One more time: Shout, let it all out
It is 1985. The Philippine government is reeling from nonstop protest rallies in the aftermath of the Ninoy Aquino assassination. For those of us still in college, attending classes loses its relevance and music becomes a refuge from the noise on the streets.
Radio is a constant companion for many. Aside from RJ-AM and FM, a quaint station called XB 102 creates a buzz despite its weak signal. XB plays songs that are not on RJ’s priority lists, especially the punk and New Wave tunes that happily distract those who are getting despondent over the political and economic crises.
One of the bands that XB gives generous airplay to is the British group Tears for Fears. Fronted by a duo, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, TFF is labeled a “chong” band by teeners who make a big fuss over the line that supposedly separates Pinoy punks and New Wavers. TFF is chong because its music is often played at “mobile” dance parties held in exclusive villages by New Wavers who address each other as, well, chong.
Looking back, we find that term rather contradictory, if not downright silly. We loved TFF, though we never attended those mobile parties. We considered punk and New Wave music as interrelated, like first cousins, and we called our friends chong—in homage to the pot-smoking hippie character in the film series “Cheech and Chong.”
In any case, the music of TFF resonated in our consciousness, especially since a younger brother had become an ardent fan of the band and bought cassette tapes of “The Hurting” and “Songs from the Big Chair,” which played incessantly at home.
We tried to understand why some of the band’s songs had struck a responsive chord even in the preoccupied public: “Shout”—which Orzabal and Smith acknowledged as being about political protest—captured the sentiments of the rallies on Ayala and the mammoth gathering at Luneta shortly before the 1986 snap election; “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” portrayed lust for power which, in the Philippine setting, was the cause of the protests in the first place; “Mothers Talk” described a son’s relationship with his mom, and we associated it with Cory Aquino as the symbolic mother of the country, and “Head Over Heels” triggered memories of lost love.
All these, incidentally, were hits from the “Songs from the Big Chair” album. The tracks from “The Hurting” were no less meaningful. “Mad World,” “Pale Shelter” and “Change” reflected Orzabal’s and Smith’s views on emotional distress and interest in primal scream therapy.
It took a while before TFF released its third studio album, “The Seeds of Love,” in 1989. By that time, the country had found itself under siege from a series of coups de etat. In hindsight, “Sowing the Seeds of Love” offered a contrast to the mood of those moments when hatred and confusion reigned.
We lost the connection with TFF in the succeeding years; in fact we didn’t care that Orzabal and Smith had a falling out in 1991 and Orzabal continued recording and using the name TFF in the albums “Elemental” (1993) and “Raoul and the Kings of Spain” (1995).
In 2000, Orzabal and Smith decided over dinner that they could record again. The resulting work, “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending” (2004), ultimately led to a short tour of Southeast Asia in 2010.
A concert in May 2010 at the Big Dome revived TFF mania among Filipino fans. Minutes before the show, we bumped into Leni Llapitan and Carla Abaya of the defunct Pinoy New Wave band Identity Crisis. They were overcome with excitement over the arrival of one of their biggest musical influences. The show had come more than 20 years after TFF reached its creative peak but, as they say, better late than never.
The band gave a rousing performance and left an ecstatic crowd screaming for more. Concert promoter Renen de Guia of Ovation Productions was naturally convinced that he could bring TFF back—which he proceeded to do, so now the band returns for two nights on Aug. 10 and 11, again at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
This early, tickets to the first date have become scarce. Well, we’ll take a shot at the second.
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