Straitjacket Fits

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Straitjacket Fits
Straitjacket Fits.jpg
Background information
Origin Dunedin, New Zealand
Genres Rock, alternative rock, indie rock, Dunedin sound
Years active1986–1994
Labels Flying Nun, Rough Trade, Arista, Dunedin sound
Past members Shayne Carter
John Collie
David Wood
Andrew Brough
Mark Petersen

Straitjacket Fits formed in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1986 and were a prominent band in the Flying Nun label's second wave of the Dunedin sound.



Like many of their Flying Nun stable-mates, the band hailed from the southern city of Dunedin. They formed from the ashes of The DoubleHappys, a band comprising Shayne Carter, Wayne Elsey and John Collie. The tragic accidental death of Elsey saw Carter and Collie join forces with David Wood (ex-Working With Walt) in 1986 to form Straitjacket Fits. [1] Andrew Brough (from The Orange) signed on the following year, adding a foil in the form of a pop sensibility to Carter's more raucous songwriting. From their inception, the sound of the band was marked by the seemingly incongruous but effective pairing of Carter's rough abrasive voice and strident guitar and Andrew Brough's saccharine-sweet vocals and pop hooks.

Pre-1990: Life in One Chord and Hail

1987 marked the release of the band's first EP. Life in One Chord spent 10 weeks in the Top 50. Of the four songs, "She Speeds", was to become a hallmark song. It was later judged one of New Zealand's ten best popular songs to date. The edgy lead vocal (from Carter) was underpinned with a dynamic jagged guitar and stabs of strings which tumbled into a churning melodic chorus on which Brough's voice soared. The opposite approach was taken on "Sparkle That Shines", its gentle downbeat melody sung by Brough giving way to a chorus laced with Carter's knife-edge harmonies.

The band left Dunedin, briefly moving to Christchurch, before making the shift to the country's main marketplace, Auckland in 1988. Their first album Hail was produced by Terry Moore (a former member of The Chills) and was released later that year (it would later be re-released on CD, accompanied by the four songs from Life in One Chord). The band's first overseas venture, to Australia, came in 1989, followed soon by a tour of Europe. The band were in Berlin the week the wall fell. [2]

1990: Melt and Brough's departure

In 1990 the band started work on their follow-up album Melt (produced by Gavin Mackillop), which was to produce moderate hits with the Brough composition "Down in Splendour" and Carter's "Bad Note for a Heart". The following year the band was back on the road with an extensive tour. Straitjacket Fits supported My Bloody Valentine in Australia and The La's in the United States. But the strain was beginning to show, with reputed "musical differences" between Carter and Brough. Brough left the band at the end of the tour, and was replaced by guitarist Mark Petersen.

1992-4: Done, Blow, and breakup

1992 saw the release of EP Done. It reached number 11 on the New Zealand Top 40 singles chart. Produced by Tony Cohen in Melbourne and without Brough's involvement, Done was an altogether louder and more guitar-driven record. The band then moved to California to record their third album Blow, with producer Paul Fox. The album was released in 1993, but lacked the carefully balanced dynamic that had always been evident in the interplay between Carter and Brough. It produced the singles, "Cat Inna Can" and "If I Were You". A US tour culminated with an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien on 11 November 1993, but the writing was largely on the wall for the band and they decided to go into a semi-permanent hiatus, following their appearance at 1994's Big Day Out.

In 1993, the band contributed the track "Brittle" to the AIDS-Benefit Album No Alternative produced by the Red Hot Organization.

Legacy, post-SJF music, and reunions

In 1998, a self-titled CD was released. Its 16 tracks were all previously available on other releases; the CD is essentially a "best-of" compilation.

Post-Straitjacket Fits, Shayne Carter found success with his band Dimmer, whose first album bore little similarity to that of Straitjacket Fits. Allowed more complete control of the music's sound, his band's music was sparser and included more electronics. Gone are the strident guitars, although they returned on some later releases. Andrew Brough released one album with the band Bike, before moving back to Dunedin and retreating from the music scene. John Collie became a photographer of some note who has exhibited his work widely.

In 2001, as part of the Australasian Performing Right Association's 75th anniversary, a poll was conducted on New Zealand's top 100 songs of all time. Straitjacket Fits' song "She Speeds" was voted at number nine. "Down in Splendour" was at number 32, and "If I Were You" at number 88. [3]

In 2005, Straitjacket Fits reformed without Brough for a brief series of concerts around New Zealand.

In 2008, the band received the New Zealand Herald Legacy Award at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards, [4] [5] [6] [7] and were inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame. [8] In his acceptance speech, Carter said "To all the artists out there who are brave enough to think outside of the square – kia kaha."

David Wood died suddenly, on 17 November 2010. A service for David was held at the Pt Chevalier RSA on the following Monday. He left behind a wife and two children. [9]

Andrew Brough died on 2 February 2020. [10]

One-off show as Dimmer's "special guests", King's Arms, 2018

The imminent closure of Auckland venue the King's Arms in 2018 led to of a one-off reunion of Dimmer (Shayne Carter's post-SJF band) and a group of "special guests" on 9 February. Those guests were John Collie and Mark Petersen who, along with Carter and Dimmer bassist Vaughan Williams, played a set of Straitjacket Fits songs (without taking on the band name). It was the first time Carter, Collie and Petersen had performed without the late David Wood. [11]

Band members



YearTitleDetailsPeak chart
1988 Hail 31
1989 Hail (compilation)
1990 Melt 13
1993 Blow 12
1998Straitjacket Fits
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


YearTitleDetailsPeak chart
NZ [12]
1987 Life in One Chord 16
1991Bad Note for a Heart29
1991Missing From Melt
  • Released:
  • Label: Arista
  • Catalogue: ASCD-2244
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


YearTitlePeak chart positionsAlbum
NZ [12]
1988"Hail"20 Hail
1990"Sparkle That Shines"
"Bad Note for a Heart"29 [14] Melt
"Down in Splendour" (double 7")
1991"Down in Splendour" (Video/CD)
"Roller Ride"
1992"Done"11 Blow
1993"Cat Inna Can"19
"If I Were You"
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

The group has appeared on many compilations and soundtracks since their inception in both New Zealand. The following is a list of these albums that have featured tracks by the Straitjacket Fits.


Aotearoa Music Awards

The Aotearoa Music Awards (previously known as New Zealand Music Awards (NZMA)) are an annual awards night celebrating excellence in New Zealand music and have been presented annually since 1965.

YearNominee / workAwardResultRef.
2008Straitjacket Fits New Zealand Music Hall of Fame inductee [15]

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<i>Blow</i> (Straitjacket Fits album) 1983 album from the New Zealand band Straitjacket Fits

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  1. Noted. "Rare photos of the Straitjacket Fits by Brian Murphy". Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  2. Gregory, Justin (8 March 2017). "The Fits Finish Up (article and radio recording)" . Retrieved 17 September 2018. In 1989 the Straitjacket Fits began the first of many international tours. Bizarrely, they were in Berlin the week the wall came down.
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 February 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. "Straitjacket Fits honoured with Legacy Award | Scoop News".
  5. "NZ Music Awards: Straitjacket Fits win Legacy Award". 3 News . 8 October 2008. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  6. "Straitjacket Fits honoured with Legacy Award".
  7. ""Straitjacket Fits to receive Legacy Award" (Newstalk ZB website)". Archived from the original on 11 September 2008.
  8. "Straitjacket Fits honoured with Legacy Award" (Press release). Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. 3 September 2010. Retrieved 24 October 2010.
  9. "David William Wood Obituary". The New Zealand Herald. 19 November 2010. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  10. "Ex Straitjacket Fits guitarist, Andrew Brough, dies".
  11. "Event details: Dimmer (Featuring the music of Dimmer and Straitjacket Fits)". Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  12. 1 2 3 "Straitjacket Fits discography". Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  13. "NZ Top 40 Albums Chart". Recorded Music NZ. 3 August 2020. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
  14. "NZ Top 40 Singles, 11 November 1990". Recorded Music New Zealand Limited. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  15. "HOME INDUCTEES". Retrieved 16 August 2021.

Further reading