It’s a… Mad World

ROLAND ORZABAL: “Mad World” was a shock. It was supposed to be the B-side of “Pale Shelter.” But when I played it to Dave Bates, he said, “That’s a single.” Thank God. I never particularly liked “Mad World” very much. But that’s why I mucked about with it so much in the studio—programmed it up, spent a long time getting it into the state that it ended up in on The Hurting. I couldn’t sing it. I still can’t sing it—it just doesn’t work. I did a quick double track and hated it. I said to Curt, “You sing it.” And it was much, much better. He’s got a soft resonance to his voice. “Mad World” is, I think, the best vocal he’s ever done. It was recorded brilliantly, and it’s just incredibly haunting. In the early days, I’d just write the songs, and if I couldn’t think of some lyrics, I’d ask Curt to do them. When we started off, it was very much Curt as frontman and me as studio boffin. It was like that until “Shout.” Because it was such a big hit, when we got to America, people saw us more as cofrontmen. Certainly, in the early days in England, Curt was the pop star, and I was in the background.

CURT SMITH: The recording of “Mad World” took a while, but writing it took an afternoon. We were sitting on the second floor of the Bath flat that Roland used to live in, looking down on people dressed in suits going to work, coming back from work, thinking, What a mundane life these people must live. Although since then, I’ve longed for that.