Somebody's Webpage on Twitter Somebody's Webpage on Facebook Somebody's Webpage on Patreon

Reach the Beach by The Fixx (1983)

When British band The Fixx burst on to the scene in the United States in the early 1980s, they seemed like the next big deal. Those were the heady days when MTV was radically transforming the music scene, when new-wave music, often dramatically presented in the new and exciting music video format, had begun to offer a serious challenge to the supremacy of classic rock, or had at least started to manifest a viable alternative to it. And among all of those new-era bands who captured the American public’s imagination at that time, none seemed quite as earnest and cerebral as The Fixx. Pop music’s collective IQ went up several points because of that group, if only for just a little while.

For a year or two there in the early 1980s, The Fixx really dominated the charts in the United States. Their hit single, “One Thing Leads to Another,” raced up to number four in the charts, and for a good part of the decade, the music video for this song seemed to play on MTV at least once per hour. It is a simple yet stunning production featuring disquieting and claustrophobic camera footage of lead singer Cy Curnin walking through an underground tunnel. Another song that really got them a lot of attention was “Red Skies at Night,” a haunting piece that brought to mind the grim nuclear standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union at the time.

In 1983, The Fixx released their second album, Reach the Beach, which contains “One Thing Leads to Another.” It would be the group’s most successful LP, and would reach number eight on the American charts. After such a strong release, you might think that The Fixx were just getting warmed up, and would soon go on to dominate the world. However, as is evident, this did not happen.

It’s seems kind of odd to say this, especially after having a few hit songs and a very popular album, but The Fixx have never really gotten the full credit they’ve deserved. Both Cy Curnin and The Fixx guitarist Jamie West-Oram remain highly underrated musicians and songwriters. Recently, I learned that although The Fixx has enjoyed some measure of success in the United States, the rest of the world, their native Great Britain included, has largely ignored them. I find this extremely hard to understand, because The Fixx’s music doesn’t particularly sound American -- if anything, they throw off a distinctly British vibe.

The release of Reach the Beach coincided with a very difficult and alienating time in my life, when the usual issues of adolescent angst had been grossly compounded by the disastrous instability of my family situation. There was something in the abstract otherworldliness of this album that I found curiously comforting -- when I was listening to the LP, I felt like I could kind of distance myself from my own personal situation and look at it almost like a dispassionate outside observer. So, Reach the Beach became my motivational soundtrack for taking charge of my own life, and for disconnecting from the relentless mayhem, absurdity, and disorder of my family.

My favorite tracks from the release are the following:

“One Thing Leads to Another”

I think that I’ve already written enough about this song, but I’d just like to clarify here that it is still a personal favorite of mine, in spite of the fact that it was practically played to death on MTV.


There’s great new-wave guitar work in this track, kind of a tour-de-force by West-Oram, and pretty much an iconic performance for the genre. It’s a song about desperation, about losing control of your emotions, sense of personal identity, and moral compass. Curnin’s response to the madness of his life is to “switch myself with someone else, and then I shake myself.” In the middle of all this inner turmoil he remarks that “I can see myself running.” Maybe he’s running away from everything in his life. I can most definitely identify with that.    

“Saved by Zero”

This is probably my very favorite tune by the band. I rate it among my top “mental escape” songs of all time. The lyrics are cryptic in the extreme: “So maybe I’ll win, saved by zero.” The general vibe of the song is one of tentative triumph, “I will conquer space around me,” mixed with fear and misgivings, “my dreams disown me, loaded with danger.” It’s hard to know exactly what the song is about. Does it refer to the futility of trying to dominate others or of trying to dominate the self? Or both? Perhaps the phrase “saved by zero” refers to the concept of the “zero-sum game,” according to which a competitive effort yields no useful results. The spooky atmosphere of the vocals is brilliantly accentuated by the even more eerie ambience of the atonal plucked strings, quite probably from West-Oram’s electric guitar above the neck, drenched in massive delay and reverb. There seems to be a dark hint of something tragically amiss in the song, like suicide or self-imposed isolation, perhaps for those who give in to the seduction of the abstract and perfect as a final escape from the concrete and flawed.


I guess that this is about as close as The Fixx have ever gotten to a novelty tune. The lyrics describe a “fantasy sea cruise,” where a massive ocean liner is compared to “a rubber duck floating in the bath.” The bass, guitar, and synthesizers combine in odd ways with a slow, lurching beat to create a bizarre, childish, and somewhat nerdy track. I fully realize that this song didn’t have an ice cube’s chance in hell of getting played on the radio, which in large part explains why I like it so much.


This track has an interesting, repeating guitar riff, notable for the long pauses and broad phrasing. Curnin nicely lays his strong vocals on top of the slow, driving beat, which appears to be played in an uncommon time signature. In the coda sequence, West-Oram does some rather unorthodox and unusual lead guitar work, making ample use of the whammy bar on his axe. After almost thirty years, it still sounds compellingly weird, which I suppose is a testament to the originality and groundbreaking nature of his playing.

I suppose that I would most recommend Reach the Beach for people in Great Britain who have never heard of the band, which I imagine would probably be about ninety-nine percent of the country. Some well-deserved recognition might as well come late than never, I guess. Also, if you are of the younger generation, and are exploring the 1980s music scene, this is an absolutely necessary addition to your music collection, if only for “One Thing Leads to Another” and “Saved by Zero,” the two hit songs from the album. Finally, if you are a new-wave music enthusiast, Reach the Beach is one of the signature releases of the genre. It’s a brainy LP, so you’ll be all the smarter for listening to it.

Reviewed by Somebody Else 8/1/12

See more Favorite Albums of the Moment

"Won't you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love's eyes...