The Story of... 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World' by Tears for Fears

12 July 2022, 17:08 | Updated: 14 July 2022, 10:51

Tears for Fears scored a massive hit with 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World'
Tears for Fears scored a massive hit with 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World'. Picture: Mercury/Tears for Fears

By Tom Eames

'Everybody Wants to Rule the World' is one of Tears for Fears' best-known songs, and it has grown to become one of the 1980s' most beloved singles.

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Now one of the band's signature songs, it has found a new lease of life among new young fans, as it is regularly used on nostalgic posts on TikTok.

But what is the song about? Here's all the big facts:

  1. Who wrote 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World'?

    Tears For Fears in 1985
    Tears For Fears in 1985. Picture: Getty

    'Everybody Wants to Rule the World' was written by Roland Orzabal, Ian Stanley and Chris Hughes, and produced by Hughes.

    The song was a "last-minute" addition during recording sessions for Tears for Fears' next album Songs from the Big Chair.

    It was only included after Orzabal played two chords on his acoustic guitar for Hughes.

    After this, it was recorded in just two weeks and added as the final track on the album.

    It was initially going to have the lyrics "Everybody wants to go to war", but this was changed.

  2. What is the song about?

    Tears For Fears
    Tears For Fears. Picture: Getty

    Joe Strummer of The Clash revealed in 1988 that he was in a restaurant and saw Orzabal, where he told him that "you owe me a fiver," stating that the title of 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World' had been taken from his song 'Charlie Don't Surf'.

    According to Strummer, Orzabal reached into his pocket and gave him a five-pound note, confirming his point.

    The song is about the desire that humans have for control and power. In 2017, Tears for Fears spoke about the song and its message, telling Yahoo! Music that the song's themes were still "just as poignant".

    They said that they discussed the Cold War at the time of writing it, but that was the "US and Russia then, and now the concern is more with the US and [North] Korea."

  3. What happens in the music video?

    Tears For Fears - Everybody Wants To Rule The World (Official Music Video)

    The video was directed by Nigel Dick - the man behind the videos for 'Do They Know it's Christmas' and Britney Spears' 'Baby One More Time'.

    It was filmed in Los Angeles, a desert in California and Cabazon.

    Curt Smith later told Pitchfork that the video was a "disaster", and that Dick was "in tears" on the second night of shooting.

    He said that there was an accident while filming the "dirt bikes and four-wheel off-road vehicles" scenes, with one child flying out of a vehicle and smashing his head.

    The music video helped with the group's presence in America, due to its "heavy rotation" on MTV. The song eventually went to number one in the States.

  4. When and why did they re-record it?

    Everybody wants to run the world - Sport Aid / Tears for fears and guests

    A year later in 1986, the band re-recorded the song as 'Everybody Wants to Run the World'.

    It was the theme song for the Sport Aid campaign, a charitable event held to raise money for famine relief in Africa.

    It peaked at number 5 in the UK, four places lower than the original.

  5. Who has covered it?

    Everybody Wants To Rule The World (From “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” Soundtrack)

    New Zealand singer Lorde recorded a cover version for the soundtrack of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in 2013.

    Other covers have been from a varied bunch, including:

    Trevor Horn (feat. Robbie Williams) - Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Lyric Video)