After coming to prominence with the agit-punk Blam Blam Blam and more theatrical Front Lawn, Don McGlashan formed The Mutton Birds in 1991 with David Long and Ross Burge. Alan Gregg completed the core line-up in 1992. The tone was set by their debut single ‘Dominion Road’ — a literate, melodic McGlashan rocker unafraid to address a NZ subject — and four albums followed. ‘Anchor Me’ won the APRA Silver Scroll in 1994; but while a move to the UK in 1995 brought a degree of critical and popular acclaim, major success was elusive and they disbanded in 2002.
Don McGlashan’s anthemic plea for safe harbour — written for band The Mutton Birds — won him his first APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award, and began a life of its own. It was used in the soundtrack of a short film (Boy), a movie (Perfect Strangers) and was given all star treatment by Greenpeace. But TVNZ’s use of it on National Party conference footage was a step too far for McGlashan, who took very public offence. Director Fane Flaws places his video — a nominee for an NZ Film and TV Award — in the eye of a mermaid rather than a storm, but plenty of perils await.
Don McGlashan has never been scared to use New Zealand place names in his songs, and never more so than here on the Mutton Birds’ classic debut. His imagined back story for a man he saw from a bus window one day — a resident of the fabled “half way house, half way down Dominion Road” — is a tale of loss and redemption set on one of Auckland’s busiest arterial routes. Fane Flaws directed the shots of the band, while the colour footage (showing glimpses of forgotten shops and a less multi-cultural streetscape than can be seen today) was shot by Leon Narbey.
This muscular early 90s cover of The Fourmyula’s pastoral 1969 classic comes from the first album by Don McGlashan’s band The Mutton Birds. The award-winning music video was directed by Fane Flaws — the first of six he made with the band (after previously working with McGlashan on The Front Lawn’s Beautiful Things clip). Guest vocalist Jan Hellriegel features amongst the battery of kaleidoscopic and psychedelic digital effects used to evoke the joys of nature. In 2001 the original tune was voted best NZ song in 75 years by songwriters’ association APRA.
This slow burning tale of a domestic appliance with a mind of its own was The Mutton Birds’ only number one hit. The sinister, surreal and partly animated video — the band’s fourth with director Fane Flaws — hints at the short films of Don McGlashan’s other project The Front Lawn. A furtive, nerdy McGlashan takes the lead with Elizabeth McRae (in her prime as Marj on Shortland Street) as his mother; the other Mutton Birds have cameos as a seedy second hand dealer (David Long) and a Salvation Army brass section (Ross Burge and Alan Gregg).
Former Blam Blam Blam, Front Lawn and Mutton Birds member, Don McGlashan takes time out from making his first solo album to talk about songwriting in this episode from a series made for high school music students. McGlashan is passionate in exhorting his audience to write their own songs and make their own voices heard. Acoustic versions of his classic 'Dominion Road' (written about a neighbouring street) and another Mutton Birds number 'White Valiant' (based on a dream) underline his enthusiasm for writing about immediate surroundings, not faraway places.
30 Arthur Street was a Wellington musical institution. For more than 18 years the building was used as rehearsal space and studio, in which time 20 plus albums and nine feature film scores were partly or wholly recorded there. Directed by Plan 9 composer David Donaldson, this impressionistic documentary chronicles some of the building's musical history, plus its destruction to make way for a bypass. Among the musicians featured are Toby Laing from Fat Freddys Drop, drummer Anthony Donaldson, and ex-Mutton Bird David Long.
Hugh Sundae travels to the world's second-largest landlocked country: Mongolia. Normally unenthusiastic about travel or partaking in foods doused in yak butter, Sundae discovers that the presence of a camera adds courage to his journey. The courage proves helpful while sharing accommodation and food in a series of gers (also known as yurts) — portable houses used by the nomads of Central Asia. Sundae's trip includes camels, wrestling, Mongolian throat singing — plus trying to survive a meal made from sour milk and curd, without causing offense.
Planning and preparing dinner becomes a sweaty ordeal in the second episode of reality show/'social experiment', Pioneer House. The family have moved into 2 Elgin St and are dealing with the hands-on chores involved in running a typical lower middle class household in 1900. The summer heat makes a trip to the shops clad in corsets and petticoats "like running a marathon", and 17 year old Anneke feels stifled by the restrictions placed on young women of the day. On the plus side, Michael appreciates the extra 'family time' this new/old life is giving him.
Made on a wind-up Bolex camera, The Sound of Seeing announced the arrival of 21-year-old filmmaker Tony Williams. Based around a painter and a composer wandering the city (and beyond), the film meshes music and imagery to show the duo taking inspiration from their surroundings. The Sound of Seeing served early notice on Williams' editing talents, his love of music, and his dislike of narration. It was also one of the first independently-made titles screened on Kiwi television. Composer/author Robin Maconie later wrote pioneering electronic music.