The small city of Dunedin, in the south of New Zealand, produced a lot of great music in the 1980s – The Flying Nun record label distributed acclaimed albums by acts like The Chills, The Clean, The Bats, and Chris Knox. But the Flying Nun act most likely to break out beyond cult status and attain mass popularity was Straitjacket Fits.
Straitjacket Fits were formed after Shayne Carter’s previous band, The DoubleHappys, was curtailed by the tragic death of Wayne Elsey. In Straitjacket Fits Carter teamed up with another singer/guitarist, Andrew Brough. It’s an unlikely pairing – Carter, with his thick Mick Jagger lips, contributed edgy guitar and rock star attitude, while the bespectacled Brough brought chiming guitar and a choir boy voice. The resulting conglomerate was a little like having Roger McGuinn and Mick Jagger in the same band. But the tension between the two approaches resulted in some glorious music.
‘Down In Splendour’ was part of a double a-side single from the band’s 1990 album Melt, and it’s an Andrew Brough song, with Brough’s warm voice filling the sound. But the guitar interplay between Carter and Brough provides contrast and lifts ‘Down In Splendour’ to another place.
After ‘Down In Splendour’, Brough left Straitjacket Fits – the record company were asking for more songs like ‘Down In Splendour’, but Brough wasn’t a prolific writer and the remainder of the band wanted to capture a grungier sound. But for a few years and a few glorious songs, Straitjacket Fits threatened to turn the synergy between two disparate musicians into something great.
Hey down in splendor, join the slide
Standing on the seashore and the tide
Comes rolling through your eyes
You’ve got no place to go
Comes rolling through your mind
You’ve got no one to know
Hey down in splendor, take a bow
Blinded in the white light and the crowd
Die slowly in your arms
You’re left to lie alone
And save your face of changing color
And your smile of fading color
Cause you’ll never find another
Who will give you ever after
And you shouldn’t have to say goodbye
And wonder if this way is how
It’s going to be