This record was a sensation in 1987. A new artist, who could do a lot himself, who deemed his record so important that he himself declared it to be the most important record since The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and very convincingly oozed that doubt was not part of his vocabulary. How does the album hold up now?
The first time I heard Terence Trent D’Arby was through the single If You Let Me Stay. That was an okay song. The album it was culled from would be released on July 13th 1987.
The album was released and I read many stories about it, but, based on the first single, I didn’t think the album was worth purchasing (yet). And then Wishing Well was released as a single. I saw and heard the video: wow! Extremely charismatic, self assured and a stunning song. All of his moves were perfect, the timing concise. His singing and dancing were impressive. This was special!
Add to this the fact that he composed and performed all of it himself. In the tradition of Stevie Wonder and Prince, on his own terms. A small miracle.
I consequently bought the maxi-single Wishing Well. Such musicality.
By now the promotional campaign was at full speed. Terence Trent D’Arby’s declarations became legendary. His belief in himself seemed limitless. As a (temporary) gimmick, it worked. People went along with it, in part as a result of the stunning Wishing Well. His ability to play multiple instruments himself was frequently a subject in press-outings. This was often linked to Prince, at the time at his creative peak and the undisputed genius of the (19)80’s. Another musician like that could make things even greater.
But, was all the praise bestowed on the album justified? Was it over-hyped?
Terence Trent D’Arby
Before we go into that, where did Terence Trent D’Arby come from, apparently from nothing? He was born as Terence Trent Howard in Manhattan in 1962. His mother was a gospel singer, teacher and counselor. Terence was the result of an affair between Terence’s mother and a married man. Some time later Terence’s mother married his stepfather, whose surname was Darby (yes, without apostrophe).
When Terence was young he trained as a boxer in Orlando (the family had moved there). He had a talent for the sport and won the Florida Golden Gloves lightweight championship in 1980. He then went to college, but quickly stopped and joined the army, who stationed him in Germany. In 1983 he was dishonorably discharged, for being absent without permission. While in Germany he worked as a bandleader for a band named The Touch, which released an album in 1984: Love On Time. In 1986 he left Germany for London, where he played with The Bojangles for a short while, after which he closed a solo deal and debuted a year later with…
Introducing The Hardline According To Terence Trent D’Arby
Starting on September 1st 1987, I had my first regular job at famous Dutch recordstore Concerto in Amsterdam. There, I listened a lot to the album and it was beautiful!
It didn’t take long before the album was in my house. And what an album it was! It sounded fresh, D´Arby’s voice was great and powerful. And, indeed, he had written almost everything himself and he played a lot of instruments (drums, percussion, piano, keyboards and saxophone). On two songs (Sign Your Name and the a-capella As Yet Untitled) he did everything himself. Production was done by Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware, assisted by D’Arby.
Not everything worked, but the production and singing made up for a lot of it. Highlights, for me, were If You Let me Stay, Dance Little Sister, Rain, Sign Your Name and Who’s Loving You. But Wishing Well was and remains the genius song that propels the album beyond itself.
All music and lyrics by Terence Trent D’Arby, except Wishing Well (music by Terence Trent D’Arby and Sean Oliver) and Who’s Loving You (composed by William ‘Smokey’ Robinson).
- If You All Get To Heaven
- If You Let Me Stay
- Wishing Well
- I’ll Never Turn My Back On You (Father’s Words)
- Dance Little Sister
- Seven More Days
- Let’s Go Forward
- Sign Your Name
- As Yet Untitled
- Who’s Loving You
After Introducing The Hardline
The album generated Grammy nominations and a Soul Train award. But Terence Trent D’Arby’s confidence was doomed to turn itself against him. And it did. The successor Neither Fish Nor Flesh from 1989 was praised for its boldness, but it was with a sardonic delight that the press pointed out that D’Arby didn’t turn out to be the pop-messiah, he presented himself to be. Following albums, Symphony Or Damn (1993) and Vibrator (1995), were sold less and less. He left his recording label in 1996.
He took on a new name, which appeared in his dreams since 1995. He officially changed his name into Sananda Maitreya on October 4th 2001. It was under this moniker he released his first album Wildcard, which I bought and enjoyed.
After this I lost sight of Sananda Maitreya. He’s still making music. His latest project is Prometheus & Pandora from 2016. A musical piece in three parts.
And: there is a link to Prince. He repeatedly stated his admiration for Prince, and especially his boldness: do whatever you want to do, don’t live up to the expectations of others. Sananda Maitreya took this advice to heart and hasn’t compromised ever since.
Visit his website at sanandamaitreya.com.
Based on my first impression of the album and on the number of times I played it:
Based on re-listening to the album the rating goes down considerably. The album is by no means bad, but it does sound dated here and there. If I was totally honest the number of stars should be 2½, but it contains Wishing Well, so:
Do you know a (number of) album(s), of which, after re-listening, you now think it’s not what you thought it was at the time? Let me know!
Terence Trent D’Arby – Wishing Well maxi-single image: 45cat.com
Terence Trent D’Arby – Wishing Well videoclip image: pinterest.com
Terence Trent D’Arby – Introducing The Hardline According To Terence Trent D’Arby image: fanart.tv
Sananda Maitreya – Wildcard image: en.wikipedia.org