Don McGlashan

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Don McGlashan
Don McGlashan in Raglan (cropped mug).JPG
Don McGlashan at the Raglan Club in 2015
Background information
Birth nameDonald McGlashan
Born (1959-07-18) 18 July 1959 (age 60)
Auckland, New Zealand
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer
InstrumentsVocals, euphonium, piano, guitar, drums, percussion
Years active1979–present
LabelsArch Hill
Associated actsAuckland Symphonia
From Scratch
Blam Blam Blam
The Front Lawn
The Mutton Birds
The Seven Sisters
The Bellbirds

Don McGlashan (born 18 July 1959) is a New Zealand composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist who won fame with bands Blam Blam Blam, The Front Lawn, and The Mutton Birds, before going solo. He has also composed extensively for cinema and television. Among other instruments, McGlashan has played guitar, drums, euphonium and French horn.

McGlashan has played with percussion group From Scratch, and bands The Bellbirds, The Plague, and composed a number of pieces for New Zealand's Limbs Dance Company.

McGlashan's first hits were with band Blam Blam Blam in the early 1980s. He later released four albums as lead singer and writer for The Mutton Birds.


Early life[edit]

McGlashan was born in Auckland, New Zealand. Both his parents were teachers: his father Bain taught civil engineering at Auckland Technical Institute and his mother Alice was a schoolteacher. McGlashan was actively encouraged to pursue music from a young age by his father, who bought him bought parts of various musical instruments to learn on.[1] McGlashan wrote the song 'Envy of Angels' as a tribute to his father.[2] At age seven McGlashan began on cello and piano, "then gradually added more instruments to that. [I] went through the tune-a-day for whatever instrument it was, for just about every instrument I think."[3] McGlashan attended Westlake Boys' High School, on Auckland's North Shore.[4] While at high school he began playing keyboard in local bands. "I carried on sort of following those two strands - of learning how to write songs, learning how to be in a band, learning all the sort of extra musical stuff that you have to learn - and on the other side I was learning the French horn."[5]

At Auckland University he studied English and Music, and played French horn and percussion in the Auckland Symphonia (later called the Auckland Philharmonia) from 1979 to 1982. McGlashan began working with Philip Dadson's percussion group From Scratch in 1979, while playing in the Auckland Symphonia. McGlashan played a number of eclectic percussion instruments, such as PVC piping struck with jandals; the name of the group came from the fact that they produced their own instruments 'from scratch'. On Standards, the album he jointly produced with Ivan Zagni for Propeller Records in 1982, he is credited as playing bass guitar, horn, whistle, percussion, marimba and vocals.

1981–1984: Blam Blam Blam[edit]

In 1981, McGlashan replaced Ian Gilroy in punk band The Whizz Kids, who rechristened themselves Blam Blam Blam.[6] McGlashan's song "Don't Fight It Marsha, It's Bigger Than Both of Us" reached #17 in the New Zealand charts. Local music magazine Rip It Up deemed it 'best single of the year', and readers voted McGlashan drummer of the year.[6]

1985–1990: The Front Lawn[edit]

McGlashan formed multi-media group The Front Lawn with Harry Sinclair. The duo (in their late stages a trio, thanks to the addition of actor Jennifer Ward-Lealand) won acclaim for theatre shows which combined music with physical comedy. McGlashan's song Andy, written in memory of his late brother, was later listed among the APRA Top 100 New Zealand Songs of All Time.

McGlashan and Sinclair also made and starred in short films Walk Short (in which each played multiple roles), The Lounge Bar and 1990's Linda's Body. By now Sinclair was growing increasingly interested in directing, while McGlashan was keen to return to the live circuit.[7] He had also begun composing for the screen.

1991–2002: The Mutton Birds[edit]

David Long moved from Wellington to Auckland to work with McGlashan, and the two began working together and auditioning drummers. After playing their first gig on St Patricks Day 1991 with a session drummer, Steve Garden, they heard about Ross Burge and convinced him to move back to New Zealand from New York to join The Mutton Birds.[8] The band began to become successful—"Anchor Me" won McGlashan the 1994 Silver Scroll Award—and later moved to the UK. However, while the Mutton Birds received acclaim from UK critics and music magazines, they failed to achieve mainstream success. Eventually they disbanded, and McGlashan returned to New Zealand.

2003–present: Solo work[edit]

McGlashan's first solo album Warm Hand, was released in May 2006. It was nominated for an NZ Music Award for album of the year, and debut single Miracle Sun was a nominee for New Zealand's supreme songwriting award, the APRA Silver Scroll.

March 2009, saw the release of album Marvellous Year through Arch Hill Records. The album is credited to Don McGlashan & the Seven Sisters, a band which had begun when he toured Warm Hand. The album included a new version of McGlashan-penned hit Bathe in the River, with McGlashan on lead vocals.

In 2015 Don released third solo album Lucky Stars, which he described as 'his most personal album yet.'.[9]

In 2005, "Anchor Me" was re-recorded by an ensemble of NZ artists to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rainbow Warrior bombing. McGlashan allowed the song to be used but did not perform on it, out of the concern it would turn the attention to him instead of the event the charity song was to represent.[10]

In 2012 McGlashan was one of a select number of artists given permission to visit Antarctica. The following year he was awarded the two-month Michael King residency.[1]

McGlashan played euphonium on album Time On Earth, by Crowded House. He played live with the band at Glastonbury 2008 and was a regular member of the touring line-up throughout their 2008 world tour. Later he played euphonium on track 'Hole In My Head' by Melbourne singer/songwriter Marjorie Cardwell, for her 2012 album 'In Another World'.[11]

In 2012, McGlashan and Dave Dobbyn partnered for the Acoustic Church Tour.[12]

Soundtrack work[edit]

McGlashan began contributing to soundtracks as early as 1980, when he was one of the trio who composed the music for New Zealand police series Mortimer's Patch. McGlashan composed occasionally for the screen over the next two and a half decades, including work on Jane Campion's film An Angel at My Table; Cinema of Unease, a documentary about the history of New Zealand cinema; and long-running detective series Street Legal.

From 2005 onwards, McGlashan began to devote a lot more energy to soundtrack work. Since then he has composed the music for more than a dozen screen projects - predominantly feature films (including The Dead Lands and the orchestral soundtrack for Dean Spanley) – as well as short films (Tick) and television (Katherine Mansfield telemovie Bliss, TV series Orange Roughies).

Song "Bathe In the River" featured on McGlashan's soundtrack to acclaimed Toa Fraser film No. 2 (2006, also known as Naming Number Two). Sung by Hollie Smith, it reached number 2 on the New Zealand music charts and went platinum. The song also won him the 2006 APRA Silver Scroll Award, his second win.

In 2011 McGlashan provided the score to the fireworks during the opening ceremony of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.[13]

Musical style[edit]

McGlashan is noted for writing lyrics that feature New Zealand imagery and vernacular, many involving his hometown of Auckland. Examples include Dominion Road in Auckland ("Dominion Road"), the Auckland Harbour Bridge ("Harbour Bridge"), Takapuna Beach ("Andy"), and the Coromandel ("Passenger 26"). The Valiant in "White Valiant" was a commonly seen car in 1970s-era New Zealand: McGlashan never owned one, though fellow musician Dave Dobbyn did.[14]

He is also known for writing about real-life events, including:

McGlashan noted that while living in England as a member of the Mutton Birds, he still wrote "letters to home" to New Zealand in his songs, as he struggled to find a connection with English imagery.[15]

In 1998 McGlashan explained his writing process as "trying to write about people that I know. I suppose ‘write letters’ to people, or try to unpick a moment that I’ve lived through and either tell the story in the first person or make up some characters who then tell the story in their own words - and by using what they don’t say as much as what they do say, try and paint their world in a song."[16]

He has also played a number of different instruments throughout his musical career: asked what instruments he plays, he answered, "Well I don't play violin".[17] However, he is noted for playing the euphonium and French horn. With Blam Blam Blam, McGlashan played drums and euphonium. He later picked up guitar duties for his work with The Front Lawn and The Mutton Birds.



Year Title Details Peak chart
2006 Warm Hand
  • Released: 1 May 2006
  • Label: Arch Hill Recordings
  • Catalogue: AHR024
2009 Marvellous Year
  • Released as Don McGlashan and the Seven Sisters
  • Released: 2 March 2009
  • Label: Arch Hill Recordings
  • Catalogue: AHR038
2015 Lucky Stars
  • Released: 17 April 2015
  • Label: Self-released
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

With From Scratch[edit]

  • From Scratch Perform Rhythm Works (1979) self-released
  • 3 Pieces From Gung Ho 1,2,3D (1983) Hit Singles
  • Pacific 3,2,1,zero (Part 1) – Drum/Sing (1985) Flying Nun Records
  • Gung Ho 1,2,3D (1988) Flying Nun Records

With Blam Blam Blam[edit]

With The Front Lawn[edit]

  • Songs From The Front Lawn (1989) Front Lawn Records
  • More Songs From The Front Lawn (1993) Virgin Records

With The Mutton Birds[edit]



Short films[edit]


Acting in film[edit]


The Front Lawn:

  • Walkshort (NZ 1987) all the characters were played by Don McGlashan and Harry Sinclair.
  • The Lounge Bar (NZ 1989) Don McGlashan – Mike
  • Linda's Body (NZ 1990) Don McGlashan – Ben

Feature Film[edit]

  • Perfect Strangers (NZ 2003): singing "Anchor Me" with band in bar.


  • Co-founder of Watershed Theatre, Auckland 1990 (disbanded 1995)
  • Play 2, Maidment Studio Theatre, October 2002: Don McGlashan played a choirmaster.


Music for Limbs Dance Company[edit]

New Zealand

  • Arcade (1981)
  • This Is A Love Song (1983)
  • Decoy (1984)
  • Souvenirs (1984)
  • Vigil Switch (1985)
  • Now Is The Hour (1988)

Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians[edit]

New York, 1983

  • He co-composed the scores to two new Dean pieces
  • Later appointed Music Rehearsal Director.
  • Toured with the company on US and European tours, playing drums and synthesiser.


New Zealand Music Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1981 Blam Blam Blam – "No Depression in New Zealand" Single of the Year Nominated[21]
Blam Blam Blam Most Promising Group Nominated[21]
1989 The Front Lawn – Songs from The Front Lawn Album of the Year Nominated[22]
The Front Lawn Most Promising Group Won[22]
The Front Lawn International Achievement Won[22]
The Front Lawn Best Film Soundtrack/Compilation Won[22]
1993 The Mutton Birds – The Mutton Birds Album of the Year Won[23]
The Mutton Birds – Nature Single of the Year Won[23]
The Mutton Birds Best Group Won[23]
Fane Flaws and The Mutton Birds – "Nature" (The Mutton Birds) Best Video Nominated[23]
1995 The Mutton Birds – Salty Album of the Year Nominated[24]
The Mutton Birds Best Group Nominated[24]
Don McGlashan – "Anchor Me" Best Songwriter Nominated[24]
1996 The Mutton Birds Best Group Nominated[25]
1997 The Mutton Birds – Envy of Angels Album of the Year Nominated[26]
The Mutton Birds – "She's Been Talking" Single of the Year Nominated[26]
The Mutton Birds Best Group Nominated[26]
1998 The Mutton Birds Best Group Nominated[27]
International Achievement Best Group Nominated[27]
2000 The Mutton Birds – Rain, Steam and Speed Album of the Year Nominated[28]
The Mutton Birds – "Pulled Along By Love" Single of the Year Nominated[28]
Don McGlashan (The Mutton Birds) Top Male Vocalist Nominated[28]
2006 Don McGlashan – Warm Hand Album of the Year Nominated[29]
Don McGlashan – Warm Hand Best Male Solo Artist Nominated[29]
Don McGlashan, Sean Donnelly, Ed McWilliamsWarm Hand (Don McGlashan) Best Producer Nominated[29]
2009 Don McGlashan and the Seven Sisters Best Male Solo Artist Nominated[30]
Don McGlashan, Sean DonnellyMarvellous Year Best Producer Nominated[30]

Silver Scrolls[edit]

McGlashan has won the APRA Silver Scroll twice. In 2006, McGlashan had two songs nominated for this award – a feat last achieved by Dave Dobbyn in 1995. Bathe in the River, written by McGlashan for the film No. 2, later won the award.

Year Work [31] Result
1994 "Anchor Me" Won
2006 "Bathe In the River" Won
"Miracle Sun" Nominated

In 2001, a vote by members of APRA to find New Zealand's Top 100 songs (what would eventually become the Nature's Best series) included 5 McGlashan songs. These were:

  • 23: The Mutton Birds – "Dominion Road"
  • 49: The Mutton Birds – "Anchor Me"
  • 66: Blam Blam Blam – "Don't Fight It Marsha, It's Bigger Than Both of Us"
  • 69: Blam Blam Blam – "There Is No Depression in New Zealand"
  • 82: The Front Lawn – "Andy" (co-written with Harry Sinclair)

Other awards[edit]

Personal life[edit]

McGlashan married dancer and writer Marianne Schultz in 1989. The couple separated in 2012, and divorced in 2017. They have two children, Louie and Pearl.[2][38] McGlashan married Ann McDonell in 2018.

In 2008 McGlashan was angered that TVNZ had used a song performed by the Mutton Birds (Anchor Me) when the election results showed that the National Party had won the New Zealand elections. McGlashan stated that he "would rather have sex with a very ugly crayfish" than let the National Party use his music. The song had been used by TVNZ in terms of the Australasian Performing Right Association's blanket licence with TVNZ.[1][39]

On 28 March 2011 McGlashan suffered three broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a broken collarbone after he hit a car door while cycling halfway down Dominion Road, Auckland. He was hospitalised.[40]


  1. ^ a b c Stuart, Sarah (5 March 2013). "Twelve Questions: Don McGlashan". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  2. ^ a b Warner, Kirsten (2 September 2012). "Kiwi singers share lyrics written for their dads". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  3. ^ "Musical Chairs: Don McGlashan". Radio New Zealand. April 1998. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  4. ^ "Westlakers". Westlake Boys' High School. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
  5. ^ "Musical Chairs: Don McGlashan". Radio New Zealand. April 1998. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Blam Blam Blam". Audioculture. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  7. ^ "Musical Chairs". Radio New Zealand. April 1998. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  8. ^ "Musical Chairs". Radio New Zealand. April 1998. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  9. ^ Bailie, Russell (17 April 2015). "Don McGlashan: My most personal album yet". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  10. ^ "Rainbow Warrior song heading for the top". NZ Herald. 14 July 2005. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  11. ^ "Marjorie beats brain illness to release CD". Portadown Times. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  12. ^ "Concert review: Kiwi legends' double act is heaven sent". The New Zealand Herald. 30 September 2013. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  13. ^ Toupee, Nic (25 July 2012). "Is Don, Is Good". The Music. Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  14. ^ Mora, Jim (13 September 2013). "NZ Live - Dave Dobbyn & Don McGlashan". Radio New Zealand. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  15. ^ "Musical Chairs". Radio New Zealand. April 1998. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  16. ^ "Musical Chairs". Radio New Zealand. April 1998. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  17. ^ "Biography". Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  18. ^ "Don McGlashan in New Zealand Charts". Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  19. ^ Gilchrist, Shane (11 April 2009). "Marvellous year for McGlashan". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  20. ^ "Episode 94 – Jenny Morris & Don McGlashan". RocKwiz. Special Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  21. ^ a b "1981 Winners". NZ Music Awards. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  22. ^ a b c d "1989 Winners". NZ Music Awards. Archived from the original on 3 April 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  23. ^ a b c d "1993 Winners". NZ Music Awards. Archived from the original on 30 October 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  24. ^ a b c "1995 Winners". NZ Music Awards. Archived from the original on 16 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  25. ^ "1996 Winners". NZ Music Awards. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  26. ^ a b c "1997 Winners". NZ Music Awards. Archived from the original on 16 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  27. ^ a b "1998 Winners". NZ Music Awards. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  28. ^ a b c "2000 Winners". NZ Music Awards. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  29. ^ a b c "2006 Winners". NZ Music Awards. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  30. ^ a b "2009 Winners". NZ Music Awards. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  31. ^ "Silver Scroll Award Winners". APRA. Archived from the original on 24 November 2012. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
  32. ^ "Don McGlashan named Distinguished Alumnus". University of Auckland. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  33. ^ "Don McGlashan - Musician". The Arts Foundation. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  34. ^ "Auckland stars become Living Legends". Scoop. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  35. ^ "2012 Distinguished Alumni". University of Auckland. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  36. ^ "Artists & writers programme". Antarctica New Zealand. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  37. ^ "WRITERS IN RESIDENCE2013". The Michael King Writer's Centre. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  38. ^ "Don McGlashan". NZ Herald. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  39. ^ Rushworth, Anna (16 November 2008). "'I would rather have sex with a very ugly crayfish' – McGlashan". NZ Herald. APN Holdings. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
  40. ^ Wade, Amelia (1 April 2011). "Car door puts Kiwi star in hospital". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 1 April 2011.

Other sources[edit]

  • Chunn, Mike and Chunn, Jeremy, The Mechanics of Popular Music, A New Zealand Perspective, GP Publications, 1995. ISBN 1-86956-130-9
  • Dennis, Jonathan and Bieringa, Jan (eds), Film In Aotearoa New Zealand, Victoria University Press, 2nd Edition, 1996. ISBN 0-86473-309-7
  • Dix, John, Stranded In Paradise, Penguin, 2005. ISBN 0-14-301953-8
  • Eggleton, David, Ready To Fly, Craig Potton, 2003. ISBN 1-877333-06-9
  • Martin, Helen and Edwards, Sam, New Zealand Film 1912-1996, Oxford, 1997. ISBN 0-19-558336-1
  • Shute, Gareth, NZ Rock 1987–2007, Auckland, Random House, 2008. ISBN 978-1-86979-000-4
  • Spittle, Gordon, Counting The Beat, GP Publications, 1997. ISBN 1-86956-213-5

External links[edit]