…But What About The Fixx?

the fixx - shuttered room USLPAToday at the gym I heard a new song finally enter into the satellite radio 80s CHR playlist; usually a welcome happening. The track was “Saved By Zero” and it got me thinking about The Fixx. That was a band that hit the US pretty hard in 1982. They seemed to be one of those British New Wave bands, like A Flock Of Seagulls, or Wang Chung, that concentrated on the American market after gaining a toehold here before any activity in their local charts. I first came across them in 1982 when I saw their video for “Stand Or Fall” got quite a bit of MTV airplay. It probably played well on rock radio but I wouldn’t have knows. A scan of the chart history reveals that it scraped the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100. At the time, I was not yet a Rupert Hine fan, so his production of their debut album carried little weight with me. The vibe of the song was okay, so I bought the “Shuttered Room” album [albeit used] at Retro Records. It was a fair record that I can’t remember playing very much.

There was another cut from the album that stuck pretty well to the MTV playlists. “Red Skies” probably did about as well on AOR radio, but the song performed below the level of “Stand Or Fall” on the pop charts. The band were somewhat morose, but not knowing at the time that the band were originally called The Fix, the smack reference origins of their name completely passed by me when they added that second “x” to their name. I never bothered with buying any singles from the album, not that I can recall seeing any.

The next year bought the point where the fortunes of The Fixx escalated mightily. The first single released to MTV and radio was the aforementioned “Saved By Zero.” The song did very well for the band, but the thing I remember about it the most was thinking that the video [dir. by Brian Grant] sure had a lot to owe to Bowie’s “Look Back In Anger” [dir. by David Mallett] four years earlier. The hooks were modest in the subtle tune, but it sold top 20 and trained a lot of eyes on The Fixx.

Then came their watershed moment; the second single from their sophomore “Reach The Beach” album was their #4 US hit “One Thing Leads To Another.” This song really stuck in my craw at the time. It seemed to be played everywhere and it wasn’t helped by a video that looked like it had been shot with a home video camera. Not that it stopped the clip from getting massive amounts of airplay! The synth patches used in this tune were grotesque in the extreme, and it in no way endeared itself to me at all! The cut sounded unpleasant to me; almost as if it made me feel ill. As much as I disliked the track, it could have been worse.

I remember the one time I heard the 8:00 extended version of the cut on college radio. This was without a doubt, the worst extended version I’d ever heard at the time. The song had been distended to over two times its normal running length by ceaselessly repetitive loops that wore out the welcome they never had. The chorus vamping seemed to go on forever… I lost count of how many measures they looped that sucker to make that car wreck of a remix.

So here was a band I only vaguely liked [at best], with new material I actively disliked, who were selling gold in America. I didn’t dislike them fully as a band… yet. For that line to be crossed, it remained until October 29, 1983, when I attended Rock Superbowl XIX at the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Florida. I was in a pop culture class as an elective and we had to write a paper on an event assigned my the professor. I had a choice between pro wrestling or this, so I did what I thought was the smart thing, and opted for the concert. I would come to profoundly regret that decision by the time 10/29/83 was over.

Suffice to say, I wasn’t built for stadium concerts!! I found this out with extreme prejudice that fateful day, but what did I know? This was only my second rock concert ever and I was green. Raw, green. Bad raw, green. There were three bands on the all-day bill and the only one I have fond memories of were late afternoon openers The Animals, who had reunited in 1983 for a new album. Second up were The Fixx, and my indifference to their music became antipathy in the cauldron of the Tangerine Bowl!

I was actually repelled by the level of pretension that lead singer Cy Curnin brought to the material in live performance. I can’t be sure, but it looked as if mime training might have figured somewhere deep and dark in his shrouded past. Every tortured, angst-ridden pose served to only further alienate me from their music that fateful day. The environment in the T-Bowl, full of teenaged louts and drunken students, only managed to make me even more miserable than the music and its presentation would have achieved on their own.

A glance at their website reveals that the band were basically active from 1982 to the present with albums released at the very least, with 3-4 year gaps between them. Pretty impressive for an active band that didn’t have any layoff periods save for the time between 2004 and 2012 where they lay fallow. I have gone 30 years without troubling my eardrums for further music by The Fixx, though hearing “Saved My Zero” this morning served to remind me that a 7″ single [picked up by my wife from a garage sale in the 90s] of that song remains in my Record Cell as the sole example of their music. A glance reveals that the sleeve art is one Mr. George Underwood; semi-legendary close personal friend of Mr. Bowie. Underwood seems to have quite a line in album covers painted for The Fixx with many credits on Discogs.com. Apropos for a band fronted by a Bowie-casualty like Cy Curnin. Me? I’ll stick to the real thing.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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17 Responses to …But What About The Fixx?

  1. Ahh The Fixx. Walking the fine line between New Wave edginess and Mainstream Rock accessibility. What is it they say about trying to please everyone and making no one happy? That alone is reason enough to hate them. They were very cool at the time… but so was Huey Lewis. You are right about “One Thing Leads To Another”, their biggest hit. The single version is repetitive enough on it’s own. I found it abrasive and inescapable as it got mass airplay on radio and in the clubs. The thing that bothered me most about it was there was nothing exceptional about it. A pretty run of the mill song that captured the consciousness of the masses. Lame.

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  2. May I add that adding an extra consonant at the end of your band name to try and make your band seem avant garde, original and creative is a lazy and douchey move.

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  3. Brian Ware says:

    Oh Monk, knowing you as I do, I can just see you sitting there in the stands surrounded by teenage louts, which we all know are the worst kind. I’m assuming since it was end of October it was probably a toasty 90 degrees to add further insult to injury. I saw The Fixx open for Flock Of Seagulls a few months earlier. Cy Curnin had plenty of pretentious moves just like you described. The Fixx come through Central Florida fairly regularly and paired up with Wang Chung for a double bill in all the northern cities last summer. Gotta give them credit for keeping at it.

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  4. Taffy says:

    While I probably wouldn’t cross the street for them, I will admit to enjoying a few songs from this desperately uncool band. “Stand or Fall,” “Secret Separation,” and “Less Cities, More Moving People” come to mind, and if I do some deeper digging I’d probably unearth another one or two. I saw them live once on a package tour with the Psych Furs and the Alarm, and they shockingly didn’t suck. I suppose one might find that a compliment!

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  5. Steve Shafer says:

    I’ll cop to really liking the Cold War paranoia of the first Fixx LP (“Red Skies,” “Stand or Fall,” “Cameras in Paris,” “The Strain”) back when I was 15 or 16 in the early 80s (and I still like these tunes many years later). But, yes, they’re a so-so band that just happened to have everything go their way to the big time.

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  6. Rob C says:

    I will have to disagree with the negativity towards the band…I’ve always thought they were/are quite good and can now be seen as survivors while other bands of their era have disappeared or went the nostalgia circuit. They constantly tour annually and continue to have a strong following despite any radio support since the early 90s.

    The band had a number of college rock hits during their heyday…pick up their compilation, The Ultimate Collection, and be reminded of how many hits they had on radio. The last studio album, and first from the original lineup in some time, was widely regarded as a return to form and received great critical reviews.

    In fact, their first 4 LPs could do no wrong and inhabit the space of many a new wave fan’s collection. Most of their classic output is currently out of print and fetches a mint from the secondary market, but if you could get a hold of their classic output or the aforementioned Ultimate Collection, you may be pleasantly surprised at the quality of musicianship and songwriting on display.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Rob C – Welcome to the comments. Wow, so The Fixx had airplay through the early 90s? I stopped listening to commercial radio two years before The Fixx surfaced. I stopped watching television in 1993 and thus lost all semblance of contact with our popular culture. The last Fixx song I remember hearing was actually appealing to me, “Secret Separation” from what was their fourth album, I believe. I’m a much bigger fan of their producer, Rupert Hine, than I was of the band. Typically, I never liked the music Hine produced, though The Fixx I found far preferable to Howard Jones, for instance.

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  7. zoo says:

    I like them…not a huge fan, but I’m not too proud to say I enjoy their first few albums. Really, I could do without Reach The Beach and just go with Shuttered Room and Phantoms. On record, I think is a strong vocalist (I can’t speak for his stage demeanor), and Jamie West-Oram (sp) is a darn good guitarist.

    I have a cool story. Last summer, I was in St. Augustine in the historic area with my family, and I came across a homeless guy (I’m guessing he was in his 50s or so) sitting on the curb playing a recorder. I dropped a dollar in his cup, and he looked up at me and said, “That’s a song called ‘Secret Separation’ by The Fixx.” So, we get to talking a bit about the band a bit. I asked him if he knew how to play “Less Cities, More Moving” people. He didn’t know it, but he hummed the keyboard line and said he liked that tune. We chatted a bit more about The Fixx, then I left and wished him well. That was one conversation I was definitely not counting on having that day.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Zoo – That is a fascinating tale, sir! When in St. Augustine, I hope you dined at The Columbian there. The original in Ybor City is phenomenal, but St. Augustine was the next best thing, in my opinion. “Less Cities, More Moving People!” You mention a song I’ve never heard, but I’d seen that title somewhere along the way and always thought it sounded impossibly cool. I like the idea of the title, but maybe don’t want to risk hearing the song as it might not live up to the expectation it created in my mind. Does that make any sense? Just like “White Car In Germany” by The Associates. Of course, the actual song, once heard in the next minute or so after seeing the title, exceeded my expectations, hence my adoration of that band!

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      • zoo says:

        Monk, we didn’t dine at the Columbia this time, but have in the past. Since I live outside of Tampa, the one in Ybor isn’t too out of our way.

        “Less Cities, More Moving People” is a cool song. Don’t let fear hold you back! :)

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  8. Echorich says:

    Early Fixx gets a thumbs up here… well Shuttered Room for sure. By the second album and then their selling out to be a part of the re-ascendance of Tina Turner (well Cy and Jamie at least) I had lost interest. One Thing Leads To Another has OMG The 80’s style compliation written all over it. I can hear it once and a while but it was sorely played out at the time of it’s release and just didn’t have the dark cool of the track from Shuttered Room.
    I seem to remember after The Fixx ended, that Cy Curnin became a hat designer.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – From what I can see, The Fixx never ended! The eight to ten years with no activity seem to be marked by Cy Curnin solo projects. But I like the idea of him designing hats! I hope it’s true!

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  9. tim says:

    I like a few of their tracks. I don’t listen often to what I have kept but overall I think that time has been kinder to them than some other 80’s acts (***shudder*** A Flock of Seagulls ***shudder***).

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – I can’t help but agree with your assessment. In 2002 I came across the first AFOS album on CD at a garage sale for a dollar. I kept it for less than a week before flipping it on LaLa! And that was their “good album” that I’d not heard since 1985 and the legendary Great Vinyl Purge. Yeesh! That was some bad cheese!! Give me the angst-ridden postures of Cy Curnin any day!

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  10. Vlad says:

    Oh yes, that atrocious extended mix of One Thing! I remember buying a cheap compilation called something like “MTV New Wave”, where it was. It’s strange how some songs are favoured in their long-winded versions – B-Movie’s “Nowhere Girl” springs to mind. But to The Fixx – I’ve only read about them by that buy, saw terms like “synth-pop” applied… Imagine my shock upon hearing! And, fighting my disappointment, I honestly tried to like the song, marvelled at the song’s “complex” lyrics (which is I see now as a load of sloblock :o) …

    As an aside, the same compilation contained Men Without Hats’s biggest hit in its robotic, “Kraftwerk” club mix. That was, in contrast, the start of my love affair with that band!

    Anyway, I managed to hear The Fixx’s first three albums. “Shuttered Room” did nothing for me – though I tried several times to “get it”. Must admit, I think the chorus hook of “Stand or Fall” is magnificent – that descending line is mighty! – but overall the song is average. And it’s the best one on the record! I also had a hard time listening to their third one, “Phantoms”. Still, I have to add to the chorus of admirers of “Less Cities, More Moving People” – if you haven’t heard it yet, give it a try. The lyrics, I fear, may be nonsense, but the song is ace, very atypical of their repertoire (perhaps that’s why it wasn’t a hit in the US after a line of chart entries). And it’s b-side, “Deeper & Deeper”, I like too. Otherwise that album is a waste of time.

    So imagine my surprise, when I find myself liking their second and biggest-selling one, “Reach the Beach”! Even “One Thing…” is good in the context of it. Though I by far prefer “Saved by Zero” – it has a great groove and a nice atmosphere. In fact the whole album has a cohesive atmosphere which may seem rather hollow to more discerning listener, but that really resonated with me. That may not mean much, the atmosphere of the aforementioned A Flock of Seagulls’ first two albums resonates with me too. Maybe being a non-English speaker I can ignore the lyrics (though the voice leaves much to be desired, admittedly).

    Anyway, I kept that second Fixx’s album with me and didn’t try to investigate further, fearing the consequences :o) Not wanting to hear more of their uninteresting, bland and mostly tuneless songs, mostly.

    Oh, and I must say I cannot see any likeability in their visual presentation. They didn’t look that great, their videos are average (sometimes below even that). And Cy Curnin’s mannerisms and “stage presence” really repel me – more bad joke (and not a very good one at that) than any kind of charisma. Why on Earth they surpassed true talents like Ultravox on the US market?! Well, I actually know the answer but anyway… The continued demand for them in the States puzzles me – must be constant touring, maybe?

    So here’s a rather contradicting story of mу and The Fixx :о)

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Vlad – Welcome back! I really should try “Less Cities, More Moving People” if I see it in the used bins. I understand the appeal of music in a language that you are not native in. I was a huge Francophile in the mid-late 80s because I liked the vibes I was getting from the music, which may have had stunningly banal lyrics, but I only knew a scant amount of French, to my probable benefit. Your eloquence on the blog page belies your non-native English status, of course!

      You have opened a huge can of worms with your reference to Ultravox. As an Ultravox fan it was stunningly apparent that without them bands, like The Fixx would not even exist as we knew them, I was mortified by these also rans flying up the charts while they could not get arrested in The States! The talent packed into that group – even after John Foxx left, was extraordinary. Not that it did them a whit of good. What really drives me crazy are those L.A. synthpop bands like Berlin who would always name-drop Ultravox as an influence in interviews, thereby associating the Ultravox name with low-rent softcore synthpop made by stunted, plastic peoploids like John Crawford. Worse yet were the band Animotion, fronted by a he/she pair of failed models whose huge hit “Obsession,” blatantly stole from the DNA of “Reap The Wild Wind” without such fealty.

      So you liked Men Without Hats? I was an early fan, and have three of their albums, but sometimes I think that is a little too many. Ivan Doroshuk’s bellowing voice wears out its welcome with me usually before the album ends, though some songs like “Antarctica” or “I Got The Message” have endless appeal to me, even now.

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      • Vlad says:

        Sorry for answering not as fast as I wanted to – work gets the best of me sometimes :o)

        Speaking of the US Ultravox-inflenced bands, what surprised me (and still do) was/is the gap between their admiration for Vox music and their efforts that have so little of the spirit of their supposed influence. To be a fan of Ultravox and then to write songs like “Sex” or other lust-crazed stuff… What was that? To misunderstand it all so grandly – what did they like in Ultravox in the first place? To me they are in a whole different universe to the Vox.

        And thanks for pointing out the origins of “Obsession” – for years I couldn’t quite get what’s so familiar to me with this song, and now I know :o)

        As for MWH – well, their “Rhythm of Youth” album was one of the first full New Wave albums I’ve heard so it has a special place in my heart :o) Really this one if perfect from start to finish and I never tire of it. And the earlier songs too. But hearing their later albums I feel they’ve just shoot their load and were only treading familiar ground or going mainstream to nobody’s benefit. Just a couple of songs from each of their subsequent albums… Well, imagine my surprise, shock even, when I heard their latest – “Love in the Age of War”. Don’t know about you, but that I was listening to on repeat without tiring! A true return to form with songs to match their best! Completely unexpected.

        I can understand your reservations about Ivan’s vocals – but I personally have never had any problems with that. He seems to me like a version of Philip Oakey’s vocals, actually. he (Philip), I think, for all his technical shortcomings is one of the best singers in the genre.

        And last, thanks for complimenting my English – I struggled with that during the school and only “got there” through my own efforts, basically (Internet helped greatly), so it’s a pleasure to read such kind words :o)

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