Despite taking their name from one of the 50 United States of America and adopting several American-sounding musical styles, the Scottish pop/rock band Texas found nearly all its success in Europe starting in the late ’80s, including the multi-million selling albums Southside, White On Blonde, and The Hush, and a series of hit singles such as “Say What You Want,” “In Our Lifetime,” and “Summer Son.”
Bass player Johnny McElhone (born April 21, 1963, Glasgow, Scotland) organized the band in Glasgow in 1986. McElhone, a veteran of the bands Altered Images and Hipsway, brought in singer and rhythm guitarist Sharleen Spiteri (born November 7, 1967, Glasgow, Scotland), lead guitarist Ally McErlaine (born October 31, 1968, Glasgow, Scotland), and drummer Stuart Kerr (born March 16, 1963, Glasgow, Scotland). The group took its name from the film Paris, Texas, which had boasted a score by Ry Cooder, whose slide guitar playing heavily influenced McErlaine, and Spiteri sang without any discernible Scottish accent, giving the band a distinctly American sound. Texas made its concert debut in March 1988 at Dundee University in Scotland. McElhone’s previous connection with Mercury Records through Hipsway led to the label’s signing the band, which initially tried to record with Bernard Edwards of Chic as producer before settling on Tim Palmer instead. The first result of this association was the single “I Don’t Want A Lover,” the initial effort of the writing team of Spiteri and McElhone, which Mercury released in the U.K. in January 1989. On March 4, it peaked at number eight. Southside (the title referring to a neighborhood of Glasgow), the debut album, was released in March and peaked at number three at the end of the month. As Texas toured the U.K. and Europe, three more singles were released from the album, but failed to reach the Top 40; nevertheless, Southside eventually sold more than two million copies worldwide. Meanwhile, Mercury released “I Don’t Want A Lover” and Southside in the U.S. in July. The single broke into Billboard’s Album Rock Tracks and Modern Rock Tracks radio charts before finally entering the Hot 100, where it peaked at number 77 on September 30; the album peaked at number 88 a week later.
Texas continued to tour Europe in 1990 before beginning work on their second album. Kerr left and was replaced on the drums by Richard Hynd (born June 17, 1965, Aberdeen, Scotland), and keyboard player Eddie Campbell (born July 6, 1965, Glasgow, Scotland), who had been playing with them live, became an official member of the band. Mothers Heaven was released in September 1991 and proved to be a commercial disappointment, peaking at number 32 in the U.K. on October 5. In the U.S., the track “In My Heart” reached the Modern Rock Tracks chart as Texas made its first visit to the country in November, but the album failed to chart. “Alone with You,” the album’s third single, returned them to the British Top 40, reaching number 32 on February 15, 1992, but their first substantial hit single since “I Don’t Want a Lover” was a one-off cover of Al Green’s “Tired of Being Alone,” which peaked at number 19 on May 9.
Again, after touring primarily in Europe, Texas retired to write and record another album, this time turning to Paul Fox as producer and recording at Bearsville Studio in Woodstock, NY, which gave them their title, Rick’s Road, the name of the dirt road leading to the studio. “So Called Friend,” released in advance of the album in August 1993, peaked at number 30 in the U.K. on September 11. (It was later used as the theme song for the U.S. television series Ellen, starring Ellen DeGeneres [1994-1998], and in the 1996 feature film Last Dance, starring Sharon Stone.) A second single, “You Owe It All to Me,” reached number 39 on October 30, before Rick’s Road finally appeared in November, hitting number 18 on November 13. The album was not released initially in the U.S., but it eventually came out in 1994 as the band made several trips — in March, May-June, and August-September — to tour in North America. Despite this effort, like Mothers Heaven, Rick’s Road failed to chart in the U.S., selling a meager 38,000 copies. The band wrote off the American market thereafter, concentrating primarily on Europe.
One more single from Rick’s Road, “So In Love With You,” made the British Top 40, peaking at number 28 on February 12, 1994. But by the time Texas closed its touring in support of the album in December, it was ready for an extended break, and little was heard from the band over the next two years, while they worked on their fourth album with producer Mike Hedges. They re-emerged with a hometown concert in Glasgow on December 5, 1996, and in January 1997 came the advance single “Say What You Want,” which became their biggest hit yet, peaking at number three on January 25. That surprising comeback was followed by the album White On Blonde, which entered the British chart at number one on February 15, 1997. It remained in the charts nearly two years, selling 1.7 million copies in the U.K. alone and throwing off three more Top Ten hits: “Halo,” “Black Eyed Boy,” and “Put Your Arms Around Me.” The band spent the year touring extensively in Europe and made its first trip to Australia in May. (They did not tour the U.S., where White On Blonde finally was released on August 5, 1997, as “Say What You Want” appeared in the film comedy Picture Perfect, starring Jennifer Aniston, although they did find time for a promotional trip in October. The album did not chart, but Hollywood continued to favor the group, with “Put Your Arms Around Me” appearing in the 1998 film Ever After, starring Drew Barrymore.) On February 9, 1998, Texas appeared at the BRIT Awards, performing “Say What You Want” in the company of rapper Method Man of Wu-Tang Clan. The seemingly unlikely pairing led to a new recording of the song, and the single “Say What You Want (All Day and Every Day)” by Texas featuring Wu-Tang Clan (actually, just Method Man and RZA) entered the U.K. charts at number four on March 21. The band played shows periodically during 1998 while working on its next album. That fifth album was prefaced by the lead-off single “In Our Lifetime,” which entered the British charts at number four on May 1, 1999. The Hush, which followed within weeks, showed the band as consisting of Spiteri, McElhone, Campbell, and McErlaine; soon after, it was announced that Mikey Wilson was the new drummer. The album entered the charts at number one on May 22, 1999. Second single “Summer Son” reached number five in August, but “When We Are Together” stopped at number 12 in November, capping Texas’ run of consecutive Top Ten British hits at seven. Touring continued throughout 1999.
Texas’ next single was “In Demand,” a Top Ten hit released in October 2000 that prefaced The Greatest Hits, which hit number one in Britain in November and spawned a second new track, “Inner Smile,” that reached the Top Ten in January 2001, and the band launched an extensive European tour. (By this time, Mercury wasn’t even bothering to release Texas’ records in the U.S.) In July, they issued a remixed version of their first hit, “I Don’t Want A Lover,” which made the Top 20. Spiteri then took time off to have a baby, giving birth to a daughter on September 9, 2002. So, more than two more years passed before the October 2003 release of the sixth album, Careful What You Wish For, which was prefaced by the single “Carnival Girl,” featuring Kardinal Offishall, a Top Ten hit. (The credits announced that Neil Payne was the new drummer, replacing Wilson, and that a new guitarist, Tony McGovern, had joined.) The album peaked at number five and also featured the Top 40 hit “I’ll See It Through.” By November 2005, when the seventh album, Red Book, was released, Texas’ commercial fortunes had declined, but the disc was still able to debut in the Top Ten in France, the band’s most reliable market. (The album marked the addition of keyboard player Michael Bannister.) “Sleep,” a duet between Spiteri and Paul Buchanan of The Blue Nile, was excerpted as the album’s third single in January 2006 and made the U.K. Top Ten. ~ William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide