Recording Mad World For Donnie Darko Took No Time At All

The lyrics to Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” feel almost as if they were written specifically for “Donnie Darko.” With its “familiar faces” that are “going nowhere” and its dreams about death resulting in joy, it’s easy to forget that the song was actually released in 1982, almost 20 years prior to the movie’s release. When the time came to choose a song for the final scene of the film, The Boston Globe reported that there wasn’t enough money in the budget to secure the first choice of the film composer, Michael Andrews. Originally, “it was [U2’s] ‘MLK’,” Andrews told The Ringer. Therefore, he needed to come up with another plan for the movie’s final moments.

His decision was to do a cover of an ’80s song in the style of the film’s already piano-heavy score. “In [composer] John Barry’s movies, or old ’60s movies, the score would sort of have an instrumentation and a tonality to it. And then, [musicians] would make these songs sort of within the framework of that aesthetic,” he explained to The Ringer. The result was a cover of “Mad World” that was recorded at Andrews’ home. 

For the vocals, Andrews enlisted an old friend and singer-songwriter, Gary Jules. “Mike and I, we were in a band together in high school that covered ‘Mad World.’ I covered the song on acoustic guitar in gigs for years,” Jules explained. When it came time to record the song, Andrews told The Ringer, “We kind of just did it. Very quickly.” In fact, Jules elaborated, “The whole thing was over in 15 minutes.” A far cry away from 28 days, six hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. 

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