Friday, January 29, 2010

Inspired by the Beatles - "Sowing the Seeds of Love"

Writing for the New York Times in February of 1990, Stephen Holden offered this take on Tears for Fears' 1989 single, "Sowing the Seeds of Love:"

The song, which lovingly imitates the treadmill rhythms, trumpet-laced textures and exhortatory mood of ''Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,'' updates the Beatles' utopian sentiments to the present by proclaiming ''an end to need and the politics of greed with love.'' At the same time time it re-creates the childlike playfulness of late 1960's pop psychedelia by praising sunflowers and inventing catchy variations of vintage slogans. ''Kick out the style -bring back the jam!'' the lyric exclaims.

"Sowing the Seeds of Love" does all of the things that Holden attributes to it: it's pure Beatles pastiche. And he could have elaborated further by going into specific details. For instance, the stuttering drum line that opens the song brings to mind some of Ringo's handiwork, in particular certain sections of "A Day in the Life;" one of the brass parts recalls Alan Civil's expert playing of the French horn on "For No One;" and finally (this list is by no means exhaustive, to be sure), the backup vocal track on the chorus is exactly the kind of psych-pop maneuver that The Beatles often pulled.

Truth be told, there are few details in the song that don't seem like Beatles homage. The intent is unmistakable. This is not to suggest, though, that it's a great song. Unlike other well-known TFF releases - "Head over Heels" and "Mad World," foremostly - "Sowing the Seeds of Love" hasn't aged well, which maybe shouldn't be surprising considering that its inspiration, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, also doesn't sound as fresh and spirited as it likely once did. But the issue of that album's inflated status is contentious and will be left for another day. What shouldn't be contentious is how strongly Pepper influenced Tears for Fears on this outing.



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