Dragon hit the road for 40th anniversary

By Tracey Bond

Seventies rock 'n' rollers Dragon are marking their 40th anniversary with a New Zealand tour. The band talks debauchery, mortality and why their songs have taken on a life of their own.

Dragon are hitting the road for their 40th anniversary tour. Photo / Supplied
Dragon are hitting the road for their 40th anniversary tour. Photo / Supplied

Dragon sold one million records in the mid-1970s thanks to singalong hits like April Sun in Cuba and Are You Old Enough?

But with a reputation for enjoying the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, Todd Hunter - who has played bass in Dragon since forming in Auckland in 1972 - says the partying got out of control on overseas tours.

"We weren't that debauched here. It only happened when we were in Australia. We were learning here in the very early '70s. In those days we played universities and stayed on people's couches. It was very different."

The heavy partying took its toll on the band, with drummer Neil Storey dying of a drug overdose in 1976.

Hunter says he's glad those days are behind him.

"I hated it all. In the seventies I was terrified. People were dying. Not only people in the band, everyone around us. If you were actually there and weren't out of it, it was horrible. It was a nightmare."

The band split up for the first time in 1979 after attempting to crack the American market.

Dragon reformed in August 1982 but again split in 1997 when singer Marc Hunter was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.

Hunter reformed the band again in 2006, partly because information about Dragon was nowhere to be found on the internet.

"There was no presence anywhere of it. It was like it was just gone."

This version of the band, with Mark Williams on lead vocals, is the most stable line-up so far.

Williams says that's because of the varied personalities in the band.

"There's more than just one mediator in the band that tries to keep it on a level."

These days it's a younger audience which turns up for a Dragon gig and the songs have taken on a life of their own.

"They are not our songs anymore, they belong to everybody. We just happen to be playing them," Hunter says.

Williams says the lyrics have taken on different meanings, like band anthem, Are You Old Enough?

"Everything has become more acceptable. A song like that was controversial at the time."

Hunter says the song has now become an anthem for everything that has happened to the band.

"The crowd sings and it's all about the guys who have passed through the band and the mortality that we have.

"It's really moving. Mark and Paul and Neil live on in the crowds' singing."

The band released a new album and EP in 2011 and the Hunter says audiences sing along with the new material as much as the old.

"It's great to get a big a cheer for something you wrote 10 months ago as it is for something that's 30 years old," he says.

* Dragon will play 14 dates in October supported by Hello Sailor. For dates and ticket information, click here.

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