If anyone could claim to be a genre-crossing Godfather of Godzone screen and song it’s Don McGlashan: from Blam Blam Blam (‘There is No Depression in New Zealand’), to musical theatre group The Front Lawn (classic comedic short films Walkshort, the Lounge Bar, Linda’s Body) and beloved band The Mutton Birds (‘Nature’, ‘Dominion Road’, ‘Anchor Me’), as well as scores for numerous TV shows and feature films (No. 2, An Angel at My Table). Sail to the middle of Don’s deep blue sea with this McGlashan Spotlight collection.
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.
This classic short film provides an unusual showcase for the founding talents of musical theatre group The Front Lawn — Harry Sinclair and Don McGlashan. The duo play every character in this slice of life set amongst the pedestrians of Auckland's Karangahape Road. The narrative unravels like a baton relay. Walkshort was directed by editor Bill Toepfer. Sinclair would go on to do some directing of his own (Topless Women Talk about their Lives), while as lead singer of the Mutton Birds, McGlashan sang an ode to another famous Auckland street, Dominion Road.
This classic alternative national anthem by Auckland post-punk trio Blam Blam Blam became a theme song for New Zealand’s long, troubled winter of 1981 as the country was wracked by social and political division and the Springbok Tour. Poet and playwright Richard von Sturmer wrote the lyrics while the music was by Blams member Don McGlashan. The video features a band performance shot on the roof of TVNZ’s Shortland Street studios and shows a curious penchant for celebrity lawn mowing. The performing Marmite and Vegemite jars are, however, the real deal.
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.
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.
The zenith of Don McGlashan and Harry Sinclair's legendary Front Lawn collaborations, this iconic Kiwi short follows two men and one woman on a rainy night at a deserted bar. Pivoting on amnesia and woven together by music, two timeframes are seamlessly combined and a darkly humorous plot unfolds. The film had a wide international release (Ireland to Norway, Germany to the USA) and was a finalist in the inaugural American Film Festival.
Blam Blam Blam’s second hit from 1981 was angular and artsy, hook-filled but unsettling: all qualities captured in a theatrical video, directed by Andrew Shaw. Clowns, magicians, fire-eaters and trick cyclists join the band, while actors play out the saga of ‘Don’t Fight It, Marsha’. The actors — including Phillip Gordon (Came a Hot Friday), Michael Hurst and Donogh Rees (Constance) — were directed by Harry Sinclair, who would later join Blam band member Don McGlashan in The Front Lawn. The Len Lye-style scratch effects were by Jenny Pullar, the Blams’ lighting designer.
Don McGlashan is one of New Zealand's foremost singer/songwriters. He was a member of Blam Blam Blam, and The Mutton Birds, and has recorded as a solo artist. He was also a part of the acclaimed musical theatre act The Front Lawn. Through his work with The Front Lawn, McGlashan moved into the film world with the quirky short Walkshort. He has worked as a film composer on An Angel at My Table, No 2, and Dean Spanley.
Performance group The Front Lawn (Don McGlashan, Harry Sinclair, and later arrival Jennifer Ward-Lealand) stretched all of their prolific talents for their final, 24 minute short film. After he whistles a certain tune, Ben (McGlashan) finds that his partner Linda (Ward-Lealand) no longer seems to be conscious. Then things get stranger: Linda catches up with an old lover (Sinclair) and faces a life-changing dilemma, while her body — awol with a tennis player on Tamaki Drive — has other plans. The surreal romance was made for TVNZ. It won Best Short at the 1990 NZ Screen Awards.
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.
Don McGlashan wrote this rousing secular gospel number for a key scene in No. 2, Toa Fraser's cinematic tribute to the Auckland suburb of Mount Roskill. Beyond the screen it won an APRA Silver Scroll and spent 22 weeks in the charts. That sales success was helped in no small part by this Fraser-directed video which recreates the film's (eventually) joyous, party vibe. Cast and crew gather to watch the fruits of their labours and witness a backyard performance by Hollie Smith, McGlashan and the other members of the Mount Raskil Preservation Society.
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).
In the vein of 'We are the World' and 'Do They Know It’s Christmas', 'Don’t Go' rallied NZ musicians to express their opposition to the proposed 1985 All Black tour of South Africa. Don McGlashan, Chris Knox and Rick Bryant were the front row for this one-off single: a catchy number written by McGlashan, Frank Stark and Geoff Chapple. The video — directed by Alison Maclean and shot by Stuart Dryburgh — never attempts to get in the way of the message, placing the ensemble cast in front of red, white and black backdrops (interspersed with rugby imagery).
Don McGlashan showed his screen talents early on a trio of shorts (including classic Walkshort) made with Harry Sinclair, his partner in multi-media group The Front Lawn. Since then he has composed music for TV, shorts, and features. His score for An Angel at My Table won acclaim. 2006 saw awards for No. 2, and hit track 'Bathe in the River'. There have also been TV awards for Katherine Mansfield tale Bliss and This is Not My Life.