Monday, June 30, 2008

Get Your Fix Of The Fixx

For some reason I used to think the synth-pop group The Fixx were American, probably because The Fixx actually experienced their biggest chart successes Stateside - not unlike The Outfield (see earlier post). But in fact the quintet formed in London during 1979. Vocalist Cy Cumin was joined by Jamie West-Oram (guitar), Rupert Greenall (keyboards), Charlie Barrett (bass) and drummer Adam Woods.

Cy Cumin and Adam Woods were college mates and recruited the other members via an add in a local music rag. They initially adopted the moniker the Portraits and recorded the single ‘Hazards In The Home’ before changing their name to The Fixx. Their next single ‘Lost Planes’, though not a chart hit, did lead The Fixx to sign a long term recording deal with MCA.

The Fixx then scored a major coup when established producer/performer Rupert Hine (see earlier post) took on the production controls for their debut album ‘Shuttered Room’ in 1982. Influenced strongly by the likes of Roxy Music and contemporaries Ultravox, The Fixx were an almost designer-fit band for the era. The album sold a moderate number of units in both the U.K. (#54) and Australia (#77), and yielded a couple of minor hits; ‘Red Skies’ (UK#57) and ‘Stand Or Fall’ (UK#54/OZ#33/US#76) which would be the song that would alert American audiences to the band. ‘Shuttered Room’ was a slow burner on the U.S. charts and established a solid fan base for The Fixx’s sophomore album ‘Reach The Beach’.

Though ‘Reach The Beach’ would mark the end of The Fixx’s presence on their home charts, it would signal the start of a consistent run of chart hits in the U.S. It also marked the end of Charlie Barrett’s tenure with the band, replaced by Dan K. Brown (the bass player not the populist author). The album reached #12 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, and soon The Fixx were a regular on the MTV playlist with the single ‘Saved By Zero’ (US#20/OZ#98). But it would be the follow up ‘One Thing Leads To Another’ that would lead The Fixx to their biggest triumph on the charts. With Rupert Hine’s production influence still strong, the classic new wave hit soared to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and also performed well here in Australia (#38). Another strong single followed with ‘The Sign Of Fire’ (US#32), making 1983 a landmark year for The Fixx.

The test, as it is with any artist, would be to produce a worthy follow up. ‘Phantoms’ was the next fix for fans of The Fixx. The album sold enough units Stateside to go gold (#19) and realised another strong single with ‘Are We Ourselves?’ which climbed as high as #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 late in 1984. Unfortunately the album lacked the depth of quality offered by ‘Reach The Beach’ and only one more minor hit followed with ‘Sunshine In The Shade’ (US#69). By the mid 80s the synth driven new wave pop sound was beginning to wane, but The Fixx stayed true to their roots and their next album ‘Walkabout’ (US#30) featured (IMHO) The Fixx’s best song, the beautifully crafted and atmospheric ‘Secret Separation’ (backed by a fantastic promo vid). It reached #19 in the U.S., but would be the group’s last major hit, and also signal the end of Rupert Hine’s production duties with The Fixx.

The ensuing material from The Fixx featured a shift in style from the Gary Numan-esque sound of earlier work, to a more traditional guitar driven sound. In part that could be attributed to the general shift in pop music that occurred in the late 80s, and also the split with Rupert Hine. ‘Calm Animals’ (#72) was the lowest selling album for The Fixx Stateside since their debut there and yielded only one minor hit with ‘Driven Out’ (#55).

Two years later saw The Fixx’s last appearance on the U.S. charts with ‘How Much Is Enough’ (#35), taken from the album ‘Ink’ which leaned more toward the slick dance-oriented production sound sadly encroaching into a lot of artists work at that time. Whilst the 90s were quiet for The Fixx in terms of output, releasing only two more albums (‘Elemental’ 1998, ‘1011 Woodland’ 1999), an official break-up never occurred though Dan K. Brown left in 1994 to be replaced by Gary Tibbs (formerly of Roxy Musix). They stayed active into the 00‘s and released a 25th anniversary anthology in 2005.

As of 2008 The Fixx are back out on the road and going strong, playing sell out shows across North America on their ‘Rockin The Colonies‘ tour, featuring fellow 80s alumni English Beat and The Alarm in support on several gigs.
Here’s the promo vid for The Fixx’s biggest hit ‘One Thing Leads To Another’:

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