Surface (band)

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Surface Columbia.jpg
Background information
Origin New Jersey
United States
Genres Pop, R&B, post-disco, quiet storm
Years active 1983–1994
Labels Salsoul[1]
Past members Bernard Jackson
David Conley
David Townsend (deceased)

Surface was an American music group from New Jersey, active from 1983 to 1994. They are best known for their #1 pop and R&B hit "The First Time". The groups members consisted of Bernard Jackson, David Conley and David Townsend.


Early years[edit]

Bernard Jackson moved from Stamford, Connecticut, to New York to pursue a music career. While in New York, his godfather said Jackson should contact his nephew David Townsend who had been a guitarist with The Isley Brothers. The Isleys produced their band Sunrize with David and drummer / writer Everett Collins and long-time friend Tony Herbert (bass) from David's high school, Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood, N.J. David Townsend was formerly in a Los Angeles '70s band, and met David Conley. Conley, Townsend and Collins started writing back in New Jersey and began performing under the name Surface, featuring lead singer Karen Copeland. After a brief hiatus from recording, Townsend and Conley met Jackson, and they reformed "Surface" with Jackson as the frontman/bass guitarist.

Songwriters/early recordings[edit]

They then became resident songwriters for EMI and wrote New Edition's "Let's Be Friends" and Sister Sledge's "You're Fine."[1] Encouraged by this success, the group called themselves Surface and began recording their own material, releasing several post-disco/early-'80s-style tracks under the name.[1] They would find moderate success in the UK with their singles "Falling in Love" in 1983 and "When Your Ex Wants You Back" in 1984 (according to the Allmusic, "Falling in Love" also cracked the U.S. R&B chart, peaking at #84). With a sound more reminiscent of Kashif and related early 1980s soul groups, these early singles contrast significantly with the smoother, ballad-style material that would later make the group successful in the U.S.

First major label record deal[edit]

The trio then moved to Los Angeles, California, searching for more mainstream success. The song "Let's Try Again" came to the attention of Larkin Arnold of Columbia Records, who signed the band and released this track as a single in 1986. Also in 1986, Jackson met a friend, Brian Simpson, and recorded a demo tape of a track he had written entitled "The First Time". He believed it to be a hit and hired a recording studio to get the best professional conditions for the track. Their self-titled first album followed in 1987, featuring two more hit singles: "Happy", which reached #2 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks,[1] and "Lately", which reached #8. However, "The First Time" did not appear on the album and remained unreleased.

The band's follow-up album, 2nd Wave, was released in 1989 and included some of the group's biggest hits. "I Missed" reached #3 on the R&B charts, "Closer Than Friends" was the group's first #1 hit, topping the R&B charts for two weeks, and "Can We Spend Some Time" which reached #5 on the R&B charts. The album featured two other #1 R&B hits, "You Are My Everything" which topped the charts for two weeks and the album's biggest hit,[1] "Shower Me With Your Love" which went gold, reached #1 on the R&B charts and #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Thanks to the album's number of hits, it managed to go platinum.

Later years[edit]

The song "The First Time", originally recorded by Jackson in 1986, was featured on the band's third album 3 Deep in 1991 and was the first single from the album. The song was a hit, going gold and becoming the group's biggest hit to date. It topped both the R&B and pop charts. The album continued with "All I Want Is You" which reached #8 on the R&B charts and helped the album go gold. The band also recorded "A World of our Own" which was featured in the 1991 film Return to the Blue Lagoon.

Jackson and Townsend left in 1994, and the group disbanded. In 1998, the group reformed and released Love Zone and a few years later announced a return to live appearances, only to be cancelled when Townsend was found dead at his home.[1] Townsend, son of producer/songwriter Ed Townsend[1] (co-writer of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On"), died of unknown causes on October 26, 2005, at the age of 50, almost two years after his father.


Studio albums[edit]

Year Title Chart positions[2] Record label
1986 Surface 55 11 Columbia
1988 2nd Wave 56 5 Columbia
1990 3 Deep 65 19 Columbia
1998 Love Zone[1] - - Victor Entertainment

Compilation albums[edit]

Year Title Chart positions[2] Record Label
1991 The Best of Surface...A Nice Time for Loving - - Columbia
2001 The First Time: The Best of Surface - - Sony
2001 Perfect 10 - - Columbia
2005 Our World - - Sony
2008 Super Hits: Surface - - Sony BMG Music Entertainment


Year Song US Hot 100[3] US R&B[4] US A.C.[5] US Hot Dance[6] UK Singles Chart[7]
1983 "Falling in Love" - 84 - - 67
1984 "When Your Ex Wants You Back" - 84 - - 52
1986 "Let's Try Again" - 22 - - -
1987 "Happy" 20 2 24 16 56
1987 "Lately" - 8 - - -
1988 "I Missed" - 3 - - -
1989 "Closer Than Friends" 57 1 - 39 -
1989 "Shower Me With Your Love" 5 1 3 - -
1989 "You Are My Everything" 84 1 - - -
1990 "Can We Spend Some Time" - 5 - - -
1990 "The First Time" 1 1 1 - 60
1991 "All I Want Is You" - 8 - - -
1991 "Never Gonna Let You Down" 17 24 17 - -
1991 "You're the One" / "We Don't Have to Say Good-bye" - 35 - - -
1992 "A Nice Time for Lovin'" - 52 - - -


Best-known lineup[edit]

Other members[edit]

  • Karen Copeland - vocals (born c. 1958, died December 5, 1988, Newark) (1983–1984)
  • Eric "G-Riff" Moore - vocals (born August 23, 1971, Irvington, New Jersey) (1994)
  • Everett "Jam" Benton - keyboards (1994)
  • Everett Collins - keyboards, vocals, writer (1987 - 2005)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Perrone, Pierre (December 25, 2005). "David Townsend - Singer with the soul trio Surface". - Obituaries. Archived from the original on December 25, 2005. Retrieved April 24, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "Billboard" Albums on Allmusic
  3. ^ "Billboard" Hot 100 Singles on Allmusic
  4. ^ "Billboard" R&B Singles on Allmusic
  5. ^ "Billboard" AC Singles on Allmusic
  6. ^ "Billboard" Club Play Singles on Allmusic
  7. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 542. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links[edit]