For two albums during the early 1980s, the Fixx were the business.
It was a very interesting time in popular music. Not only were keyboards battling guitars for primacy, but MTV was redefining the job description of “rock star.” In those early days, bands like A Flock Of Seagulls and Duran Duran dominated the station’s rotation. Bright colors, cool haircuts, and photogenic faces were suddenly as important as musical prowess, maybe even more so. Occasionally MTV would show a clip from Jethro Tull or some other homely dinosaur act, which only made the chasm separating the old and the new even more obvious.
While bands like Duran Duran had the look and the sound of the new decade, they lacked the gravitas of old timers like Tull. Ian Anderson may have been a flute playing weirdo, but tracks like “Locomotive Breath” and “Aqualung” felt very dark and heavy. “Hungry Like the Wolf” didn’t exactly carry the same weight.
Enter the Fixx, a London five-piece band with new wave looks and old wave intellect. Their name reeked of danger, provided one’s mind immediately turned to heroin. Shuttered Room, their debut album’s title, felt claustrophobic, secretive, like something criminal might be happening inside. With exception to lead singer Cy Curnin’s jaunty sweater ensemble, the video for “Stand Or Fall,” the album’s first single, felt much the same way:
In short, The Fixx were the top 40 version of Bauhaus, and that was a band that I could get behind. It helped quite a bit that unlike some of the new wave bands, one didn’t have to choose between keyboards or kickass guitar with the Fixx. Jamie West-Oram played both Edge-like washes and straightforward shredding, which made them a great gateway group for transitioning Guys In Black T-Shirts Who Jam like me. Given a different set of circumstances, West-Oram may have ended up a Billy Duffy-level guitar god.
Follow-up single “Red Skies” was every bit as good as “Stand Or Fall,” and the band’s sophomore album, Reach the Beach became a critical piece of my childhood soundtrack. “Deeper and Deeper,” their contribution to 1984’s Streets Of Fire was pretty cool, too, and then things got a little weird. Phantoms, released in 1984, was uneven but had its moments, but 1986’s Walkabout just sounded like generic ’80s pop to me. I was done with the Fixx.
I still love those first two albums, though, and they–along with this UK import picture disc single for “Stand Or Fall”– remain in my stacks. It’s a cool little novelty, not much more than that, but I dig it. I’ve always had a thing for picture discs.
I hold out hope that one day the Fixx will get a much-deserved critical reassessment. For a couple of years there, they really were one of the most interesting bands in popular music. They should be much more highly regarded for their contributions.
You should be able to find your own “Stand Or Fall” picture disc in the 3-5 dollar range, which seems like a steal given its relative rarity and importance to the musical landscape of the early ’80s. Happy hunting.
Categories: From the Stacks