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.

Anchor Me

1994 - Music video

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.

The Heater

1994 - Music video

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.

Dominion Road

1992 - Music video

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. 

Nature

1992 - Music video

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.