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.
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