|Single by Cat Stevens|
|from the album Mona Bone Jakon|
|B-side||"Fill My Eyes"|
|Format||7" 45 rpm|
|Cat Stevens singles chronology|
"Lady D'Arbanville" is a song written and recorded by Cat Stevens, and released in April, 1970. He was already a successful songwriter, and this was his first single released upon signing a contract with Island Records, with the encouragement of his new producer, Paul Samwell-Smith, fostering a folk rock direction for the young composer. "Lady D'Arbanville" has a madrigal sound, and was written about Stevens' former girlfriend, Patti D'Arbanville, metaphorically laying her to rest.
"Lady D'Arbanville" was the first single released from Stevens' third album, Mona Bone Jakon, which took off in a completely different direction from the songs of his previous two albums. Although Stevens' debut album had charted, and while both albums he'd recorded had successful single releases in the British pop music charts, he chafed against the "Carnaby Street musical jangle" and "heavy-handed orchestration" that his producer, Mike Hurst (of Deram Records) favoured. Just at the completion of his second album with Hurst, Stevens contracted tuberculosis and a collapsed lung, requiring hospitalisation and rest for a year. During this time, he spent his empty hours writing over 40 songs, and upon a clean bill of health successfully negotiated out of his Deram contract, and settled on Island Records' Paul Samwell-Smith as his new producer, who encouraged Stevens' inclinations towards an emerging folk rock genre.
As Stevens was nearing the end of his period of recuperation, he attended a party that boasted a gathering of musicians in London; including Jimmy Page, Steve Winwood, Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton, and others in attendance. Among the party-goers was Patti D'Arbanville, an American teenager who was pursuing a modelling career at the time; she later gained prominence as an actress. The two began dating over a period of more than a year. D'Arbanville stayed with him whenever she was in London, but often found her career taking her to Paris, and New York City. Unfortunately, after over a year with her, Stevens was willing to invest more in a serious relationship than his young, ambitious girlfriend. It was on such a foray to New York that she heard his song about her on the airwaves. Her reaction was one of sadness. She said, "I just have to be by myself for a while to do what I want to do. It's good to be alone sometimes. Look, Steven [Stevens' given name] wrote that song when I left for New York. I left for a month, it wasn't the end of the world was it? But he wrote this whole song about 'Lady D'Arbanville, why do you sleep so still.' It's about me dead. So while I was in New York, for him it was like I was lying in a coffin... he wrote that because he missed me, because he was down... It's a sad song." D'Arbanville continues, "I cried when I heard it, because that's when I knew it was over for good."
Musical genre and sound
While Stevens' previous singles featured orchestration, this was the first single to contain only acoustic guitars, bass, percussion, and vocals. Newly hired Alun Davies, initially brought in as a session guitarist, shared Stevens' love for the newly emerging folk rock sound that Stevens chose to pursue. The two guitarists worked with John Ryan's syncopated basslines and drummer Harvey Burns' latin rhythms were used to emphasize the beat of the song on the body of the guitar. Stevens said of it later, that "the name itself was intriguing", and that "it was one of the unique songs that stood out, even lyrically". The song had a unique arrangement, and melody as well. The song was singular enough to reach #8 on the British pop music chart, and became the first to get noticeable airplay in the United States. "Lady D'Arbanville" was issued in June 1970 and became his third Top Ten hit in the United Kingdom, with the album Mona Bone Jakon, beginning a modest climb up the charts as well.
|Year||Chart||UK Chart Position|
- Cat Stevens – guitar, keyboards, vocals
- Alun Davies – guitar, backing vocals
- John Ryan – bass
- Harvey Burns – percussion
Version from Elton John
Elton John also performed a version of "Lady D'Arbanville" for a covers record, at a time in his career when he was still in relative obscurity. However, in parts of the song, he substitutes one word. The original song is written thus:
"My Lady D'Arbanville, why do you sleep so still?
I'll wake you tomorrow, and you will be my fill,
Yes, you will be my fill
Elton John's version has him singing "You will be my pill", instead of the original lyrics. John's career took off around the same time as that of Stevens, and the cover songs that John sang on, including "Lady D'Arbanville" remained in obscurity until they were eventually released on a compilation album titled Legendary Covers As Sung By Elton John in 1996.
- Islam, Yusuf (2008). "Lifeline1966". Official Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens Website. Official Website. Retrieved 2008-11-30.
- O'Driscoll, Michelle (1972-07-29). "Tea With The Tillerman". Disc Magazine. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Des Barres, Pamela (2007). "4". Let's Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies (1 ed.). Chicago Review Press. p. 400. ISBN 1-55652-668-7.
- "Pamela Des Barres & Friends". Punkcast #1117. Soho McNally Robinson. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- By her own account, D'Arbanville was about 14 years old at the time, although, having been born on May 25, 1951, she would have been 16 or 17 in 1968.
- D'Arbanville, Patti; Warhol, Andy (1970). "Patti D'Arbanville in Andy Warhol's Interview". Interview. Warholstars. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- DeYoung, Bill (2005). "Cat Stevens Box Set Liner Notes". Liner notes for songs for the Cat Stevens Box Set. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
- Islam, Yusuf (2008). "Lifeline1970". Official Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens Website. Official Website. Retrieved 2008-11-30.
- Ruhlmann, William (2007). "Artist Biography - Cat Stevens". Billboard.com. All Media Guide. Retrieved 2008-12-03.