Saved By Zero: The Fixx’s Reach the Beach Turns 40
Revisiting the London New Wave greats’ sophomore masterpiece
It was 40 years ago today when London New Wave greats The Fixx released their indelible second album Reach The Beach, and found their audience in the United States.
“We sort of ventured forward, it was our second album,” frontman Cy Curnin told Cryptic Rock in 2018. “We had limited alternative success with Shuttered Room (1982). We were kind of expecting some of the same thing. We knew Reach the Beach was a very different album to Shuttered Room, because we naturally deviated course. We came back and found radio over there in the U.S. was really ready to hear the next songs from us, so they swallowed up ‘Saved by Zero,’ the first single from Reach the Beach. The album went platinum in about six weeks, I was bowled over. It felt very different: we were selling in bigger numbers, we were playing in front of huge crowds. At first we were opening up for A Flock of Seagulls, then opening up for The Police, and by the end of the year we were doing our own shows to tens of thousands of people. It was a huge rush! Not to say any of us expected it to happen, but when it did, we said, ‘We better enjoy this, because we don’t know how long it’s going to last.’”
The album’s winning combination of contemporary dance beats and sharp guitar hooks remains a touchstone of 1983–the quintessential sound of modern rock seared into the year like an exposed electric wire on human flesh. And four decades later, Reach the Beach sounds even more urgent given how prevalent 80s production weighs on the soundscape of pop music’s current wavelength.
It is suggested you dive into this record beyond its trio of singles, as new horizons of discovery are awaiting you within the synth-driven melodies and clarion rhythms of songs like “Changing” and “Privilege” on the second side. But of course, there’s no questioning the power of Reach The Beach’s singles “Saved By Zero,” “The Sign of Fire” and, naturally, the biggest Fixx hit “One Thing Leads To Another,” which remains a staple on any 80s playlist worth its salt.
“I mean, that’s almost like saying you stop appreciating your children as they get older,” Curnin told Rock & Roll Globe last year when asked if he ever tires of the notoriety surrounding the smashes. “Yeah, we’ve played ‘One Thing Leads to Another’ thousands of times. But mentally, we still go to a place where the energy exists, and the power of what that song means – every day there’s something in the world zeitgeist that that song will fit. I can’t see it ever getting old or jaded for us because it’s the reason we have had success: it still connects on a day-to-day level.”
I recently bought the expanded edition of Reach the Beach earlier this year knowing the 40th anniversary was coming up. And I couldn’t keep the CD out of my car for a month, just soaking in the crispness and sharpness of the songs. No doubt, a tip of the hat goes to producer Rupert Hine, who brought the same sense of clarity he delivered on such deep 70s classics as Kevin Ayers’ 1974 album The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories and 1979’s Sides, the underrated fourth solo album from former Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips.
It’s astounding to think that for as great as Reach the Beach is, The Fixx rarely gets mentioned in the same conversation as other crucial bands of 1983 like U2, R.E.M. and New Order. And that needs to change, because these cats are so much more than their biggest hit. In fact, they continue to make new music with last year’s fantastic Every Five Seconds.
Don’t let another 40 years pass before discovering this essential LP from the early MTV era.
VIDEO: The Fixx “One Thing Leads to Another”
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