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The Mexican Spitfires were a Sydneymarker, Australia-based indie rockindie pop band formed in suburban Strathfieldmarker in the Strathfield Municipalitymarker in the mid 1980s. The band formed in 1986 and the original lineup consisted of Tim O'Reilly on bass and vocals, Michael Quinlan on rhythm guitar and vocals, Stephen McCowage on lead guitar, and Price Conlan on drums; however, O'Reilly, Quinlan and McCowage had previously played together in the psychedelic 1960s-styled indie-pop band Prince Vlad & the Gargoyle Impalers.


The Mexican Spitfires were an inner-citysuburban Sydneymarker band with an collection of songs about Sydney. Their songs dealt with aspects of daily life, such as:

Similar lyrical territory was also being covered by Paul Kelly & The Coloured Girls and John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong.

With three songwriters in O'Reilly, Quinlan and McCowage, the band had no shortage of original material and right from the first performance, set lists consisted predominantly of original material. Harking back to their earlier experiences in Prince Vlad & the Gargoyle Impalers, the band displayed a certain 1960s pop sensibility with strong harmonies from Quinlan and O'Reilly and covered songs such as The Beatles "If I Needed Someone" and The Monkees "Mary Mary".

In July 1986, The Mexican Spitfires played their first gig to a packed audience at the Lismore Hotel, located on Pitt Street in Sydney. They were discovered by Red Eye Records that same night and were subsequently signed to a record deal by that label. The band's debut six-track 12-inch EP Lupe Velez was released in 1988. The EP was produced by Jon Schofield of the Coloured Girls, engineered by Phil Punch, and featured a keyboard appearance by Russell Parkhouse (ex-The Riptides). The first EP was an immediate success on the independent charts, moving straight into the top 5 in Sydney and scoring the band significant airplay on 2JJ (now 2JJJ), particularly for the songs "Sydney Town", "You Can't Run" and "Town Hall Steps" . Lupe Velez received favourable reviews in English musicmagazine NME and in the Australian music press.

According to Londonmarker-based rock critic Andrew Mueller as quoted in the "Who's Who of Australian Rock" the Mexican Spitfires produced
"Impressive songs in the Kelly/Kennedy vein with a slightly English sounding pop touch."

The EP was also favourably received in Germanymarker and Italymarker, where "You Can't Run" received significant airplay on Radio Marte, Radio Luna and Radio Delfino in Cataniamarker. The video for the song "Sydney Town" made its debut on SBS's world music show Rock Around The World before being shown on ABCmarker's Rage. The band also performed "Ivy Street" on the Network TEN programme Ridgey Didge.

After their debut, The Mexican Spitfires returned to the Electric Avenuemarker Studio of Phil Punch to record their second six-track 12-inch EP Elephant during 1989 and 1990. That EP has not been released in any format, despite interest from indie pop labels such as Catania's No Tyme Records.

Only two tracks, "Sydney Town" and "You Can't Run (Forever)", have ever been released on a CD as of the date of this entry. The two tracks are featured on the compilation of Red Eye Records artists Asides and Besides:The First Five Years, whilst "Sydney Town" is featured on the Sony Music double CD compilation Somewhere in Sydney: 30 Songs from the Harbour City, which was released in 2000 to coincide with the Sydney Olympic Games.

During the mid to late 1980s, The Mexican Spitfires played most of the legendary Sydney pubs of the time, such as: the Hopetoun, the Sandringham Hotel in Newtownmarker (aka the "Sando"), Paddington Green, and Harold Park. In 1988, they toured Melbourne with other Red Eye acts The Crystal Set, Curious and The Bhagavad Guitars. The band also played with other bands such as: The Triffids, Roaring Jack, Penguins On Safari (later The Whitlams), The Wet Taxis, The Last Metro, The Upbeat, Billy Baxter and The Hollowmen and John Kennedy of John Kennedy's Love Gone Wrong.

Following McCowage's departure in 1989, C.T. Wally O'Cool joined the band on lead guitar. That lineup supported The Proclaimers on the Sydney and Canberramarker leg of their 1989 tour supplemented by Dominic Killalea of The Upbeat filling in on drums. O'Reilly has since gone on to perform with the Sydney Gospel Music choir The Elementals and recorded Live At The Basement.

Whilst The Mexican Spitfires have not played live as a band since early 1989, their music has been played on radio stations like 88.1 FM WMBRmarker Cambridge, Massachusettsmarker, and fans of their music can be found in Australia, Japanmarker, Germany, Italy and the USAmarker.


  • Lupe Velez (12" EP, 1988)

featuring the songs:

  • "Sydney Town", "You Can't Run (Forever)", and "Until", written by Quinlan.
  • "Town Hall Steps" and "Ivy Street", written by O'Reilly.
  • "Rookwood", written by McCowage.

  • Elephant (12" EP, 1990, unreleased)

featuring the songs:

Roy, Fallen Down, Long Time, written by Quinlan.

She, Desperate Ways, Just Like Any Man, written by O'Reilly.


  • Somewhere in Sydney: 30 songs from the Harbour City (Compilation CD, 2000)
features "Sydney Town".

  • Asides & Besides: The First Five Years (Compilation CD, n.d.)
features Sydney Town and You Can't Run(Forever)

Further reading

  • Who's Who Of Australian Rock, Chris Spencer, 2nd ed., 1989 The Five Mile Press


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