Fire Engines hailed from Edinburgh, United Kingdom and comprised David (Davy) Henderson (vocals/guitar), Murray Slade (guitar), Graham Main (bass), and Russell Burn (drums). The band name was inspired by a 13th Floor Elevators song. Henderson, Main, and Burn had previously been members of The Dirty Reds, along with Russell Burn's brother Tam Dean Burn, while Slade had played in Station Six.
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.
Get Up And Use Me was given 'Single of the Week' in both NME and Sounds. 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."
The band were offered a deal by Postcard Records but opted for Bob Last's Fast Product label. Further singles followed and a largely instrumental album Lubricate Your Living Room (subtitled 'Background Music for Action People!') in 1981.
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 Thing. 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.
Henderson formed the short-lived Heartbeat with Bob Last's partner Hillary Morrison, the band's only release was a track on an NME compilation cassette. Burn formed Everest the Hard Way with bassist Ian Stoddart and guitarist Stephen Lironi (who later joined Altered Images), releasing a single in April 1982 before Burn rejoined The Dirty Reds. Henderson and Burn went on to form Win with Stoddart in the mid 1980s, the band continuing until 1989. Henderson and Burn then worked together on Burn's Pie Finger project, releasing an album on Creation Records in 1992. Henderson then formed The Nectarine No. 9, which continued from the early 1990s until 2004.
In 2004, Fire Engines reformed to support The Magic Band at The Liquid Room in Edinburgh and released a limited edition collaboration single with Franz Ferdinand. The seven inch single contained a Franz Ferdinand cover of Fire Engines song Get Up and Use Me with Fire Engines covering Franz Ferdinand's Jacqueline. The band continued to play 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). Graham Wann later joined as guitarist. 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.
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.