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Members include EddieCampbell (joined group 1989), keyboards; RichardHynd (joined group c. 1991), drums; StuartKerr (left group c. 1991), drums; JohnMcElhone, bass; AllyMcErlaine, guitar; SharleenSpiteri (born 1968 in Glasgow, Scotland), vocals, rhythm guitar, piano. Addresses: Record company--Universal Records, 1755 Broadway, 7th Fl., New York City, NY 10019 Phone: (212)373-0600 Fax: (212) 247-3954.
With a name like Texas, one would most likely expect to hear the straightforward country and blues-rock tunes or the rolling folk songs often associated with the southwestern state. Despite the images the name implies, Texas, whose members hail from Glasgow, Scotland, also grasp the moody textures of British 1980s pop and American radio rock. Named after the 1985 Wim Wenders film Paris, Texas for which Ry Cooder, a folk musician admired by the members of the band, composed the soundtrack, the group took inspiration from blues and folk music and added an overall modern rock feel. "The name Texas causes so many problems," front woman Sharleen Spiteri told Neil McCormick in the Daily Telegraph. "Sometimes I wonder what possessed us, I really do. But it was pouring with rain in Glasgow, we were sitting there playing a Southern blues twang thing, wishing we really were in Texas... What can I say? It seemed like a great idea at the time." Texas achieved pop-star status in Great Britain with their debut album in 1989, Southside, but reached only a limited following of fans in the United States. Throughout the 1990s, the Scottish quintet amassed an even broader audience, selling over ten million records worldwide, although a substantial American fan base continued to elude them. However, critics predicted that with their 1999 release, The Hush, Texas would earn greater recognition outside of the United Kingdom and Europe.
Texas formed in 1986 in Glasgow, Scotland, when Spiteri, praised for her deep, soulful voice, met Johnny McElhone, a veteran of the British rock circuit and a member of two former groups, Hipsway and Altered Images. While Hipsway remained a relatively unknown band, Altered Images had considerable chart success in both Britain and the United States during the mid-1980s. McElhone, who played bass guitar for Texas, and Spiteri, who served as the group's lead singer, rhythm guitarist, and occasional pianist, penned a number of songs before recruiting guitarist Ally McErlaine and drummer Stuart Kerr to join the band. Although Spiteri began playing guitar at the age of ten, she claimed she never held aspirations to form or play with a pop/rock ensemble. In fact, until the creation of Texas, Spiteri worked as a hairdresser in Glasgow.
Spiteri remained the dominating force behind Texas's success from the beginning. Labeled by the British press as "the U.K.'s sexiest female," Spiteri displayed a sensual style with her dark hair, pale skin, and slender frame, without appearing as a stereotypical beauty. While many pop groups tend to experience conflicts when one band member receives most of the attention, Texas placed Spiteri in the spotlight on purpose. As the lead singer told McCormick, "We made that decision as a band. I am the most confident about having photographs taken. They've no desire to do it, no desire to be in the videos." In March of 1988, with Spiteri fronting the band, Texas performed live for the first time as a group at a local college in Glasgow. They continued to tour around the United Kingdom extensively before signing with the British record label Phonogram (known as Mercury in the United States). In 1989, after recruiting keyboard player Eddie Campbell, Texas released their debut album entitled Southside. The strength of the song "I Don't Want a Lover," which became a top ten British hit single, helped make Southside an instant success and launch it to number three on the British charts. Eventually, the album went platinum, selling 1.6 million copies worldwide, even though many critics described the remainder of the record's songs as derivative and bland. In the United States, the album's engaging yet low-key blending of blues, R&B, soul, country-folk, and modern rock only received air play on college radio stations.
After touring across Europe, Richard Hynd replaced Kerr on drums, and Texas released their second effort, 1991's Mothers Heaven, an overall improvement on the band's debut release. Maintaining their prior blues undertones brought to the surface by slide-guitar and Spiteri's handsome vocals, the band also introduced more rock and roll influences with their sophomore release. Critics marveled at Spiteri's singing, often comparing her vocal skills to those of Motown legend Diana Ross, country singer Linda Ronstadt, and singer/songwriter Maria McKee, former vocalist for the country-rock group Lone Justice. McKee sang back-up vocals on two songs for Mothers Heaven, including the album's title track. "What makes Texas truly special is the singing of Sharleen Spiteri," concluded People magazine. "On a song like the gospelized 'Alone with You,' Spiteri moves easily from a prairie-dust roughness to a slippery sexiness." But despite the record's artistic merits, Texas unfortunately fell victim to bad timing with the release of Mothers Heaven, and found themselves displaced by the growing popularity of British dance-pop bands. Thus sales for the album, under one million mostly in continental Europe, proved disappointing in comparison to Texas's debut.
However, the group's disappointment was short-lived as they were reinvigorated by the success of their 1992 British Top 20 hit single "Tired Of Being Alone," a cover of an Al Green song. That year, Texas also traveled to the United States for the first time and enjoyed a popular American tour, performing before mainly alternative music audiences. In 1993, Texas released a third album containing 12 songs, the back-to-basics and unpretentious Ricks Road, for which the band again won favorable reviews. For this release produced by Paul Fox, Texas settled into a rich groove, featuring songs accented with but not dominated by country, blues, gospel, and rock undertones. The focus of Ricks Road, as with the band's first two releases, centered on Spiteri, who gave full voice to such memorable, straightforward songs as "You Owe It All to Me," "You've Got to Live a Little," "Listen To Me," the country twang "So Called Friend," and the rock-inspired "Fade Away." Throughout the album, Texas's influences came to the surface, most notably Spiteri's gritty rock and smooth country-styled vocals, as well as McErlaine's blues-based guitar playing.
For the next few years, Texas took a break from recording but returned in 1997 with White on Blonde, the group's second number one album in the United Kingdom. Not since the release of Southside had the band witnessed such popular success. For most of the record's songs, Texas chose to drop their American rock and roll sound for a combination of pop-rock, hip-hop, and soul. Spiteri described White on Blonde as a "modern soul record," as quoted by Andy Gill in Independent. Nevertheless, the same Texas sound came through under the alterations, and the band drew on a variety of styles without letting go of their adult-pop composure. "Hints of ambient electronics, gritty rock and R&B grooves ripple through the lush layers of sound," stated Los Angeles Times writer Sandy Masuo, printed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Masuo further added, "Spiteri shifts effortlessly from bluesy crooning to a forthright folkiness without ever losing her poise." Also taking more chances with White on Blonde, Texas produced more ambitious songs such as the dark, moody "Insane" and "Put Your Arms Around Me," both set to stringed instrumentals and a slowed-down beat.
Texas released The Hushin the spring of 1999 on Universal Records, and the album soon became considered the group's best collection of songs. The more finely produced effort recorded in a studio in Spiteri's house offered more depth and made Texas seem more like a sophisticated modern soul act. The subtle opening track "In Our Lifetime," for example, gradually develops without sounding predictable, and the album progresses with references to Texas's influences, from R&B singer Marvin Gaye to the classic rock band Fleetwood Mac. In the past, some of Texas's songs had come off as clumsy and underwritten when paired with the grandeur of Spiteri's voice. But with The Hush, propelled by drummer Hynd and the soulful rock guitar of McElhone (who also shared production duties), Spiteri shined similar to a member of Motown's the Supremes for "When We Are Together" and delivered the sultry "Tell Me the Answer," a track resembling a lustful Prince tune, with a soft, sexy style. Other noteworthy tracks included the dreamy "Sunday Afternoon," and the pop song "Summer Son," reminiscent of the 1970s group Abba. With plans to return to the United States to promote their latest release, Texas, now based in London, England, seemed certain to attract a more mainstream American audience and surpass the sales of their previous albums.
by Laura Hightower
Formed group in Glasgow, Scotland, 1986; performed first live show as a group, 1988; signed with Phonogram/Mercury label, released debut album Southside, 1989; released single "Tired Of Being Alone," 1992; released Ricks Road, 1993; released White on Blonde, 1997; signed with Universal Records, released career highlight The Hush, 1999.
- Selected discography
- Southside Mercury, 1989.
- Mothers Heaven Mercury, 1991.
- Ricks Road Mercury, 1993.
- Live From Ricks Road Mercury, 1994.
- White on Blonde Mercury, 1997.
- The Hush Universal, 1999.
- musicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1999.
- Robbins, Ira A., ed., Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock, Fireside/Simon and Schuster, 1997.
- Daily Telegraph, May 8, 1999; August 26, 1999, p. 19.
- Dallas Morning News, May 23, 1999, p. 10C.
- Entertainment Weekly, May 21, 1999, p. 78.
- Independent, January 31, 1997, p. 10; May 9, 1997, p. 13; May 8, 1999, p. 11.
- Independent on Sunday, March 23, 1997, p. 15; July 27, 1997, p. 24.
- Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 9, 1997, p. 02F.
- People, November 11, 1991, p. 25; March 28, 1994, p. 23; July 12, 1999, p. 39.
- Rolling Stone, June 10, 1999.
- "Texas,"All Music Guide website, http://allmusic.com (September 22, 1999).
- RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.tunes.com (September 22, 1999).
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