The Fire Engines

The Fire Engines are a post-punk band from Edinburgh, Scotland. The band was a part of the same literary art-punk scene as the Scars and Josef K.[1]

Fire Engines
Fire Engines Leith Theatre August 2017
Background information
OriginEdinburgh, Scotland
Years active1979 (1979)–1981 (1981), 2004–2006
Associated actsThe Dirty Reds, Win
MembersDavy Henderson
Murray Slade
Graham Main
Russell Burn


The Fire Engines comprise David (Davy) Henderson (vocals/guitar), Murray Slade (guitar), Graham Main (bass), and Russell Burn (drums), the band name inspired by a 13th Floor Elevators song.[1][2][3] Henderson, Main, and Burn had previously been members of The Dirty Reds, along with Russell Burn's brother Tam Dean Burn,[1][2] while Slade had played in Station Six.[4] The Fire Engines' debut release was the "Get Up And Use Me"/"Everything's Roses" single, released on manager Angus Groovy's Codex Communications label in 1980; The band had recorded their entire set twice in a Fife bungalow with producer Wilf Smarties, at a cost of £46, with these two tracks selected for release.[4]

"Get Up and Use Me" was given 'Single of the Week' in both NME and Sounds.[4] The band's live shows rarely lasted longer than twenty minutes – Henderson said of the early live shows: "We played to our strengths which were minimal, but somehow, as a band, it worked. We never played chords and Russell didn’t use cymbals or hi-hats. It was very violent although no-one got hurt. Pure aggression, attitude and hate was what it was."[4] The band were offered a deal by Postcard Records, but opted for Bob Last's Fast Product label.[5] Further singles followed and a largely instrumental album, Lubricate Your Living Room (subtitled 'Background Music for Action People!'), in 1981, released on Fast subsidiary Pop:Aural.[5] The band recorded two sessions for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show, the first in February 1981 featuring a cover version of Heaven 17's "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang", and a second in November that year.[2][6] Their most successful single was "Candy Skin", released in 1981, but after the follow-up, "Big Gold Dream" failed to repeat its success, the band split up on 31 December 1981.[3][5]

Henderson formed the short-lived Heartbeat with Bob Last's partner Hillary Morrison, the band's only release a track on an NME compilation cassette.[3] Burn formed Everest the Hard Way with bassist Ian Stoddart and guitarist Stephen Lironi (who later joined Altered Images), the band releasing a single in April 1982, before Burn rejoined The Dirty Reds.[3] Henderson and Burn went on to form Win with Stoddart in the mid 1980s, the band continuing until 1989.[3] Henderson and Burn then worked together on Burn's Pie Finger project, releasing an album on Creation Records in 1992.[3] Henderson then formed The Nectarine No. 9, which continued from the early 1990s until 2004.[1][2]

In 2004, the Fire Engines reformed to support The Magic Band at The Liquid Room in Edinburgh,[7] and released a limited edition collaboration single with Franz Ferdinand; The seven-inch single contained a Franz Ferdinand cover of the Fire Engines song "Get Up and Use Me" with Fire Engines covering Franz Ferdinand's "Jacqueline".[8][9] The band continued to play occasional concerts until 2006. On 2 October 2007, the Acute label issued Hungry Beat, a collection of the band's original studio recordings, making them available for the first time on CD in the US.

Henderson is now leading The Sexual Objects, featuring Ian Holford (drums), Simon Smeeton (guitar) and Douglas McIntyre (bass).[9] Graham Wann later joined as guitarist.[10] The band released a single on the Creeping Bent label in 2007, two singles through a German label in 2008 and one more in 2009. Their debut album, Cucumber, was released in 2010, partially produced by Boards of Canada (who produced the third single).[11] It was released on vinyl in 2011.

The Fire Engines were an influence on many bands that followed, including Franz Ferdinand and The Rapture, with Meat Whiplash and The Candyskins both taking their names from Fire Engines songs.[4][8] In August 2017 the band reformed to play a benefit for Leith Theatre along with Irvine Welsh and Ewen Bremner.[12]



Lubricate Your Living Room (1981) - UK Indie #4


  • Aufgeladen und Bereit fur Action und Spass (1981)
  • Fond (1992)
  • Codex Teenage Premonition (2005)
  • Hungry Beat (2007)


  • "Get Up and Use Me" / "Everythings Roses" (1980), Codex Communications - UK Indie #9
  • "Candyskin" / "Meat Whiplash" (1981), Pop:Aural - UK Indie #7
  • "Big Gold Dream" / "New Thing in Cartons" / "Sympathetic Anaesthetic" (1981), Pop:Aural - UK Indie #15
  • "Discord" (2006), Domino ¹

¹ from John Peel session tracks "Discord" and "Candyskin"

Legacy and influence

The history of The Fire Engines from 1979 to 1981 is covered in 2015 documentary film Big Gold Dream, which takes its name from the band's final release on the Pop:Aural label.


  1. Ankeny, Jason "Fire Engines Biography", Allmusic, retrieved 22 June 2012
  2. Buckley, Peter (2003) "The Fire Engines", in The Rough Guide to Rock, Rough Guides, ISBN 978-1843531050, p. 373-4
  3. Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 1-84195-335-0, p. 332-3
  4. Reekie, Innes (2012) "Post Punk heroes the Fire Engines", Louder Than War, 6 January 2012, retrieved 22 June 2012
  5. McLaughlin, Milo (2006) "Fire Engines", The Skinny, 16 April 2006, retrieved 22 June 2012
  6. "Fire Engines", Keeping It Peel, BBC, retrieved 22 June 2012
  7. "Legendary Beefheart band cast their spell", The Scotsman, 26 January 2004, retrieved 22 June 2012
  8. Kellman, Andy "Codex Teenage Premonition Review", Allmusic, retrieved 22 June 2012
  9. Lister, Paul (2009) "New Band of the Day: The Sexual Objects (No 669)",, 13 November 2009, retrieved 22 June 2012
  10. "The Sexual Objects – Live Session", BBC, retrieved 22 June 2012
  11. Rogers, Jon (2012) "Fire Engines : Interview with Davy Henderson",, 13 March 2012, retrieved 22 June 2012
  12. "Neu Reekie! presents: Trainspotting turns 21 wi Irvine Welsh, The Fire Engines & Arthur Baker — Leith Theatre". Retrieved 17 August 2017.
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