Sign Your Name

1988

Not necessarily the best year for music. The explosions of 1987 (The Joshua Tree, Appetite for Destruction, Sign O’ the Times, um, Whitesnake) were fading in the rear view mirror, and the explosions of 1991 (Nevermind, Badmotorfinger, The Black Album, um, C&C Music Factory) weren’t even being primed yet.

But there was this one album with the lengthy & slightly weird title – Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby – which definitely made an impression at my high school. The first single, “Wishing Well”, dropped like a bomb – I remember everyone being knocked out by this incredible voice that just came out of nowhere.

But being a music snob who turned his nose up at the Top 40, I managed to resist the charms of The Hardline…until the third single came out. “Sign Your Name” just KILLED me. Slow, slinky, brooding, mysterious. How could you sign someone’s heart? What was he using, a Sharpie? And what the hell were the verses all about? Why do they make the rain in a room?

I loved it so much I had to actually own it, so I grabbed my learner’s permit & my dad’s ’68 Volvo and lurched (initially the stickshift & I were not friends) down to the Record Factory on Lighthouse, in New Monterey, and bought the single. This single:

terence trent d'arby - sign your name

Years later, I heard it on the radio again and felt a vibe there that I hadn’t quite picked up on as a teenager. Something a little…heavier, which inspired me to plug in my Strat, dime the volume controls on my amp, and…well, push that play button up there to check out the results.

Were you a fan of this song when it was released, or do you have similar stories about absolutely HAVING to buy something you heard on the radio? Would love to hear about it below in the comments!


P.S. Are you digging these covers, or would you like to be getting more Radio Nowhere originals? Or something else? Again, let me know in the comments…

22 replies on “Sign Your Name”

Mike – The vocal harmonies in the intro were charming. The ten year old girl, Danielle, who lives inside me loved it. Now she wants a Terrence Trent B’Arbie. – Dirty Dan the Sewer Man

I SOOOO had this tape in 10th grade! I listened to both sides quite often on my Sony Walkman. Enjoyed it then and very much like your rendition of it. Love the “Santana-like” riff around 3:10 mark. Loved C&C as well back in the day.
Nice Work

I listened to the whole record – both sides – a couple weeks ago, realized I’d forgotten how solid the whole thing was. I don’t think there’s a truly bad song on it, and there are 4 or 5 complete burners. Nice catch on the Santana thing too – thanks, Josh!

Dig it, hombre. Love how much fun you had with it, so many movements. Even what sounds like an homage to Mr. Vincent Price? And as we talked, and mentioned ^ above… “Introducing the hardline…” was/is a GREAT album. Perhaps cover the whole enchilada?

Well you have to dime the volume.
And I was thinking Leonard Cohen, rather than Vincent Price, but you put your finger on the vibe.
Re: enchilada. Man, I can maybe get away with not actually being able to sing ONE TTD song, but I don’t think I’m gonna be able to get away with it for a whole album…thanks for the vote of confidence, though!

You are rad… this is killer on many levels… I imagine this was made with many late night sessions when all the magic happens.

Thanks, KJ! Yes, you’re on target…it scares me to think of exactly how many late night sessions were actually involved. I think the oldest part of the track probably dates back a decade. Wow…

Wishing Well can go fuck itself. This song, however, sunk its claws in deep and never, ever let go. I thought it was just me. Way to make the world less lonely, RN.

Sounds 80-sh! But the best thing to me is that you’re still hanging around – desperately wanna know, what happened after highway patrol caught you chasing the dragon…with a warm firecracker in the hand…and these covers are testing temptation!

Andrey – great to hear from you! Hmmm…I never thought of those songs that way, kind of as a stream-of-consciousness narrative that ALMOST makes weird sense. Guess I’ll have to see which of the other 30 songs I have “almost ready” will slot into the story next…

Nice one! I must admit, I never connected with the whole TTD thing. But if he did cool breakdown sections like what you did half way through this version, I may have been more interested. If I’m honest, I prefer the music of one Mike Baker, but so long as you are making music and putting it out there, then I’m happy. And according to my research, Sharpie released a line of markers in 1989 that was the first of its type to write (or sign) like a pen – so yes, TTD would have used a sharpie for his heart decorating.

Dan, I knew you’d have the correct Sharpie information. You are a fount of archival pen knowledge.
Thanks for checking in, and I appreciate the vote for originals! I’m trying to clear the decks in order to make & release an EP right now, probably through Patreon, so I hope to have something for you soon…

Woot – thanks, Nitasha! Yeah, I was thinking of him, or Leonard Cohen. Or the guy from Wall of Voodoo – someone told me once that I sounded like him on “Mexican Radio”.
Also, just saw that Makaya’s record made it to Downbeat – that’s so rad! Please tell him huge congrats from me!

Thanks, Michael! I know what you mean about the snobbery. I was definitely a “rockist” in high school and part of college, focused on Hendrix, Zeppelin, Stones, etc. and totally dismissive of bands like New Order, the Cure, Joy Division, etc.
It’s only in the last 10 years or so that I’ve gone back to listen to a lot of that post-punk/new wave/electro-pop stuff and really fallen for it; interesting sounds, weirdly-appealing grooves, and great melodies. Nice to get a second chance…

I loved it!!
And I remember when that album came out. I was working at the Wherehouse record store in Riverside, CA. It was definitely the shining light of that year! The year wasn’t all that bad though:
REM – Green
Fine Young Cannibals – Raw and the Cooked
Edie Brickell – Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars
Erasure – The Innocents
Sugar Cubes – Life’s Good
Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman
Okay, admittedly, that’s a short list!!

The Wherehouse!! Do you know how many times I stood outside various Wherehouse branches waiting for the Ticketmaster booth to open? Those are some cold, early-morning memories….
Great recall on those other albums. I spun the hell out of the New Bohemians and Sugarcubes records, and heard TONS of the REM album in my freshman college dorm.
True story: I once almost killed Tracy Chapman (by accident) in San Francisco. I apologized, but she was still pissed.
Thx, Alicia!

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