June 1991: Seal Debuts at #1 on the UK Charts with SEAL
In the beginning, Seal was a dance sensation. Working with acid house producer Adamski, the pair created the dance-floor hit, 'Killer,' which went on to hit #1 on the singles chart in England. While "Killer" was officially an Adamski track, it was Seal's booming voice and striking good looks that connected with fans once they began performing the tune on TV shows and concerts. The notoriety landed the singer a record deal with the relentlessly cool ZTT label, and the imprint's in-house production icon, Trevor Horn. After the breakout success of "Killer," Seal and Horn wanted to make an equally powerful impact with the artist's first official single. The result: "Crazy."
"It took three months to do 'Crazy,' and two months to do the rest of the album," Horn told Classic Pop. Seal wrote the lyrics after being inspired by global events at the dawn of the 1990s, including the fall of the Berlin Wall and the student uprising Tiananmen Square.
"I didn't know why all these things were suddenly happening, but maybe it was that people were becoming more socially or spiritually aware," Seal himself told the L.A. Times in 1992. "For me, it was a sign that people can make a difference if they take a stand... and that people should be encouraged to express themselves freely... as those students did in Tiananmen Square. They shouldn't be intimidated by the fact that other people might accuse them of being crazy or abnormal. I was saying it's OK to be crazy... or to be different... to stand up for what you believe."
"Crazy" was the song Seal was looking for, soaring all the way to #2 in England for the week of January 13, 1991. The tune that kept Seal from #1: "Sadeness Part 1" by Enigma. On this side of the pond in America, "Crazy" peaked at #7 for the week September 7, 1991. The song's success inspired another tune from Seal's self-titled debut album.
"The song on the album that is probably the closest to me is 'Whirlpool,' which was written after the success of 'Crazy' and so much was happening," the singer revealed. "It really was like a whirlpool for me... Not so much the public attention, but more private things... worrying about how the album would be received and dealing with the question of whether the songs were any good or not... and coming to grips with the fact that you are worthy. It's really a period of self-doubt."
The track also has a history that involves legendary members of Prince's Revolution, Wendy and Lisa: "There was one song on it I just couldn't get a good version of, called 'Whirlpool,'" producer Trevor Horn told Classic Pop. "And then Wendy & Lisa came and did some work on it. Seal used to play guitar while he sang it, and there was one bit he played differently every time. All he had to do was play the song once for them, then Wendy grabbed the guitar and Seal didn't get to play the guitar again. Wendy played it right every time. That was the most amazing afternoon, and it got even better, because suddenly Wendy's twin Susannah arrived. She was Prince's fiancee for a while. They said they had an idea for a vocal at the end, and the three of them went out and it was f-cking great. There was a moment where Seal was on the sofa with Wendy and Lisa and Susannah draped all over him, and I said, 'See, session musicians in LA are definitely a cut above the ones in England.'"
Released May 24, 1991, Seal was yet another triumph for the British-born singer of Nigerian heritage. The album debuted at #1 in England. The record went on to win the Brit Award for Best British Album. In America, the self-titled debut peaked at #24 over the week of September 7, 1991. The best selling LP in the country that week: Metallica's self-titled "Black Album."