Who can forget the first time they heard “She Speeds”, the exhilirating 1987 introduction to Dunedin alt-rock band Straitjacket Fits, screaming out of their debut Flying Nun EP? The group’s leader had come up through schoolboy group Bored Games, and matured with The Double Happys. After bandmate Wayne Elsey died in a freak train accident in 1985, the group – singer/guitarist Carter and drummer John Collie – recruited Working With Walt bassist David Wood and fellow singer/guitarist Andrew Brough (from The Orange), and Straitjacket Fits was born.
This alt-rock supergroup quickly outgrew New Zealand, and by the late 1980s they were, like fellow travelers The Chills, touring through Europe and garnering rave reviews from the music press there. Who wouldn’t be impressed with great songs like “Bad Note For A Heart” or Brough’s chiming “Down In Splendour”?
With two great songwriters in Brough and Carter, and the latter’s great cheekbones and attitude, the group seemed like a surefire international Kiwi success story in the making, and on the back of the great Hail (1988) and Melt (1990) albums, ‘the Fits’ took on the States. The States won: signed to the Arista label, by the time the band hit the road to promote their album, internal ruptions at the company saw support of the band trickle away. By the time Blow emerged in 1993, it was really all over: Brough had left the group in a huff, and grunge had emerged to bury interest in groups that didn’t quite fit the stylistic straitjacket of the new trend. Carter returned to NZ, where he eventually started a new project, Dimmer, reforming Straitjacket Fits for a series of concerts in 2005.
Retrospectively, the group received a Legacy Award at the New Zealand Music Awards in 2008. Sadly, David Wood died unexpectedly in 2010.
Shayne Carter (vocals & guitar) • John Collie (drums) • Mark Petersen (guitar) • David Wood (bass).