Number Ones: #121

  • Week Ending 16th January 1988
  • 2 Weeks At #1

And so, we come to the curious case of Terence Trent D’Arby.

Launched amid much hyperbole in the Spring of 1987, he delivered with arrogant brilliance soon after via debut album Introducing The Hardline According To Terence Trent D’Arby (the warning signs were there all along…), before crashing back to earth thanks to a famously hubristic follow-up that became the turkey of all turkeys just before Christmas 1989.

But let’s rewind back to happier times, when TTD was at the peak of his commercial powers and Sign Your Name was helping its parent album to new heights of chart dominance. Introducing The Hardline… had already proven a decent success, debuting at #1 the previous July on the back of two contrasting but electric singles (If You Let Me Stay‘s old-school soul, Wishing Well‘s Prince-ly minimalist funk) and positive reviews everywhere. A third single, Dance Little Sister, didn’t really set the charts alight, however, and by the end of the year the album was in danger of slipping off the radar. 

Step forward arguably its most appealing track, the slow-burning smoochathon that was Sign Your Name. Even so, I would not have expected it to (a) almost reach #1 on the real UK chart, or (b) re-ignite sales of the album quite so dramatically. Introducing The Hardline… returned to the summit and stayed there for an incredible 8 consecutive weeks. It was a boom time for the CBS/Epic label group, with Alexander O’Neal’s Hearsay, Give Me The Reason by Luther Vandross, George Michael’s Faith and even Alison Moyet’s Raindancing all at various stages of very lengthy residencies on the chart during early 1988. Not to mention a certain album called Bad!

Well for two whole months, TTD outsold them all. Simon Climie chose Sign Your Name as one of the songs in the history of pop music that he wished he’d written, and the future looked bright for this charasmatic if eccentric new talent on the scene. Surely, CBS would mine the album for another hit and keep this amazing momentum going?

Um, no. I think there were rumours of Rain being released as a possible fifth single, but nothing came of it and – although nobody knew at the time – Terence Trent D’Arby’s star had already, all too briefly, shone its brightest.

18 months later, without a lead single, his next opus – Terence Trent D’Arby’s Neither Fish Nor Flesh – was unveiled to widespread bafflement, which turned into widespread mirth and not a little widespread panic at CBS, who had bankrolled one of the biggest flops in living memory.

The upshot was a change in CBS/Epic’s attitude towards their artists; both Alison Moyet and George Michael later claimed the label’s humbling experience with Neither Fish Nor Flesh – as well as their imminent buyout by Sony Music – made it more difficult to release music that didn’t necessarily sound like a guaranteed hit.

Which, in another nod to Douglas Adams (sorry), basically meant a case of So Long Terence, And Thanks For All The Fish!


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