Today 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 –
“looked as if mime training might have figured somewhere deep and dark in his shrouded past”
You mean, like Mr. David Jones?
JT – Buckaroo, that’s exactly who I’m referencing. Not only me, but Curnin as well. Case in point: the “Saved By Zero” single. Sleeve by George Underwood? Check! Video by Brian Grant [of MGMM Productions] that was a deliberate pastiche of David Mallet’s [also of MGMM Productions] “Look Back In Anger” video for Bowie? Check!
Like so many 80’s acts they inhabit this nebulous realm that I call “better than some but not as good as the others.” I don’t mind the hits that much and keep a few on the music drive, Red Skies is something that I have slated for a home made expansion to the Cold War Platters box that expands the time considered for music into the 70’s and 80’s.
Total blast from the past! Your description of Curnin on stage immediately brought back vivid memories of him ‘staring at the elevated hand” pose evident throughout the twin bill with AFOS I saw way back in 1983 here in Calgary. Only concert I have ever been to where I spent almost the entire set ignoring the singer. That being said, the concert hall venue acoustics were awesome and the material better than I remember it sounding on physical product. Not a massive fan and only own a snippet of their discography but I did pick up Beautiful Friction back in late 2012 based on a single I’d heard a snippet of and was pleasantly surprised.
And now waiting patiently for the next OMD instalment …… %^)
KeithC – Cut me a little slack. I just had my mind expanded by King Crimson and we’ll probably review that on Monday as I am on travel now. Not forgetting last week’s stellar Nick Lowe/Los Straitjackets show before getting back on the OMD train. So little time…so much to write!
KeithC – Ooooh. “Staring At Elevated Hand” pose. I remember it well!
Cy Cyrnin is more irritating on stage than later day Dave Gahan?
Tim – I world not know. The first and last time I saw Gahan was on the World Violation tour an long time ago in a galaxy far, far away!
I was grazing through youtube videos last night after reading the last comment and found some recent concert vids of Enjoy the Silence. I’m always looking for new mixes of it and tried a few and Mr. Gahan was really suffering from a bad bout of CCSyndrome.
Well, you can’t like everyone I suppose. I love the band and have so for the near duration of their (still active) career, finally seeing them live in Chicago back in 2014.
I’ve always rated their first four albums among my favourites – they are true new wave classics – and the band was all over the airwaves of my fave stations KROQ & 91X growing up in the 80s. They were also very popular on classic rock/new rock radio like KLOS. In fact, their first album of the 90s, Ink, is a lost classic but by this stage the band had suffered the fate of many of the classic new wave period and went into a period of decline. The original lineup regrouped and released a new LP, Beautiful Friction, in 2012 and are readying new material for release in 2018. They remain a popular live draw, particularly in the USA, and carve out a healthy living touring the US alongside other British bands of the era who have essentially made the USA home – A Flock Of Seagulls; Psychedelic Furs; Gene Love Jezebel; Modern English; Bow Wow Wow; The English Beat (Dave Wakeling); and Naked Eyes.
Want proof how good The Fixx are: I recommend picking up The Ultimate Collection, which covers their choice singles/cuts from 1981-1998. They’ve had a number of compilations over the years but this one is the one to have and should be in the collection of any new wave fan.
Rob C – Well, I never liked what I heard from “Reach The Beach.” If I were to bite, I suppose it would be “Shuttered Room” or nothing for this guy. Part of the problem here is that I am a huge Rupert Hine fan and I felt that all of Hine’s production jobs [Howard Jones, The Fixx, Tina Turner, Thompson Twins, Chris DeBurgh, Stevie Nix, Saga, etc.] with the exception of Rush, Underworld, and Jona Lewie, were a waste of his valuable time. Hell, even the Rush, Underworld, and Jona Lewie albums he made were nowhere near as thrilling as his solo/Thinkman work. I just wish the guy had produced more of his own albums to buy.
Hi there Mr Monk, I’d like to take back my previous comments about The Fixx. I guess it’s the case of not knowing when the thing is to hit me, but I recently (about a couple of months ago) downloaded their “Ultimate collection” comp Rob С referred to above. Complete whim – and yet it hit me hard, nearly every song is at the very least decent, and lots of them downright great! Especially later years, after 1984. “Driven out” and “How much is enough” are clear standouts, and I’m currently very much drawn to hear their catalogue in full. Strange how that goes, right? I’ve always downright detested them – and yet here I am listening to their (presumably) best songs continually and returning to them on a continual basis. “Ultimate collection” is really a perfect way to start with them, it’s as right a starting point as can be. If you have a chance you may try to give them another chance. Though I understand, Curnin’s visual antics are repellent, they should be ignored at all costs. I guess he himself realised how ridiculous they looked and changed his ways eventually.
Interesting band: nothing special at the first glance, but there’s something’s gripping and one keeps returning to them. Must confess, I love their “Reach the beach” LP – and it’s a huge step from their debut “Shuttered room” that had next to no catch tunes. Now I intend to check their catalogue in full, hopefully to continue being pleasantly surprised. Strange how my hatred for their music has turned into a kind of a fandom or at least an appreciation…
Vlad – There’s always the possibility of reconciliation with bands you didn’t previously enjoy. I was indifferent to Information Society in their heyday and only grew to enjoy them years late. After buying a Madonna tribute album[?!] for a Heaven 17 track I needed for “the collection.” I thought their version “Express Yourself” was excellent, but very much in their synth/freestyle style, and not really different from what they were best known for doing. I just liked it a lot more 20 years later. Now I have two albums and would like more. There’s always time for The Fixx to join that club.