifted away from synthesizer-driven music by this point, and indeed the band openly desired to move away from the "programmed pop" of their prior work, which they came to view as sterile and restrictive.
This change in sound was not without consequence: because of the far greater complexity in both composition and instrumentation, the album took three years and over £1 million to put together, starting in late 1986 and continuing through the remainder of the decade. Much of this was exacerbated by the band's perfectionism, resulting in material being constantly scrapped and rearranged as producers came and went, with the artists ultimately settling on Songs from the Big Chair engineer David Bascombe. To help flesh out their black-inspired sound further, the band enlisted the help of African American lounge player Oleta Adams, at the time a relative unknown, to provide piano and backing vocals on several songs. The album would act as a major Colbert Bump for Adams, who was able to restart her dormant solo career and see renewed mainstream and critical attention off the heels of her collaboration with Tears for Fears.
Upon release, the album became a chart-topper in the UK and Ireland and peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 200, going on to become the 21st best-selling album of the year in Britain and the 66th best-selling of 1990 in the United States. The album would later be certified double-platinum in Canada, platinum in the UK, the US, and France, and gold in Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland.
The album's difficult production and more tepid reception on release would have an adverse effect on the band: Curt Smith, feeling that Roland Orzabal had become too controlling during production and with diminishing results, walked out on Tears for Fears in 1991. The pair's relationship would become heavily strained for the remainder of the decade, with the two not reconciling and reuniting until 2000. During the interim, Orzabal would keep Tears for Fears going himself, with the band's '90s material often being described as his solo work in all but name (although the band's material was still written collaboratively between Orzabal and the other remaining members).
The Seeds of Love was supported by four singles: "Sowing the Seeds of Love", "Woman in Chains", "Advice for the Young at Heart", and "Famous Last Words". Additionally, two B-sides would be rearranged and released as singles following the album's release. The first of these was a remix of "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams", pseudonymously released as a non-album single in 1991. The second was "Laid So Low (Tears Roll Down)", a re-recorded lyrical version of the (mostly) instrumental "Tears Roll Down"; released in 1992 to promote the Greatest Hits Album Tears Roll Down (Greatest Hits 8292), this single would mark the first release by the Smith-less incarnation of the band.
- "Woman in Chains" (6:30)
- "Badman's Song" (8:32)
- "Sowing the Seeds of Love" (6:19)
- "Advice for the Young at Heart" (4:54)
- "Standing on the Corner of the Third World" (5:30)
- "Swords and Knives" (6:20)
- "The Year of the Knife" (6:55)
- "Famous Last Words" (4:31)
Tropes for the saints who are quick to judge me:
- Abusive Parents: "Tears Roll Down" (the B-Side of "Sowing the Seeds of Love") mentions an abusive mother.And when your mother's violence
Sent your soul underground
Where tears roll down
- Album Title Drop: The album receives one not only in "Sowing the Seeds of Love", but also in "Badman's Song" ("but at least the seeds of love will be sown").
- all lowercase letters: The band name and album title are written this way on the front cover and CD spine.
- Apocalypse How: "Famous Last Words" is set during the nuclear annihilation of the entire planet.
- Arc Words: "The sun and the moon, the wind and the rain" appears in no less than three different songs ("Woman in Chains", "The Year of the Knife", and "Famous Last Words"). These elements are also visually depicted on the cover, and the original title for the album itself was The Sun, the Moon, the Wind, and the Rain.
- Baroque Pop: The band lean further into the genre on this album, with heavy orchestral elements on many tracks.
- Call-Back: "Advice for the Young at Heart" refers to the previous album's "The Working Hour".
- Call-Forward: The line "But at least the seeds of love will be sown" in "Badman's Song" alludes to the next track, "Sowing the Seeds of Love". Meanwhile, the line "They say his famous final words came from the heart of the man" in "The Year of the Knife" anticipates "Famous Last Words" right after it.
- Careful with That Axe: Both "Sowing the Seeds of Love" and "The Year of the Knife" feature Roland Orzabal shrieking lyrics near the end.
- Celebrity Elegy: "Swords and Knives" is a memorial to Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen; the song was originally written for the biopic Sid & Nancy, but was added to the album after the filmmakers rejected it for not being "punk" enough.
- Children Are Innocent: "Swords and Knives":A waking world of innocence
So grave those first born cries
When life begins with needles and pins
It ends with swords and knives
God save those born to die
- Color Wash: A lot of scenes in the "Advice for the Young at Heart" music video are mildly pink-tinged to heighten the romance and joy of the newlywed couple.
- Credits Gag: The back cover and liner notes describe the album has having been "mixed in Superbascombevision," a play on producer Dave Bascombe's name that doubles as a cheeky way of referring to how complicated the album's mixing was (taking several weeks to complete).
- Deliberately Monochrome: The "Woman in Chains" music video is shot entirely in black and white.
- Design Student's Orgasm: After the relatively low-key album art for The Hurting and Songs from the Big Chair, the cover for The Seeds of Love is an elaborate collage of paintings and props tying in with the album's denser, more organic sound and even more eclectic style.
- Downer Ending: The closing song, "Famous Last Words", describes the narrator and his girlfriend dying in each other's arms during a nuclear apocalypse.
- Eastern Zodiac: In the song "Rhythm of Life (Demo)" note , it's repeated twice that Lucy is lucky that her astrological sign is the dragon.She's got luck
Lucy's sign is the Chinese dragon, oh
- Epic Rocking: All but three tracks on the album exceed six minutes, with "Badman's Song" in particular stretching for eight and a half.
- Face on the Cover: A shot of the band standing alongside a number of visual elements from the album appears on the front cover.
- Fading into the Next Song: The last three tracks on the album all seamlessly segue into one another.
- Fire Purifies: "Badman's Song" evokes this trope with the verse "Fire can cleanse your soul".
- Fire/Water Juxtaposition:
- Appears on the front cover, with Roland Orzabal's blue suit & umbrella with a fish ornament attached and Curt Smith's gold suit & staff with a sun ornament at its tip representing the water and fire elements associated with Cancer (Smith's zodiac sign) and Leo (Orzabal's sign), respectively.
- The red splotch with the small gold paint blobs on the "Woman in Chains◊" artwork signify fire, which is a masculine element in western astrology, while the blue swirls signify water, a feminine element. The song is about the oppression of women in a patriarchal world.
- Flower Motifs: This album introduced sunflowers as a visual motif for Tears for Fears. Not only do sunflowers appear on the album cover and American CD label, but the line "I love a sunflower" appears in "Sowing the Seeds of Love", with the plants also being depicted on the song's single cover and that for "Advice for the Young at Heart".
- Flowers of Femininity: The covers of the "Sowing the Seeds of Love◊" and "Advice for the Young at Heart◊" singles feature women surrounded by flowers. The 1991 reissue of "Woman in Chains◊" adds a floral design that was lacking on the original artwork.
- I Am the Band: This album marked the point where Roland Orzabal came to dominate the band, most readily represented by Curt Smith only singing lead vocals on one song, "Advice for the Young at Heart"; Oleta Adams sings on more of the album than Smith does. Smith would quit the group two years later because of Orzabal's grip on the band.
- Indecipherable Lyrics: The screamed line after the second instance of "I made my bed on love denied" in "The Year of the Knife" is "And now I ain't gonna sleep tonight." However, Orzabal's delivery makes it hard to parse that even when one knows the words in advance.
- In the Style of...: "Sowing the Seeds of Love" was written as a homage to the latter-day Psychedelic Rock material by The Beatles, taking particular influence from "I Am the Walrus".
- In Touch with His Feminine Side: The verse "Free her" in the feminist anthem "Woman in Chains" has double meaning; it's not just about liberating women from the shackles of patriarchy, but it's also about allowing men to freely express their feminine sides. According to Roland Orzabal in this interview:So when I sing "Woman in Chains", I'm singing about the oppression of women around the world, but I'm also singing about the repression of the female anima within myself. At the end when I sing, "Free her", I'm also saying, "Free me."
- Large Ham: Roland Orzabal leans into this far more than on previous albums, with a more passionate delivery style that approaches Careful with That Axe territory on a couple occasions.
- Let's Duet: "Woman in Chains" is a duet with Roland Orzabal and Oleta Adams, and they take turns singing different verses.
- Life/Death Juxtaposition: On the album cover, there's a fish ornament on Roland Orzabal's umbrella (it's implied to be "dead" because fish can't survive outside a body of water) and his brooch is a stylized fish skeleton (so both fishes signify death), whereas Curt Smith's brooch is a stylized eye (only living creatures have eyes) with eyelashes adorned with a five-pointed star (which symbolizes the universe in general), the crescent moon (which rules Smith's zodiac sign Cancer) and the sun (which rules Orzabal's zodiac sign Leo). In other words, Smith's brooch is a whimsical representation of life being influenced by the cosmos (Orzabal is big on astrology, so he genuinely believes that celestial bodies determine our personalities and our destinies).
- Light Is Not Good: "Famous Last Words" mentions "When the light from above burns a hole straight through our love," representing death by nuclear apocalypse.
- Limited Lyrics Song: "Tears Roll Down" is a Single Stanza Song where the vocals take up only 32 seconds out of its 3:16 length, and the verse "Where tears roll down" is sung four times.
- Long Hair Is Feminine: All the female models on the "Sowing the Seeds of Love", "Woman in Chains" and "Advice for the Young at Heart" single covers have long hair.
- Long Title: "Sowing the Seeds of Love", "Advice for the Young at Heart", and especially "Standing on the Corner of the Third World" lean into the band's affinity for lengthier song titles. The original album title, The Sun, the Moon, the Wind, and the Rain, is also a bit of a mouthful.
- Love Cannot Overcome: "Swords and Knives" features the verse "And it's sad love's not enough to make things better".
- Lyrical Dissonance:
- "Woman in Chains" is an anthemic song about the restrictive nature of a patriarchial society and how it only negatively affects people across the gender spectrum — especially women.
- "Swords and Knives" is a Celebrity Elegy to Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen set to a lullaby-like tune.
- "Famous Last Words", a mellow-sounding track about dying in a nuclear strike.
- Misogyny Song: Inverted with "Woman in Chains", which is overtly feminist (although it is a song about misogyny).
- Mythology Gag: "Swords and Knives" reprises elements of "The Working Hour" and "I Believe", in part thanks to its first incarnation being written shortly after the single release of the latter.
- New Sound Album: The band almost completely abandon their Synth-Pop background in favor of a more organic sound rooted in '70s Progressive Rock and '60s Psychedelic Rock, the jazz elements are ramped up, soul and Gospel Music influences are prominently featured, and the sound becomes much denser.
- Night and Day Duo: On the cover art, Roland Orzabal's blue suit represents the nighttime and Curt Smith's gold suit represents the daytime. It's a visual metaphor that the two band members are as different as night and day, and that they act as Foils to each other. This mirrors their astrological signs (Orzabal is an avid follower of the Western Zodiac) because sun-ruled Leos (Orzabal) and moon-ruled Cancerians (Smith) have opposite personalities. note In theory, the duo's astrological association with night and day is supposed to reflect that their contrasting natures complement and balance each other musically, but in reality, they often fought during the recording process because Orzabal had near-total control over the group at this time, and as a result, Smith's involvement on the album was rather minimal. Their creative differences eventually tore their musical partnership apart because Smith split from the band two years later.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Famous Last Words"
- The Not-Remix: Following up from his acclaimed remix of Songs from the Big Chair, Progressive Rock veteran Steven Wilson put together a 5.1 mix of The Seeds of Love for a super deluxe edition release in 2020; paralleling the original album's production, the six-year gap between that and its predecessor's remix was due to how complex The Seeds of Love's mixing was. Notably, Wilson chose not to do a stereo remix of The Seeds of Love, viewing David Bascombe's take as "pretty much perfect."
- Our Dragons Are Different: A small, seahorse-like Eastern dragon can be seen flying towards the band on the left side of the cover art, possibly alluding to the Eastern Zodiac verse in "Rhythm of Life (Demo)" ("Lucy's sign is the Chinese dragon, oh") even though that song wasn't officially included in the group's discography until the 2020 super deluxe edition. This dragon has no legs and its wings are fan-like.
- Ouroboros: There's an animated spinning ouroboros in the "Sowing the Seeds of Love" music video.
- Performance Video: Both "Woman in Chains" and "Advice for the Young at Heart" center around the band and Oleta Adams (who doesn't actually appear on "Advice for the Young at Heart") miming along to the song, intercut with vignettes of an abusive couple and a Latin-style wedding, respectively.
- The Power of Love: The message of "Sowing the Seeds of Love" is that love can solve the world's problems.Sowing the seeds of love
Seeds of love
Sowing the seeds
High time we made a stand
And shook up the views of the common man
And the lovetrain rides from coast to coast
Every minute of every hour
I love a sunflower
And I believe in love power
An end to need
And the politics of greed
- Progressive Rock: The band leans into this genre more than ever here, with a denser, jazz-inspired sound and more complex song structures. Like Songs from the Big Chair, sources frequently describe The Seeds of Love as a "progressive pop" album.
- Protest Song: "Sowing the Seeds of Love" is an attack on the Thatcher government, "Woman in Chains" protests patriarchy, "Standing on the Corner of the Third World" attacks globalization and colonialism, and "Famous Last Words" is anti-nuclear war.
- "Reading Is Cool" Aesop: "Sowing the Seeds of Love":Everyone, read about it
Everyone, scream about it
Everyone (everyone, yeah)
Everyone (everyone) read about it, read about it
Read it in the books, in the crannies and the nooks, there are books to read
- Self-Deprecation: The "Let's take another five minutes" Studio Chatter near the start of "Famous Last Words" acts as a self-referential jab at how long the band took to complete the album.
- "Woman in Chains" was directly inspired by feminist writings Roland Orzabal read about matricentric societies and how they tend to be more peaceful and diplomatic than patriarchal societies.
- The drum fill in the last section of "Woman in Chains" was directly inspired by the climatic finale of "In the Air Tonight"; fittingly, that song's writer and performer plays drums here, and was explicitly asked to mimic "In the Air Tonight" with his part.
- "Sowing the Seeds of Love" is apparently named after an obscure English folk song called, well, "The Seeds of Love". The song also refers to The Jam, the Style Council, and MC5's Kick Out the Jams.
- "Famous Last Words" namedrops and quotes the melody of the funeral hymn "When the Saints Go Marching In".
- Siamese Twin Song: "Swords and Knives", "The Year of the Knife", and "Famous Last Words" all act as a single interconnected suite; the former two songs also share blade imagery in their titles and lyrics.
- Single Stanza Song: "Tears Roll Down" is mostly instrumental, but it does contain one stanza, and half of the verses is "Where tears roll down" repeated four times. note
- Sixth Ranger: Although Oleta Adams was never formally inducted into the band, she plays just as prominent of a role on this album, performing piano on various songs, singing backing vocals on the first two tracks and "Standing on the Corner of the Third World" (in effect singing on more of the album than official member Curt Smith), and even appearing in the "Advice for the Young at Heart" music video despite not actually appearing on that track.
- Solar and Lunar:
- The sun and the moon that are featured on the front cover represent Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, respectively, as the sun is the ruler of Leo (Orzabal's zodiac sign), and the moon is the ruler of Cancer (Smith's zodiac sign). Fitting this, Orzabal holds a moon-shaped umbrella and wears a nighttime blue suit, while Smith holds a staff with a sun symbol on top and wears a daytime gold suit, as nods to one another.
- The verse "The sun and the moon, the wind and the rain" serves as Arc Words throughout the album, which itself was originally going to be titled The Sun, the Moon, the Wind, and the Rain.
- There's a promotional image◊ of the band and an official T-shirt◊ that have the astrological symbols for the sun (a circle with a dot at its center) and the moon (a crescent with its points facing left).
- Both celestial bodies appear in the "Sowing the Seeds of Love" music video and the tour program.◊
- The Something Song: "Badman's Song"
- Songs of Solace: "Famous Last Words":Hand in hand we'll do and die
Listening to the band that made us cry
- Special Guest:
- Phil Collins plays the drums on "Woman in Chains".
- Legendary trumpeter and world musician Jon Hassell plays on "Standing on the Corner of the Third World".
- Oleta Adams sings guest vocals on "Woman in Chains", "Badman's Song", and "Me and My Big Ideas", as well as some live versions of "I Believe" (see Going to California for one example). She also plays piano on "Badman's Song" and "Standing on the Corner of the Third World" (with some sources additionally crediting her with backing vocals on the latter track).
- Sunny Sunflower Disposition: Sunflowers are the Flower Motif of this album, and they're used as the late 1980s equivalent of the 1960s flower power movement. The sunflower is thus an emblem for hope, peace and love.
- Surreal Music Video: "Sowing the Seeds of Love" features a collage of floating and futzing props based on the song lyrics and album cover, with additional visual effects messing with how Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith interact with them. Tying in with the song's nature as a pastiche of "I Am the Walrus", it acts as an approximation of the kinds of music videos The Beatles would've made had they remained active into the '80s.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Curt Smith sings lead vocals on "Advice for the Young at Heart", notably the only instance of him doing so on the entire album (compared to his greater vocal involvement on The Hurting and Songs from the Big Chair).
- Studio Chatter: An offhanded comment of "Let's take another five minutes" plays during the intro to "Famous Last Words".
- Take That!:
- "Badman's Song" is this to some members of the band who were criticizing Roland Orzabal, whilst staying in a hotel room next to his. They thought he couldn't hear them, but the walls were thin, hence the line "well here's to the boys back in 628, where an ear to the wall was a twist of fate." Orzabal, for what it's worth, didn't hold a grudge against them beyond the lyrics, and included a message of forgiveness in the liner notes.
- Two in "Sowing the Seeds of Love":
- The line "Kick out the style, bring back the jam!" is a jab against blue-eyed soul group the Style Council, urging frontman Paul Weller to return to the Punk Rock approach of his previous band, The Jam.
- The verses "Politician granny with your high ideals / Have you no idea how the majority feels?" were inserted as a jab towards Margaret Thatcher, who'd just won a third term as prime minister when the song was written in 1987.
- Title Track: The album was renamed The Seeds of Love after "Sowing the Seeds of Love" became a hit, having originally been made as The Sun, the Moon, the Wind, and the Rain; as a result, "Sowing the Seeds of Love" retroactively became this.
- Towering Flower: At the end of the "Sowing the Seeds of Love" music video, the Earth orbits around a sun-sized sunflower.
- Western Zodiac: Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith wield items representing each other's zodiac signs on the front cover: Orzabal holds an moon-shaped umbrella with a fish ornament on it, representing the water element and lunar domain of Cancer, while Smith holds a staff with a sun ornament on it, representing the fire element and solar domain of Leo. A Leonine sun also appears behind both of them, and two moons of Cancer can be seen to the left side (the second is only visible on LP copies thanks to the CD cover being slightly zoomed in).
- The X of Y: The Seeds of Love (and by extent "Sowing the Seeds of Love"), "Standing on the Corner of the Third World", "The Year of the Knife", and the demo version of "Rhythm of Life".