Jonathan Ganley has been photographing New Zealand music since the 1980s. His work can be found here.
“Their brand of Pop is probably closest to the 60s psychedelic sound of the Small Faces meets the Stooges with a distinct NZ flavour … that rare medium somewhere between Goblin Mix and God.”
(Straitjacket Fits live review by Lisa Van Der Aarde, BiFiM magazine, April 1987)
There was a definite buzz around the Straitjacket Fits when they first came to Auckland to play and record in April 1987. It had been almost two years since the Doublehappys had ended so tragically, and a lot of people were curious to see where Shayne Carter and John Collie were going next, and what David Wood and Andrew Brough would bring to the sound.
I photographed the band for the 91.8 BFM magazine BiFiM on three occasions between April 1987 and October 1988.
Live at the Gluepot, 2 September 1988
The photos below are from a Straitjacket Fits gig at the Gluepot, on Friday 2 September 1988. Snapper played support, one of their first appearances in Auckland. On this night it was clear the Straitjacket Fits were on their way to bigger things. Their debut album had been recorded, they had built up a large local following, and were planning to play gigs overseas. Everything about their performance confirmed they were the New Zealand guitar band poised on the brink of a breakthrough.
There was a glowing review of the gig in the Auckland Star the following Monday, written by Elizabeth Mitchell: “The Gluepot is full now. Straitjacket Fits starts the way it means to go on – energy oozes … Pure rock and roll is interspersed with beautiful ballads. Masterpieces of melody with a raw, clean beat. The crowd is singing. They know the words.”
Photo session at The Lab Studio in Symonds St – Life In One Chord recording session, April 1987
Straitjacket Fits recorded their debut EP Life In One Chord at The Lab, located behind Bungalow Bill’s music shop in upper Symonds St. The recording was almost completed when I went up there one evening with bFM DJ Jonathan Roper, so he could interview the band and I could take photographs for BiFiM magazine. Arriving at The Lab we found the band relaxing, eating dinner and watching EastEnders. The lighting in the studio wasn’t great, but there was enough to work with. I wanted a strong image for the magazine cover, with the band among their drums and guitars, but the Straitjacket Fits were tired, and uninterested in any ideas about photos. They humoured me by placing two guitars and a cymbal into the shot, and Carter crouched down against the wall and made himself comfortable. The band started to relax, joke around, and even smiled a little while I took the photos.
Photo session at Images studio in Grafton, October 1988
A month after their Gluepot gig with Snapper, I photographed Straitjacket Fits at a Grafton video studio for BiFiM magazine. The harshly-lit photos worked well with the feature about the band written by Robert Southon, who pinpointed the essential feature of Straitjacket Fits as “the combination of noise and melody: ‘a wall of melody’ as Shayne describes it.”
The band was buzzing when they arrived for the photo shoot; their debut album Hail was about to be released, and they had recently returned from a New Zealand tour supporting The Jesus and Mary Chain. Although the headliners never spoke a word to them the entire time they were on the road, the Straitjacket Fits’ experience on the tour only increased their already brimming self-confidence. Shayne Carter later wrote in his autobiography Dead People I Have Known: “We held our own with The Jesus and Mary Chain, and the New Zealand tour was proof to us that we weren’t inferior to anyone.”
All images © Jonathan Ganley