Info → Teardrop
UK Release: 27th April 1998
UK Highest Chart: #10
Track Duration: 05:29
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Cassette, VHS, Digital. View Discography Entry.
Written By: Robert Del Naja, Grant Marshall, Andrew Vowles and Elizabeth Fraser
Produced By: Robert Del Naja, Grant Marshall, Andrew Vowles and Neil Davidge
Promo Video Directed By: Walter Stern
Video Producer: Laura Kanerick
Video Cinematographer: Dan Landin
Video Editor: John McManus
Set Desinger: Creature Effects
Filming Location: Towerbridge Studios, London, UK
Date Of Filming: 25th - 26th March 1998
Video Duration: 04:44
Teardrop began life as a simple harpsichord riff plucked by Neil Davidige one April day in 1997. Mushroom who was the first in the band to hear this solitary riff, took an immediate liking to it and he and Neil Davidige set to further work on it adding sombre piano chords and beats.
The working title for it at this time was “No Don’t”. Mushroom’s (whose attachment to the song was very high) number one choice for vocalist for the song was none other than Madonna, who Massive Attack had previously worked with back in 1995 on I Want You. However, both 3D and Daddy G who had both now heard the early demo of the song at this stage, had another vocalist entirely in mind, Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins.
In the two against one split, eventually Mushroom lost out even though not before sending the backing track for Teardrop to Madonna who was apparently in love with the track and was disappointed when the rest of Massive Attack informed her that they already had a vocalist for the song. This is just one of the many occurrences one could cite for Mushroom’s gradual disliking for Massive Attack and of course, gradual departure from the band in 1999.
Elizabeth Fraser wrote and sang the lyrics for Teardrop soon after famous singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley, her boyfriend at the time had perished in a drowning accident. Some speculate that the lyrics for Teardrop were reflective of her mood at the time and might even subtlety be about Jeff Buckley’s death.
Teardrop was the first single released to promote Mezzanine, even though it was not the first single release from the album, what with Risingson being released nearly a year before in the summer of 1997.
The producers behind the 1999 Academy Awarding winning film “American Beauty” had intended to use Teardrop as the main musical theme to accompany the film. Massive Attack objected to the song’s use in the film after reading a brief synopsis of what the film was about. After seeing the finished film, 3D would later comment on how it was a mistake to deny “American Beauty” the use of Teardrop, when the film turned into the big critical success of 1999 at the box office.
Teardrop is used as the opening theme music for each episode of the popular medical drama “House” in North America. The producer of the show, Bryan Singer, explicitly wanted Teardrop to be used as the theme tune. However due to licensing issues, outside of the North American market, the Teardrop theme music is replaced by a generic piece of music composed by the show’s in-house composers. This is the music which is usually heard in all broadcast versions in all regions outside of North America. This other generic piece of theme music was composed to sound very similar to Teardrop without actually being it as the producers could’nt get the rights to the song outside of North America, which has led to some confusion and arguments between fans of the show in North America and internationally. To further complicate the matter, the DVD releases of House outside of North America have begun, from the second season of the show onwards to include the Teardrop theme music intact in the opening, as it was always meant to be.
For the majority of dates on the 1998/1999 tour, Elizabeth Fraser was not available due to the fact that she was pregnant at the time. She did however put in a memorable appearance at the Royal Albert Hall gig in June 1998. Her vocals on Teardrop for this tour, were done instead by Debbie Miller.
On the 2003 and 2004 tour, Liz Fraser was still not present, and now her vocals were substituted with Dot Allison’s. For the 2006 tour Elizabeth Fraser would finally return to performing live and singing her vocals for not only Teardrop but the other Liz Fraser tracks on Mezzanine, and proceeded to do the whole tour with Massive Attack. In 2008, the vocal duties would fall to new singer Stephanie Dosen.
For the 2009/2010 Heligoland tour, singer Martina Topley-Bird performed the song to a visual accompaniment on the LED screen from the street graffiti/photographer JR.
Scream Team Remix – A remix credited to both Primal Scream and Brendan Lynch operating under the name Scream Team. Massive Attack would repay Primal Scream the remixing favour on their Exterminator track in 2000. Appears on all single releases.
Mad Professor Mazaruni Vocal Mix – UK dub producer and well known Massive Attack remixer puts his own style down on this particular remix. Included only on the promo and 12″ single releases, until the arrival of the Singles 90/98 Box Set where this remix was included on CD.
Mad Professor Mazaruni Instrumental Mix – Similar to the vocal mix, except the vocals, while still present(despite being billed an instrumental) are used more as echo effects throughout the song, typical to a lot of the Mad Professor’s repertoire. Appears on all single releases.
Chemical Brothers Remix – Never released, unfinished remix of Massive Attack’s Teardrop by The Chemical Brothers, broadcast April 8, 2011 on BBC’s Radio 1. It was played in Tom Rowlands’s DJ mix during the one hour Chemical Brothers Radio 1 Takeover, as part of Pete Tong’s 20 Year Celebration.
Jazz piano player Les McCann’s song “Sometimes I Cry” was sampled for Teardrop. It appears primarily on Les McCann’s 1972 release Layers. It is not credited officially by Massive Attack.
Teardrop has been covered several times by many artists usually only as a live performance. Artists which have performed Teardrop live are Elbow, Incubus, Jamie Cullum, Jose Gonzalez,Newton Faulkner and Our Lady Peace. There are also a large amount of amateur singers covering this song, as can be evidenced by doing a search for such covers on YouTube.
In November 2011, the most high profile cover of Teardrop was released. The song was covered by British singer-songwriter Gary Barlow’s assembled group named The Collective and released as the official single for Children in Need 2011 in the UK. It featured vocal performances by several notable names in the UK’s current pop and grime scenes including Chipmunk, Dot Rotten, Ed Sheeran, Ms. Dynamite, Mz. Bratt, Tulisa Contostavlos , Rizzle Kicks, Tinchy Stryder and Wretch 32. The cover version garnered largely negative reviews and entered the charts at number 24 – the worst chart performance of any Children In Need Song in 16 years.
3D on Teardrop – “It’s a moment of light relief from some of the other moments of the album really. It was quite a simple track musically to create and we weren’t sure what to do with it” [ChannelV TV – June 1998]
Mushroom on the choice of Liz Fraser over Madonna for vocalist – “It sounds good now” [Q Magazine – January 1999]
Daddy G on the bust-up with Mushroom during the making of Teardrop – “At the time, it seemed like an act of treachery” [Q Magazine – January 1999]
Love, love is a verb. Love is a doing word. Feathers on my breath. Gentle impulsion Shakes me, makes me lighter. Feathers on my breath. Teardrop on the fire. Feathers on my breath. Nine night of matter. Black flowers blossom. Feathers on my breath. Black flowers blossom. Feathers on my breath. Teardrop on the fire. Feathers on my… Water is my eye. Most faithful mirror. Feathers on my breath. Teardrop on the fire. Of a confession. Feathers on my breath. Most faithful mirror. Feathers on my breath. Teardrop on the fire. Feathers on my breath. You’re stumbling a little… You’re stumbling a little…
The baby fetus featured in the video was a life-size animatronic puppet made of mainly silicon which had taken six weeks prior to filming to construct.
The rather unique video for Teardrop won several awards throughout 1998, including the MTV Europe Award for Best Video, which was where the Sarah Freguson incident occurred.
An edited version of Teardrop is used for the video reducing the length of the video to nearly a minute shorter than the album version. This edit does not appear on any other release besides the video.
3D on the fetus imagery used in the video for Teardrop – “It was Walter Stern’s idea. He’s the director who does a lot of The Prodigy videos. It’s more or less a celebration of life. We didn’t know whether to go with it or not, because it looks a bit dodgy but it actually turned out to look quite nice. The idea for the video came well after the song was recorded” [Undercover Magazine – May 1998]
3D on the video for Teardrop – “It stands out so much. Its such an instantly beautiful piece of imagery and it really worked with the song straight away for us” [FHM Magazine – November 2001]