After coming to prominence with post-punk trio Blam Blam Blam and the 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 New Zealand subject matter. Four albums followed. Song ‘Anchor Me’ won the APRA Silver Scroll in 1994. A move to the United Kingdom the following year brought a degree of critical and popular acclaim, but major success was elusive and the group disbanded in 2002.
Don McGlashan has played drums, horns, guitars and PVC pipes, created memorable songs with Blam Blam Blam, The Mutton Birds and as a solo artist, and won a run of awards for his soundtrack work. As Nick Bollinger puts it in this backgrounder, his songs are good for occasions big and small.
Don McGlashan’s plea for safe harbour — written for The Mutton Birds — won him his first APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award. It featured in a movie (Perfect Strangers), a short film (Boy) and was given all star treatment by Greenpeace. But when TVNZ used it (legally) on National Party conference footage, McGlashan took public offence. Director Fane Flaws places his video — an NZ Film Award nominee — in the eye of a mermaid rather than a storm, but plenty of perils still await. An alternative, English-made video of the song features the band shot against blue and red.
This highly charged tale of a domestic appliance with a mind of its own marked The Mutton Birds’ only number one hit. The slightly sinister video — the band’s fourth with director Fane Flaws — hints at Don McGlashan’s time with The Front Lawn. A furtive McGlashan takes the lead, with Elizabeth McRae (then known for playing Marj on Shortland Street) as his mother. The other Mutton Birds have cameo roles: seedy second-hand dealer (David Long) and Salvation Army brass section (Ross Burge and Alan Gregg). Max TV viewers voted the result their favourite video of the year.
Don McGlashan has never been scared to use Kiwi place names in his songs, including on this classic debut single by The Mutton Birds. Inspired by a man glimpsed from the bus one day — a resident of the fabled “halfway house, halfway down Dominion Road” — McGlashan spins a tale of redemption on one of Auckland’s busiest arterial routes. The colour footage (showing glimpses of forgotten shops, and a less multicultural streetscape than today) is by cinematographer Leon Narbey. An alternative video for the song was shot inside an old armoury building in London.
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 New Zealand song in 75 years by songwriting association APRA.
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.
A one-off project, the Mt Raskil Preservation Society was put together to perform 'Bathe in the River', the rousing gospel-inspired number that forms the centrepiece of Don McGlashan's score for Toa Fraser's feature film No. 2. Those accompanying vocalist Hollie Smith include Wellington-based singer Bella Kalolo (on lead backing vocal), Auckland's Jubilation Choir and regular McGlashan collaborators David Long (a former Mutton Bird) and Sean Donnelly (aka SJD). McGlashan recorded his own version of 'Bathe in the River' for his Marvellous Year album.
Continuing the Shortland Street tradition of packing surprises into its Christmas cliffhangers, the 2013 finale featured kidney transplants, mad doctors, marriage talk for Chris and Rachel, and this unexpected antidote to all the drama: a cast singalong of Mutton Birds classic 'Anchor Me', led by Chris on guitar. Actor Michael Galvin was hardly new to matters musical. In 1990 he won acclaim for a singing/acting role in play Blue Sky Boys. Being Shortland, this moment of tentative bonding as the sun set on the Warner family bach was unlikely to last. Downstairs, a bomb was ticking...