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Texas

+ {Sharleen Spiteri}

Inspired not by their Scottish roots, but by the Lone Star State, or, indeed, a cult Wim Wenders flick (Paris, Texas) scored by bluesy slide guitarist RY COODER, Glasgow’s own TEXAS have been reeling off their cool and stylish AOR sounds on and off for well over two decades. Always at the core of their image-conscious look has been the gorgeous, girl-next-door appeal of singer-songwriter/rhythm guitarist Sharleen Spiteri, a fusion of a brunette DEBORAH HARRY, PRETENDERS’ Chrissie Hynde and the COWBOY JUNKIES’ Margo Timmins.
Made up of two slightly seasoned campaigners (co-songwriter/bassist Johnny McElhone – from both ALTERED IMAGES and HIPSWAY, and drummer Stuart Kerr – ex-LOVE AND MONEY and FRIENDS AGAIN), plus two freshers: Spiteri and lead guitarist Ally McErlaine, TEXAS were underway in 1986; a gig at Dundee University in March 1988 was their first. Initially lumped in with the new wave of young Scottish rock bands tipped for big things (GUN, SLIDE, et al), talks with CHIC’s Bernard Edwards as producer never really got off the ground, although a deal with Mercury Records helped them find a worthy second-best in Tim Palmer.
TEXAS kicked off campaign in January 1989 with the rootsy pop of `I Don’t Want A Lover’, its infectious slide guitar refrain infiltrating the Top 10, albeit a millstone round the band’s neck as they struggled to shake off their “one-hit-wonder” tag. Parent debut album, SOUTHSIDE (1989) {*7} was a Top 3 success nevertheless, a highly listenable set of inoffensive, blues/country-tinged pop/rock which became one of the top selling albums of that year. This, as said, was without the help of any further hits; `Thrill Has Gone’, `Everyday Now’ (a track very reminiscent of DYLAN’s “I Shall Be Released”) and `Prayer For You’, stalling outside the Top 40.
In fact, the group’s next major Top 20 hit came in spring ’92 with a cover of AL GREEN’s `Tired Of Being Alone’. There was certainly no disputing the sensuous beauty and power of Spiteri’s voice, or indeed her striking looks and, while TEXAS had their critics, they also boasted an extensive grassroots following, especially in their native Scotland where gigs often took on the fervour of religious gatherings. Predictably then, the follow-up set MOTHERS HEAVEN (1991) {*6}, was well received by devotees but failed to convince many waverers, as it failed to break into the Top 30; attendant platters `Why Believe In You’, `In My Heart’ and `Alone With You’, went the same way.
Likewise RICKS ROAD (1993) {*5}, an underrated Top 20 set which leant more on the country-rock side of things. The underachieving SLIDE were the source for drummer Richard Hynd, who was a replacement for Kerr, while the addition of Eddie Campbell (keyboards) gave the up-scaled quintet a new dimension. With its BYRDS-esque jangle and gorgeous vocal, `So Called Friend’, remains one of TEXAS’s most affecting moments, though thousands would no doubt disagree; Still, there were reasonably sized hits through `You Owe It All To Me’, `So In Love With You’ and the cheeky insert of the AL GREEN track.
Many of those so-called thousands were called upon when TEXAS returned in ’97 from a lengthy sabbatical to score with their highest ever chart single, Say What You Want’. Opening the million-selling WHITE ON BLONDE {*7} – a title in reference to a DYLAN double-disc, maybe? – this must surely rank as one of the most incredible commercial turnarounds in the history of modern rock. Abandoning their roots trappings for a super slick soul-pop sound, TEXAS transformed themselves from yet another flagging Scottish rock band into an international phenomenon. Buoyed by the success of radio-friendly, highly infectious singles like `Say…’, `Halo’, `Black Eyed Boy’ and `Put Your Arms Around Me’ (all Top 10), the set was the year’s ultimate coffee-table companion. Not only that, Spiteri was seemingly born again as a style mag sex symbol, her ravishing visage staring out from front cover after front cover. Bizarrely enough, among TEXAS’s biggest fans were New York’s hardest rap crew, WU-TANG CLAN, surely resulting in a rather unlikely pairing (of all-time, quite possibly!) on a subsequent Top 5 re-vamp of `Say What You Want (All Day Every Day)’. Shortly afterwards, Hynd made way for fresh drummer Mikey Wilson.
Having already topped the charts with their previous album, TEXAS repeated the formula with their follow-up, THE HUSH (1999) {*7}, a deliberately more sensual set of songs that included three massive hits, `In Our Lifetime’, `Summer Son’ and `When We Are Together’. On a crest of a wave and marking a dozen years in the business, the hat-trick of No.1’s was completed by THE GREATEST HITS (2000) {*8}, not only a career-spanning “best-of”, but a 74-minute packed disc containing a couple of recent Top 10 acquisitions: `In Demand’ and `Inner Smile’; not included, `I Don’t Want A Lover’ was duly re-mixed and back in the Top 20.
While their commercial stock perhaps wasn’t quite what it had been in the preceding half decade or so, Spiteri and Co (new drummer, Neil Payne) still breached the Top 5 with CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR (2003) {*6}, a carefully crafted replica of their previous successes which, but for `Carnival Girl’ (featuring Canadian rapper, KARDINAL OFFISHALL) and the DUSTY SPRINGFIELD-like `I’ll See It Through’, nevertheless lacked the killer hooks.
2005’s RED BOOK {*6} marked the introduction of keyboard player Michael Bannister. This was an album that saw TEXAS slip a little commercially (Top 20 only), although singles such as `Getaway’ and `Can’t Resist’ fared better, albeit missing from the charts with a matter of weeks. Gone were the razor-edged rap collaborations of previous sets, in came an even slicker production – via programming. But then again, there was the uplifting Paul Buchanan (BLUE NILE) vocal contribution to the delicious `Sleep’ (another hit), while former BLUEBELLS songwriter, Robert Hodgens, helped out McElhone on a couple of tracks.
It was inevitable that their leading lass would elevate herself to solo artist, having paved the way as vocal guest for GUN and, more shockingly, RAMMSTEIN. Wearing her DUSTY SPRINGFIELD influences proudly on her sleeve (once again!), the sultry SPITERI popped back and forth to the Brill Building and Motown days of the 60s to unveil, MELODY (*6}. Blue-eyed soul-pop for the 40-something generation, her consuming passions are laid bare on `Stop I Don’t Love You Anymore’ and The SHANGRI-LA’s-like single, `All The Times I Cried’. With 20 years in the business, progress and originality were never strong points for Sharleen and her old cohorts, but if retro-pop be one’s bag, `It Was You’ (co-produced with BERNARD BUTLER) and the NANCY SINATRA-cloned rock’n’roller, `I’m Going To Haunt You’ (featuring the twangs of former Los STRAITJACKETS geezer, Kaiser George) might just be one’s cup of char.
Re-inventing herself as bona fide film-music diva, Sharleen tracked all her best tunes via THE MOVIE SONGBOOK (2010) {*4}, an ill-advised attempt at boosting her Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand and Elaine Paige credentials. One just has to take a look at the songs to realise this combination was never going to work (original hit-makers in brackets rather than songwriters):- `Xanadu’ (ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA and OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN), `If I Can’t Have You’ (YVONNE ELLIMAN), `God Bless The Children’ (BILLIE HOLIDAY), `Between The Bars’ (ELLIOTT SMITH), `Sound Of Silence’ (SIMON & GARFUNKEL), `What’s New Pussycat?’ (TOM JONES), `Windmills Of Your Mind’ (NOEL HARRISON), `Take Me With You’ (PRINCE), `Cat People (Putting out Fire)’ (DAVID BOWIE), `Many Rivers To Cross’ (JIMMY CLIFF), `Oh, Pretty Woman’ (ROY ORBISON), `This One’s From The Heart’ (CRYSTAL GAYLE & TOM WAITS), `Take My Breath Away’ (BERLIN). If one wanted a few more there was a double-CD.
Time then to mention the TEXAS cover versions produced over the years:- `Dimples’ (JOHN LEE HOOKER), `Don’t You Want Me’ (The HUMAN LEAGUE), `One Love’ (BOB MARLEY), `You’re All I Need To Get By’ (MARVIN GAYE & TAMMI TERRELL), `Sweet Child O’ Mine’ (GUNS N’ ROSES), `Suspicious Minds’ (WILLIE NELSON), `Across The Universe’ (The BEATLES), `What Do I Get’ (BUZZCOCKS).
Thankfully, Sharleen and her TEXAS buddies re-grouped for another batch of tracks, THE CONVERSATION (2013) {*6}. Marking 25 years together, their blend of country-pop (`Dry Your Eyes’ featuring RICHARD HAWLEY) and adult-rawk (`Detroit City’) have their place in today’s bland pop charts, and even the minor-hit title track deserved better airplay and attention. Still, the album went UK Top 5, proving that no matter how critics lambast them from afar, Scottish fans (and beyond) keep loyal no matter the musical climate.
Say what you want about the Glasgow group, but no-one could argue against the staying power of Sharleen and her blue-eyed soul-stirrers. Marking an anniversary to commemorate a quarter century as a top act, the Top 5 TEXAS 25 (2015) {*6} – re-workings of hits from their “Truth & Soul sessions” – was indeed further proof to their longevity.
© MC Strong 1994-2004/GRD / rev-up MCS May2013-Feb2015

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