Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Too Much Texas



Too Much Texas were an 80's phenomenon. There was never any indication that they would exist beyond their brief and brilliant career that started in 1988 and finished 1991. Ugly Man artists? Why else would they be here? They were Raymond, Gordon and Tom.... oh and Lawrence too.

The Ugly Man part of their career was initiated by Raymond dropping a tape through my letter box. Unsolicited, but welcome, it carried the demos of what came to be the "Hurry on Down" EP. What struck me at the time was the quality of the tape, not the songs, the tape. It a really supe duper "professional studio quality imported from Switzerland precision style" tape. What I found on it was equally high quality and after a good chat at Ray's we agreed we really should do something together.

Raymond lived in Patey Street with Lisa and I was lodging at Mike West's McKenzie Street HQ in Longsight the war torn region of Manchester. Not as bad as Moss Side but putting up a pretty fist in coming second. Raymond had a plan and colleagues who I was later to meet.

Pot Collectors at the Hacienda (sorry legendary Hacienda├é™) Too Much Texas had relocated from Abingdon in leafy Oxfordshire to learn more and be a Manchester band. Their master plan involved a lavish sleeve design from a mate of theirs, Trevor Johnson. He was at the time a fast emerging designer from hacienda school. Trevor set the eighties agenda of Manchester design and, shit! he was doing an Ugly Man release. We loved our covers but never with the eye for detail that a designer like Mr Johnson would bring. Having recorded the single the next master stroke was to hire and open top bus and invite the creme de la creme of Manchester's pre baggy elite to come on a rush hour tour of the city.

This was the late eighties and an open top bus on the streets of Manchesterr was rare, United and City were both perennial under achievers during this period, so there was never the likelihood of hordes of bescarfed fans mistaking this trip for the home coming of their all conquering heroes.

As the bus trundled around the city centre it boomed out the various tracks on the 12" release as the upper deck party gorged on posh food prepared by the masterchefs from the Hacienda kitchen. As a label officially dim in the shadows of Factory's global reputation and back catalogue it was so exciting to be rubbing shoulders with genuine indie royalty and all this because Raymond had put his tape through my letter box.

the afternoon's perambulation concluded with a visit to the Old Steam Brewery a newily opened pub on the site of what is now a world class international competition swimming facility used for the 2002 commonwealth games. The bus load of revellers crammed into the cellar bar where The band treated us to a raw and robust set. It was an amazing performance on the back of such a rich spread of food. Tom's vocal performance was spell binding and the music was incredibly powerful. I remember some years later recounting the experience to the writer Sarah Champion, who was aiming to encapsulate the whole Manchester scene that spanned the infamous baggy period in here book "and God created Manchester".

I'm afraid with hindsight my quote looked vaguely homoerotic, which is strange as I have never been homo and sadly rarely erotic. I will fish out the book and append the quote. Let you judge for yourself

But I knew watching the performance that Tom would be on Top of the Pops one day such was the charisma of his performance and the resonance of his incredible voice. I was right, as he went on to front the Inspiral Carpets and made several Top of the Pops performances with them. Sadly his sense of leadership in TMT was subjugated in the more democratic and equal, Inspiral Carpets and I suspect he didn't "show off" as much as the Inspiral front man, which is a shame. You missed a treat.

Hurry on Down took us back onto the Peel Show. Peel was an avid supporter of Black in the early days but we had failed to light his touch paper with the more fay offerings of The Man from Delmonte and The Desert Wolves. Too Much Texas had the running endorsement of Dave Haslam's Debris Magazine. Debris was a highly influential art music fanzine. Curated more than edited by Dave Haslam it was the barometer of cool in late eighties Manchester and had prior to the release featured a flexi disc of an early TMT tune. They received Peel plays, patronage and went down to that London and did a session for the great man which helped raise their profile.

It wasn't too long after the release that Tom took the career defining step of auditioning for the Inspiral Carpets. Up against a variety of waifs and vagabonds including a mal nurished boy from Burnage called Noel Gallagher. Tom got the job, which was pretty hard to believe. At the time I knew Clint and Graham, the Morecambe and Wise of the group. More northern and more bluff and they would have each had whippets, it was a surprise to see this quite unashamedly posh bloke from Oxford fronting the best thing to come out of Oldham since the 82 bus. But it seemed to work and the Inspiral's impressive career bears testimony to the endurance of the tight unit they became.

It is a lovely footnote to the Too Much Texas story that they reformed to do a reunion tour and release a collection of their work for public consumption. Few would bother to draw the strings back together but Tom did and in doing so created a beautifully curated artifact which he realeased on his own rceord label. I spoke with Ray, Gordon and Tom on the day they played an acoustic gig in a local specialist record shop almost 18 years after the day on the bus. Looking much older but still belting out the tunes, they were a credit their youthful roots and made me feel so proud and happy that they had been on the Ugly Man label.

You can purchase the jam packed Too Much Texas collection entitled Juvenilia from Townsend Records

You can actually hear what they sound like at their

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