Reasons # 306 and #305 Why The ’80’s Didn’t Suck: Reach The Beach and Phantoms

reach the beachSometimes I’ll be listening to my iPod, hear a favorite song from yesteryear, imagine it’s parent album and think to myself “Damn. After ____ posts I have yet to highlight ___________!”

Then I’ll listen to said album, just to make sure it’s worthy and not just my rose tinted nostalgia glasses at work ya see, and run over to my computer and type a few words about it.

This happened to me recently with The Fixx, a band I’ve seen live twice during their heyday (I know the Phantoms tour was one time, not sure about the other. Like to say it was for Reach The Beach, but I can’t be sure.) There are three albums that will feature in this list, eventually. I’ll talk about two of them now.

I had the coolest Aunt growing up. Each Christmas I would get a beautifully wrapped square package under the tree from her, and I knew that there would be at least two LP’s under that shiny stuff. I also knew that I would love them. Now, if that little tagger on the gift had said “From Mum and Dad”, then I would know that underneath lay a Stars On 45 or CW McCall album, or maybe if Dad picked it out a compilation of John Phillip Sousa marches (God bless their little square hearts!). But with my Aunt I always knew: cool shit awaits beneath the tree.

One Christmas, probably ’83, I received Reach The Beach and I Just Can’t Stop It from the (English) Beat from her. I’ve already spoken about the Beat, so enough about them. The first thing that struck me about Reach The Beach was the striking cover by George Underwood. Bizarre yet appealing, and most importantly it struck me as very modern. As it was so often with albums back then the cover sucked me in. I’m sure I was already semi-familiar with the hits (One Thing Leads To Another, Saved By Zero), but every single track sounded equally amazing to me. There was the jagged, proficient guitar playing by Jamie West Oram, the unique vocal, um, styling’s by perfectly named Cy Curnan, great, wooshing keyboards (played by Rupert Greenall), held together by the terrific rhythm section of Dan Brown and Adam Woods. I still think it sounds amazing, although Cy’s vocals on a few songs straddle the line between dramatic and pretentiously dramatic quite precipitously. Overall, though, it remains terrific.

phantomsA huge fan by the point of Phantoms I most likely purchased this one on the day of its release in 1984. I can remember thinking it wasn’t quite as good as Reach The Beach, but over the years I have reversed my thinking towards it and now consider it at least equal to that LP. It, too, had some great singles: Sunshine In The Shade, Are We Ourselves?, Lost In Battle Overseas being but three stellar examples. It also contains I Will, one of my favorite Fixx “deep cuts”.

You can easily find a good used copy of Reach The Beach for pennies, but Phantoms is a lot more difficult to locate; for some reason it’s not even on Itunes, and private sellers want an arm and a leg for a physical CD copy. The LP, the vinyl, on the other hand, is quite easy to find, and cheap to boot! So get out there and find yourself a copy of both of these albums.