Friday, December 1, 2017

Flashback #9 - Texas

A month or two back I came across an interview in The Times with Sharleen Spiteri of Texas.  It was ghastly.  Full of celebrity tosh about how the best haircut she’s ever had was done by Kate Moss at her kitchen table, it seemed like a singularly naff means of promoting the latest Texas album, Jump On Board.  But given that it was apparently a top ten album in both Britain and France, what do I know?
To be honest, I didn’t even realise Texas were still in existence.  I imagined that they’d withered on the vine years ago.  But once upon a time, when they were just out of the starting blocks, this was a band that managed to get bluesy, soul-inflected pop music into the upper reaches of both the singles and album charts.
Texas - all the young dudes
And they were hip too, part of a wave of Scottish bands such as Deacon Blue that achieved success in the late 80s and early Nineties.  When they played at Glasgow’s ‘Big Day Out’ festival, part of the city’s year as European City Of Culture, Maria McKee guested with them.  Unlike Sheena Easton, returning from the States for the event with a cod American accent to widespread scorn, Texas had credibility.
I remember seeing them at a sold out Edinburgh Playhouse, probably around 1991 on the release of their second album, Mother’s Heaven.  The place looked sold out, and they strolled on stage to guaranteed acclaim.  They were on home turf of course, but it was still good to see a proper band, playing honest to goodness music, getting so much attention.  You could identify with them.
Their debut album Southside had a bone fide hit single in the form of ‘I Don’t Want A Lover’, a string of other strong songs for which bassist John McElhone wrote the music, and as a title track a nifty little blues guitar instrumental from Ally McErlaine.  The drumming was a bit stodgy mind you, mostly relying on the same rhythm throughout.  With a new drummer in Richard Hynd and the addition of Eddie Campbell on keyboards, I found their sound on Mother’s Heaven had more range and colour on songs like 'Why Believe In You' and the moody 'Walk The Dust'.  Chart wise they were already slipping though, and the following album Rick’s Road didn’t really hit the mark for me.  Strangely my copy of the CD seems to have gone AWOL, so whether that was a fair assessment I don’t know.
And then, of course, they came back a few years later with the spectacularly successful White On Blonde, featuring hits like ‘Say What You Want’ – with its pretty blatant nod to Marvin Gaye’s ‘Sexual Healing’ – and ‘Halo’.  It also focused their image almost entirely on Spiteri, an approach they’ve generally stuck to thereafter.
Well, I suppose musicians do what they have to do in order to get by, and major labels are all too ready to influence the marketing .  And it’s not as if Texas has morphed into Spiteri and a bunch of hired hands – she, McElhone and McErlaine have stuck together throughout, and good on them for that.  But still, it feels as if the down to earth ethos Texas had in the beginning, of a real band committed to following in the traditions of their influences, got lost along the way.
Ah well, c’ést la vie, the past is another country and all that.  Maybe I should give Jump On Board a listen, and see if they still show their roots beneath the sheen of success.

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