By Sarah Sernaker, March 2020
Thirty seven years ago, as a senior in 1983, I had the opportunity to be part of a bus trip to see three bands in the Orange Bowl in Miami.The Police Concert, as we thought of it at the time, was basically The Police and two opening acts.One of the members of our senior class had chartered a bus, and for a mere $45.00 give or take, we were promised a memorable bonding experience with our fellow students.The bus, pre-stocked with beer and other beverages, even though few of us were of age, picked us up from the Miami Killian Senior High school parking lot, to take us to the event.It was somewhat exclusive in that you basically had to be friendly with the organizer to be invited, and few underclassmen were allowed.It was cash only, no credit, and had to be paid by a certain date.In those days, I had a limited budget, but I still managed to scrape together the money on time.
After playing with beach balls, and being blown away by the Animals’ rendition of “House of the Rising Sun,” The Fixx was an amazing performance that I wasn’t expecting.I had never seen a show that felt so slick.I mean, I had seen Devo on MTV, but at that time, I had never seen coordinated choreography like that with a rock and roll (or new wave) band.When I had seen Billy Joel, he mostly sat at the piano and played music.Yes, Billy Joel played great music, and Mark Rivera was entertaining at the sax, but nobody I saw did hand motions.In comparison, even The Police seemed flat that night.It could have been as a result of lower expectations for the opening band, or maybe I was tired after standing on a football field for several hours, but I thought The Fixx outdid themselves.Along with the great songs I knew, the Fixx had a light show and special effects that went along with their songs instead of just random blinking lights of different colors.
So the Fixx is a great band. I mean really great.I had the feeling in 1983 that it was pretty good when I thought their show was better, or at least as good as, The Police.I mean, I had always liked the Police, and the Synchronicity album that was popular at the time was quite good.We even used the design from that album on our senior float, with the slogan, “Synch the Spartans.” I thought of it of course, and it was genius.That said, when I actually saw them in concert, I knew what band was more memorable.It was The Fixx.
Fast forward thirty something years, I am living in a place where 80’s bands come to play once in a while.So when the Fixx came to town, I was right there, in the front row. I saw the the band at Sony Hall, December 14, 2019 in New York City.The venue is quite pleasant, as unlike a lot of places, they have waiters who come around taking orders for food and you can sit down to eat it.The only negative of the food is if someone leaves their dishes right in front of you, and you are somewhat OCD, like me, it is distracting until you make the bold move of covering someone else’s chicken bones with a napkin to hide the food.
Cy Curnin sings with his hands.Some people talk with their hands, but he sings with his hands.Thirty years ago that mattered a little more, when I was midway back on the ground of a big stadium.At the time, it was an experience just looking at the creative ways a person chooses to use his appendages as instruments to entertain.I was awestruck.It loses a bit from the front row, but on the other hand, you are in the front row. When Curnin sings a lyric about taking someone’s hand, and literally takes someone’s hand, that person is not going to be someone in the second row back.
Yes, it was me.
When you are right there, looking up front at the stage, the hands don’t hold your attention quite as much. Still, it is fun to watch when he sings, “One Thing Leads to Another,” and you have to wonder, “Just what is he trying to say with his hands?”
So when I moved to New York, and had the opportunity to see the Fixx again, I was not sure if I would feel the same way.I mean, it has been over thirty years.I am not the same person.Maybe my musical taste has matured.Maybe it is not the 80’s anymore.But that was not the case.I loved them every bit as much.Truth, Cy Curnin is much more attractive now.It wasn’t that he was unattractive before, but now, he is kind of hot.Apparently, he works on his gentleman farm, so as my husband from Tennessee says, he has “farm muscles.”
Hotness aside, Cy Curnin’s voice is amazing.I was listening to the band’s CD, and while they didn’t play all the songs live, several of them were represented.In some tracks, he sounds like David Bowie, with an almost ethereal presence.There was one song where he actually sounded a lot like Prince.Others on the CD were played at the concert as well.In “These Boots Were Made for Walking,” he has this awesomely haunting voice. Other times, like in songs like “Secret Separation,” and “Stand or Fall” it is just really beautiful.And then finally, sometimes he sounds like that guy who sings for The Fixx on “Saved by Zero,” with a voice that is at the same time forceful, and tough, but at the same time melodic.It actually amazes me how flexible his voice is.
For the life of me, I don’t understand why I was able to buy a ticket and see the Fixx in a small venue.I guess the band is a little older, balder, although not fatter, but as concerts go, this was one of the good ones.Maybe their biggest fans don’t attend concerts as much anymore, and 80’s music is not the rage right now.Some people up here in New York seem to think that the best music was written in the 60’s and 70’s, and that 80’s music was not as deep as some of their music.I’m like, really?Cherokee People?Wild thing?Silly Love Songs?YMCA?But I digress.
With the Fixx, sometimes the meanings are not so obvious, and change over time, which is what a good song should do.“Saved by Zero” started out having to do with how you feel when you lose all you have, or are at rock bottom.But it evolved into kind of a minimalist ideal, and the idea that possessions don’t bring happiness.It questions the value of material goods.I actually love it, even though I am not particularly good at parting with my stuff.“Red Skies” addresses the threat of nuclear war, which unfortunately is not a long forgotten memory.
When I listened to the music, I was thinking that I had forgotten how much I had loved The Fixx’s music in the 80’s.“Stand or Fall” was just a fantastic song, and it still is.Sure it has the kind of synth backdrop that was prevalent in that decade, and yes it screams Miami vice suits, but I still love it.“Stand or Fall” questions whether or not we have the guts to stand up to a possibly corrupt government, or one headed toward war, and it is still a question that is worth asking. Another thing I didn’t notice in the 80’s is how versatile Curnin’s voice sounds in many of his songs.Sometimes, it is reminiscent of David Bowie, or Prince, or even The Devo lead singer, in “Shuttered Room.”
The Fixx played some new to me songs that night that I never had heard before, but immediately liked.Their latest album is from 2012 (Beautiful Friction,) but it is not actually the latest of their music, as Curnin is always writing new songs.According to an article I read, Curnin spends a couple hours a day writing.You can listen to some on their website to hear some of his new tunes at newest music is more solemn, almost dark.It is winter after all.
At the concert, I purchased the “Anniversary Anthology,” which I have been listening to a lot.The great thing about it is, now I have a bunch of newer (and some I just forgot about) favorite songs from a band I really like. I especially like, “How Much is Enough,” “Deeper and Deeper,” “Secret Separation,” and “Are We Ourselves?”Thinking about a lot of these songs, I realized I never realized how introspective their songs are.Their best ones examine things like our purpose in the world, and timeless ideas about materialism and ethics.In the end, Curnin and the Fixx have something to say that is every bit as relevant now as it was when some of it was written.I think we should listen.