They then became resident songwriters for EMI and wrote New Edition's "Let's Be Friends" and Sister Sledge's "You're So Fine." Encouraged by this success, the trio called themselves Surface and began recording their own material, releasing several Post-disco/early-80s-style tracks under the Surface name. They would find moderate success in the U.K. with their singles "" in 1983 and "When Your Ex Wants You Back" in 1984 (according to the Allmusic Guide, "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 States.
The trio then moved to Los Angeles, California searching for more mainstream success. Their 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. Their self-titled debut album followed in 1987, featuring two more hit singles: "Happy", which hit #2 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, and "Lately," which hit #8.
Their follow-up album, 2nd Wave, was released in 1989 and packed 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, "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 wealth of hits, it managed to go platinum.
In 1986, Jackson met with a friend Brian Simpson and recorded a demotape of a track he had written, "The First Time." He believed it to be a hit and hired a recording studio to get the best professional conditions for the track. As the first single for the group's third album, 3 Deep in 1991, Jackson was right. The song was a big hit, going gold and becoming the group's biggest hit to date. It topped both the R&B and pop charts. The album continued on with "All I Want Is You" which reached #8 on the R&B charts and helped the album go gold.
Jackson and Townsend left in 1994, and the group faded from sight. They have yet to put out another record. Townsend, son of producer/songwriter Ed Townsend (co-writer of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On"), died on 26 October2005 of unknown causes at the age of 50.