Tell It To My Heart was Taylor Dayne’s first album. And it was her first single. In fact, the track took her from singing in clubs and struggling as a session vocalist, to overnight success.
Introduction by Adam Reader
To introduce this mini-documentary on multi-platinum artist Taylor Dayne, and her 1988 blockbuster album Tell It To My Heart, I wanted to put the record into context show how impactful it was on pop music history.
Taylor accomplished this tremendous success while battling it out on the charts with icons like Michael Jackson, George Michael, and Whitney Houston. Tell It To My Heart is one of only 68 non-soundtrack albums to have at least four top ten hits in the history of popular music.
In celebration of one of the most popular records of 1988, here’s the story behind Tell It To My Heart from Taylor Dayne.
Interview with Taylor Dayne and Adam Reader
AR: Your first record had four top ten hits. That’s incredible, that’s like Michael Jackson, George Michael territory. Let’s go back to the very, very beginning for you, Taylor. What was it for you?
TD: I was driving down the west side highway. (My name was) Leslie Wunderman (at the time). I was in high school, I just graduated.
(A friend) got me in touch with a friend of his at Warner Chapel Publishing. She was a sweetheart. She compiled a cassette tape for us. And there were five songs on it. One of them happened to be Tell It To My Heart. We were like, “We’re gonna do this song.”
Rick Wake had absolute ears. He’s like, “We need to be able to pay for this, at least put it out in a promo…”
Creating the original demo for Tell It To My Heart
And sure enough my dad lent us the money, it was $6,000, and Tell It To My Heart was scooped up by an A&R person who took it into Clive and some of the people at Arista. So, they signed me for a single option album.
That was in 1987. And a lot of people don’t know that Tell It To My Heart, obviously, they did not put my face on the first cover, they threw it out there. So, this was released in Europe first. I blew up all throughout Europe first, I got an award for female artist of the year, and the year before that Tina Turner got it. So Germany was no joke.
And then we released it in the United States. It was really phenomenal.
From demo tape to top 10 hit
AR: Number seven here in America, but number one in Switzerland, Germany, Austria. Do you remember the first time you heard Tell It To My Heart on the radio?
TD: Not really.
TD: But I can guarantee it was on some mix show in the middle of the night, because that’s what we were doing. I remember when I sang it. I used to work in a Russian night club, it was after those, probably five in the morning, six in the morning, that’s when we had our studio time. We were little kids, we couldn’t afford those beefy hours.
AR: And Tell It To My Heart was actually re-released in 95, and it recharted in the UK.
TD: And it will be re-released again, trust me. But this time, I’m gonna be doing it. Hell yeah.
Prove Your Love
AR: So, Prove Your Love, let’s talk about that.
TD: The thing with Prove Your Love, we started getting momentum, but I only had a single deal. I never had an album. So there was much panic going on. We had a single that was selling millions of copies, and no album to back it up. This is not the way a record company likes to work.
Prove Your Love is another song co-penned by Seth. We started compiling a whole record, and that took eight weeks in total. But that was eight weeks a year into it. It was a great follow-up single.
AR: Your third single…
TD: I hate the video, but I love it. The guy was like, “We need color,” I go, “Dude, there’s color everywhere, do you see that jacket? Look at the bass player, he’s colorful,” it just went on and on, and the earrings, and I’m like … Yeah.
I’ll Always Love You
AR: Well, I’ll Always Love You, the third single, which showed more of your vulnerable side after these two dance hits. This is a song that AC charts, the R&B charts, went to number three on the overall pop charts, tell me about that one.
TD: If Tell It To My Heart started everything, this was the game-changer for me, this put me into vocal prowess. This definitely changed my direction as an artist. And it was very important, this was a real baby for the label. It was more than a pop hit, this became a cultural hit. This is a wedding standard. And, vocally, it put me in the next level. That’s when I broke out of the pack as Taylor Dayne. I became respected as an artist.
AR: When people first heard your voice, I know many people thought “Who’s that black girl? That big black voice?” Right?
TD: Clive Davis was no dummy, hence the record cover. Yeah, I was top ten in the urban charts for many years. I was up for Grammys in the R&B category against Anita Bakers. But I grew up in Freeport, in Baldwin, and I was immersed in that culture, and I was also immersed in the feeling of the music. It just really resonated for me. When you have this soulful kind of internalized upbringing, which I did on some level, your ear lends itself to going to that more Rhythm & Blues, the sorrow.
Don’t Rush Me
AR: And then the fourth single, which is my favorite, Don’t Rush Me.
TD: Now, that’s where Arista came in and really wanted to create this collage of material that would make me into a broader artist. I had worked as a session singer prior, I wasn’t making much money as a session singer, and I was trying to make it with original music.
Don’t Rush Me was a song by Alex Forbes and another writer that I did a demo for (as a session singer). Arista heard the song and they were like, “We’ll take it, we love it.” And then obviously we produced it a little better and tighter.
From singles to an album in just eight weeks
TD: But that just shows you how that record came together. When I say eight weeks, it’s no joke.
AR: When that first record came out you were kinda battling the charts with the big ones. George Michael, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Madonna, and there you are. What was going through your mind at that time?
TD: You’re not thinking too much. I literally was in a country a day. I predominantly broke in Europe. In Europe you’d drive to the outskirts of who-knows-where, and you’re doing TV shows that are hitting such incredible territories.
It was not uncommon that I’d be performing shows with Robert Plant, Eddie Money, Eddy Grant, and Sinéad. We were constantly on the road, and not really thinking.
Robert and I hit it off, and he was like, “Stay here,” and I’m like, “Do you think I don’t want to? I’ll stay with you, Robert Plant, you’re my idol.” But we couldn’t.
Touring with Michael Jackson
Then we hit the Bad tour with Michael Jackson…
AR: What was that like?
That also took (us to) the next level. By the third single deep, by I’ll Always Love You, we got a call to open up for Michael. I had enough impact in Europe, and that was big stuff. Madonna was breaking, obviously, but everybody was following that format. The Victory tour and the Bad tour. So this was an insane tour to get on. I just watched and listened and … I was sponging it, babe.
I was in airports with calling cards, if you can imagine. Making these phone calls to radio stations that I couldn’t actually visit, because that’s what we did. Gotta be young, being a pop star. Got news for you, you gotta be young. Twenty-one years old, living the dream.