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The Fixx: A Band That's Stood, Not Fallen
The Fixx is a band I admire enormously, not only for their philosophical and intelligently poetic lyrics and tunes, but also for their obscurity which set in after the 80s, even if their 90s era songs were as meaningful as ever. The band was part of the New Wave craze in the early to mid 80s, and part of what I call a “second British Invasion”, in which British musicians' popularity took a firm hold on America, with artists like David Bowie, Billy Idol, The Cure, Elvis Costello, and Wham! (although Costello and Wham! shouldn't really ever be in the same sentence, in my opinion). The Fixx fell into this “Invasion”, as they became more popular in America than they ever were in their native England, after their first hit “Stand Or Fall” off their first album Shuttered Room took off.
The Fixx started with Cy Curnin in 1979, the band's lead vocalist and songwriter, and Adam Woods became the drummer. The two eventually met guitarist Tony McGrail, Charlie Barret on the bass, and they put Rupert Greenall on the keyboard. They named themselves The Portraits. By 1980, after several singles failed to launch the band, McGrail left and was replaced by Jamie West-Oram, who stayed with the band thereafter. Throughout the band's history, other members left and others joined in, including Dan K. Brown, and Alfie Aguis for a short period.
The Portraits changed their name to The Fix, but that was given an added “X” at the end for fear of the drug association with the band's name. So, as The Fixx, the group produced Shuttered Room in 1982 and “Stand Or Fall” and “Red Skies” rose to the charts in Britain and America.
A 1982 interview with Cy Curnin (skip to about 3:05 for the actual interview)
Unfortunately, the band didn't gain as much success in their home country as they had in the US, even if “Stand Or Fall” was chiefly about war in Europe in the early twentieth century. “Stand Or Fall” was the song that introduced me to the band a couple years ago, when I began working on my first novel, and even influenced some of my own ideas. The song can be interpreted in many ways, which is what I suppose was the reason it was popular in America; to me, the song really represents the internal conflicts between morality and immorality, and with the line “Our destiny relies on conscience, red or blue, what's the difference?” the question of morality is lost. The song features one of my favorite guitar riffs of all time, and yet it only consists of two notes. It's a song I never tire of, and remains my favorite of The Fixx's.
As much as I enjoy The Fixx as a group, I can be pretty picky about which songs of theirs I like, mainly on Shuttered Room, as most of the songs on this LP tend to be a bit harsh for me. As I'm not as interested in a song unless the tune really appeals to my ears, even if the lyrics are incredible, I find that many of Shuttered Room's songs tend to be glossed over. “Red Skies” is the only other song I really enjoy on this album.
Their next album, Reach the Beach, released in '83, is my favorite of theirs, and there's hardly a song on this one I can't put on repeat and grow exhausted of. “One Thing Leads To Another” is the hit on the LP, the one that made them big in America, even more than their previous album. I guarantee most people around my age or older have heard this song at some point or another. Perhaps it's because of its catchiness, the almost B-52s-sounding beat and rhythm. It's certainly reminiscent of “Love Shack” in its sound if you listen closely. And the song's lyrics are more commercial in terms of repetition.
There are many other great songs on this album, though, such as “Saved By Zero”, “Opinions”, “Liner”, “Changing”, and the title track “Reach The Beach”. All are profound, enjoyable, and deep as the summer waters they remind me of in their sound. “Outside” is probably my favorite track here, with another euphorically airy electric guitar riff that takes me out to the beach all its own. Reach the Beach is an album not to be looked over, but I have yet to find a release on CD, same with the first album. You can find both on iTunes though.
"Outside", performed at a 1983 concert in Denver
The band's 1984 release, Phantoms, contains two tracks I hold deeply in my listening. “Are We Ourselves” and “Sunshine In The Shade” are two great tracks, though “Sunshine” is the one I enjoy more out of the two for its tune and message. Like many of The Fixx's songs, the ones found here venture deep into existentialism and what makes us who we are and what condition we're in, and Cy's own struggles with identity and depression shine through like everything else. While The Fixx continues to release new albums at this point, nearing the mid 80s, they still stay true to their New Wave origins and sound.
As the group moved onto film, composing the song “A Letter To Both Sides” for the 1985 Chevy Chase comedy Fletch, they didn't give into any kind of aesthetic they could have to produce a more commercial song; the song rightfully belongs with all of their others.
When in 1986 they came out with Walkabout, The Fixx came out on top again with some more great tracks like “Camphor”, “Built For The Future”, and “Secret Separation”, a song I love that comes with what I consider to be one of the strangest, most nonsensical music videos I've ever seen. The song's obviously about breaking up, but with the video... It was the 80s.
As The Fixx transitioned into the 90s, not much had changed in the band's musical style. It still carried the New Wave sound and Curnin's voice remained unchanged. With “Driven Out” on their 1989 LP Calm Animals, the band still punctuated its songs with philosophical messages and intellectual ideas. If anything, the band was more realized than they already were at that point.
The band moved into the 90s, still releasing albums, starting the decade off with 1991's Ink, with more calm tracks that still carried with it the same Fixx familiarity and originality. Their songs still kept up with the band's evolution, and the song “Crucified” helps solidify this. Amazingly, the band still echoes the 80s, especially on songs like “Falling In Love”, with the hollow kick drum accompanying the rhythm.
The Fixx went into hiatus for seven years, though I'm sure they toured in that time, only to release a seventh album in 1998 entitled Elemental, which contained a song written for and somehow rejected from the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, the song “Fatal Shore”, and yet it still stands well on its own regardless.
I never really got into the band's 90s music after “Fatal Shore”, still have a lot of catching up to do since I myself am still searching for and finding their more obscure music, while still listening to their classics. “I Will”, off their 1999 LP 1011 Woodland, is a song that touches me more than most of their music has since their earlier work. In 2003 the group released their ninth album Want That Life, an album I still have yet to catch. Another album will be released this year called Beautiful Friction which I am now kind of anxious to hear.
The Fixx still tours today, has always been, and from what I hear the band members, Cy Curnin in particular, are all very kind and generous to their fans and the world itself, with Cy having apparently gone green, purchasing an energy-efficient farming property in England and a small studio where he is currently recording solo material. It's nice to know the band hasn't totally torn up like many of them do, or has had any of its members fall into an area of tragedy. That's rare to find, and a treasure when it happens.