The Mutton Birds formed in 1991. Main songwriter Don McGlashan, guitarist David Long and drummer Ross Burge had made quite a few albums between them and when bassist Alan Gregg joined in 1992 they made their first, self-titled album on Virgin Records which remained on the NZ charts for over 12 months.
Their second album 'Salty' was recorded in late 1993 with the first single 'The Heater' debuting at #1 in New Zealand, also featured on the album was their classic song 'Anchor Me'. The Mutton Birds relocated to England in 1995 and in mid 1996, The Mutton Birds made their third studio album 'Envy Of Angels'.
The line-up has changed over the last two years - guitarist Chris Sheehan replaced original member David Long, who returned to NZ at the end of 1996. And the first ever English Mutton Bird - Sheffield's Tony Fisher joined on bass and backing vocals in August 1998 when Alan Gregg left to work with singer song-writer Bic Runga.
The band's fourth studio album 'Rain, Steam & Speed' was recorded in the middle of 1998 in London
Former Mutton Bird Alan Gregg now works under the guise Marshmallow.
Don McGlashan (vocals, guitar)
Tony Fisher (vocals, bass, keyboards)
Ross Burge (drums)
Chris Sheehan (guitar)
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Anyone want to know Ross Burges current Day job?
Posted: Mon May 1, 2006 4:04 pm
He is a new zealand postal worker branch and area i shall leave unnammed but as his co-worker i get to hear all about the band. It's weird where people end up. He could be delivering your mail?!
Flock of swansongs from the Mutton Birds
Posted: Sun Dec 1, 2002 4:31 pm
Thanks to Russell Baille @ NZ Herald for the following:
Don McGlashan pens a fine set of memories in the liner notes to the long-overdue and posthumous compilation of his band.
Here's the one to Anchor Me, one of their loveliest songs ... "We were rehearsing on the top floor above a pub and a hairdressers in Vulcan Lane, Auckland. I remember bringing in the verse and bridge, but not having much of an idea of the chorus, so I just made it up as I played it to the other guys, saying, 'This is too simple for the chorus - I'll get something better' and Alan said, 'No you won't, it sounds like it's finished."
That anecdote manages to encapsulate what made the Mutton Birds take flight.
For here was a band framework to McGlashan's boundless creativity which previously had taken in being half of 80s musical comedy and film-making outfit the Front Lawn, hitting things in From Scratch and being the singing drummer and one-third of Blam Blam Blam, by far the smartest band of the Class of '81 era.
He also played euphonium. He is possibly the best euphonium player rock'n'roll has ever seen - as tracks here like The Heater and A Thing Well Made still attest.
His past suggested that maybe he was far too clever for this sort of thing when he formed the band with guitarist David Long (who had played on the Front Lawn's terrific first album), veteran drummer Ross Burge, eventually dragging in Alan Gregg on bass, harmonies, occasional songwriting and chorus-spotting duties by the time of their DIY debut album in 1991.
The Mutton Birds created something that hadn't quite existed in New Zealand for some time - a pop-rock band for grown-ups, people who thought that lyrics mattered, but were happy to hoof around like the students they once were to the likes of the band's cover of Wayne Mason's Nature.
That, of course, meant that to survive the Mutton Birds had to fly the coop, picking up an enthusiastic fan base especially in Britain and Europe - and, oddly, among Scottish thriller writers: Christopher Brookmyre's Not the End of the World had a character who raved about While You Sleep; Ian Rankin named one of his Rebus novels The Falls, after a song from final album Rain, Steam and Speed. Our own Peter Jackson was a fan, too - he got the band to cover Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear the Reaper for The Frighteners. It's an odd, out-of-context addition here, though, especially as it sounds like the band's heart wasn't really in it. Blame its inclusion on being big in Australia.
But there is a bonus to this, a stirring cover of Sneaky Feelings' Not To Take Sides, featuring former Feeling and one-time Mutton Bird guitarist Matthew Bannister.
Anyway, maybe those writers and film-makers appreciated the creepy characters in McGlashan's narratives - the brooding White Valiant still evokes something unsettling in a hitch-hiking story; there's the Christchurch sports-store owner in A Thing Well Made sending off a mail-order AK47 to a collector down the line; Frank who develops an unhealthy obsession for the domestic appliance in The Heater; or the redneck US Senator in Queen's English, one of the rare moments McGlashan went back to his Front Lawn acting roots.
As well as character studies, The Mutton Birds also did a fine line in geography to music - here represented by Allan Gregg's nifty Wellington, and McGlashan's tale of a desperate life in Auckland on Dominion Road.
Personally, I can't hear the jangle of Envy of Angels (the title track of their third album) without being reminded of a drive across a misty MacKenzie Country with it playing on the car stereo. Or being reminded that a few days before that trip I heard someone recite some of the lyrics of their greatest love song, While You Sleep at a wedding - mine. It got me then, it gets me now.
Memories, as Dean Martin once said, are made of this.
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