“Red Skies” by The Fixx
(Words/Music: Carlton Barrett, Cy Curnin, Rupert Greenall, Jamie West-Oram, Album: Shuttered Room, MCA 1982)
“Red Skies” comes from the early career of The Fixx and as a result has a considerably different sound than their later, more New Wave hits like “One Thing Leads To Another,” “Saved By Zero,” and “Are We Ourselves?”. They have yet to discover the slick production, tight songwriting, and keyboard/synthesizer heavy sound with which they have become most known. The result is a song in which the original lyrics of the verses are over with a full two minutes remaining which leaves time for a guitar solo, keyboard solo, and vocal echo effects for the entire second half. Not exactly the tight pop New Wave songs from their next album Reach the Beach, but the subject matter of the song demanded a more ominous and eerie sound and a looser, more uncertain structure.
The chorus of the song makes a play on words on the old maritime proverb “Red skies at night, Sailors delight, Red skies by morning, Sailors take warning” and updates them to a more imminent threat: the spread of Communism during the Cold War era. The song hints at the uncertainty we all felt during that time and tells of a people who “should’ve taken warning,” who are “running, hiding [and] lost,” and who “could be dead by morning” and continues repeating the chorus (the only words remembered after the war?) amidst of background wasteland of echoes, effects, and solos. This potential fear and wasteland was reinforced by other mainstream media in movies like “Read Dawn” (1984) and the made for TV movie “The Day After” (1983). All three tell of a world in which the Cold War becomes an actual war and people are left to survive in a post-nuclear environment or stop the Communist threat and prevent a nuclear holocaust. Such was the omnipresent fear of the 80s until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the eventual dismantling of the Russian Empire, and The Fixx constructed a song to represent every aspect of this fear, from the posturing, to the battle, to the recovery. Luckily, it is all just nostalgic fiction.