‘A Road That Goes Forever . . .’

Sometime during the long weekend just past, I had the mp3 player piped through the CD player in the kitchen. The Texas Gal was down in the garden, putting in the last of the tomatoes, and I was finishing the last bits of work at having dinner ready when she came in.

And I heard Chris Rea’s voice come from the speaker in the corner:

Warm winds blowing,
Heating blue sky,
And a road that goes forever.

Been thinking ’bout it lately,
Been watching some TV.
Been looking all around me
At what has come to be.
Been talking to my neighbor,
And he agrees with me:
It’s all gone crazy.

The song is “Texas” from Rea’s 1989 album, The Road to Hell. I recall hearing the tune and the album’s title track around that time – or maybe in the early 1990s – on Cities 97 while I was living in Minneapolis. “The Road to Hell” was always a little intense for me, but I liked “Texas” plenty, even if I didn’t know anything about the state at the time. (Not that I’m anything like an expert on the state now, but being married to a Texan and having been there a few times, I no longer have an entirely blank slate.)

I’m not sure how much Rea knew about the state, and it really doesn’t matter. In the song, the state of Texas is a metaphor, a place where life is less complicated and less perilous. Whether that’s true is unimportant. Texas becomes the mythical elsewhere – Shangri-La, El Dorado – serving in Rea’s song the function that California did in the U.S. for so many years: A place of dreams.

When the song was getting airplay in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it wasn’t the first time I’d heard or heard of Chris Rea. He’d had a hit in 1978 with “Fool (If You Think It’s Over),” which went to No. 12 on the pop chart and spent three weeks on the top of the Adult Contemporary chart. But the single “Whatever Happened to Benny Santini?” went only to No. 71, and the similarly titled album failed to crack the Top 40. And in chart terms, Chris Rea disappeared.

He kept recording, of course, putting out albums into and through the 1980s until The Road to Hell got him some attention. If I recall correctly, I picked up the cassettes of The Road to Hell and its 1991 follow-up, Auberge, and liked both of them. I’ve not heard much of his work since then, although much of Rea’s later discography at All-Music Guide looks intriguing, especially Blue Guitars, an eleven-CD set of all-new material that he released in 2005. I have plans to dig into that massive effort and some of his other work. And we’ll see what grabs me.

But of the stuff I’ve heard, I keep returning to “Texas.”

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2 Responses to “‘A Road That Goes Forever . . .’”

  1. My roommate at the time and I worked at a record store together and played The Road To Hell often. We particularly loved “Texas.” Anytime one of us ever asked, “What?” the other would often reply, “Texas.”

    If I recall, Rea had another album out during those years that preceded the two that you mention and was a compilation for the US market of stuff from albums of his that had received domestic release in the ’80s.

    Good stuff.

  2. jb says:

    The lyric of “The Road to Hell” is difficult to listen to, but I dig the feel of the record anyhow. And I can recommend “Deltics” and “Espresso Logic” as really good Rea albums.

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