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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 38, No 5. April 3 1975

Weird Scenes from the Lagoon

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Weird Scenes from the Lagoon

Photo of the band Dragon

Earlier in the evening Dragon Ray Goodwin, lead guitar; vocals: Mark Hunter, lead vocals, percussion; Todd Hunter, bass vocals; Neil Storey, drums. Robert Taylor, guitar, vocals - had performed one of the best concerts yet seen in the Union Half It was their final performance in Wellington before continuing a national tour (during their stay stay they played at Uncle Albert's Attic and the Speak? asy), which was undertaken partly to promote their new album 'Scented Gardents for the Blind' recorded at Stebbings Studio in Auckland during December 1974.

(Ray talking) We were going to record an LP called 'Rock and Roll Ponsonby'.

The original cover had tow people sitting in a high-backed chair around a small table, and in the middle of the table is a bowl of flowers. The couple are dressed in thirties clothes and they're smelling the powers through an apparatus specially designed for it - and they 're blindfolded. It was originally planned as a concept - a hand in Ponsonby - but somehow Rick Shad well, the producer, saw fit to change it to 'Scented Gardents for the Blind.'

We were waiting for the rest of the band to arrive. Ed, the manager of Hush, sleepily in one chair. Neil on the couch beside him and Robert cross-legged on the floor. Also present were Mark and Steven who had helped out during the concert.

Ray leans forward and continues: 'The fold-out cover was going to have photos of various places . . . We'd taken shots of Ponsonhy outside the Glue-pot and outside the Ponsonhy toilets. The Hydra pig-factory . . . Sussex Street brothel. . . things like that. It was sort of realistic -you know? But it never came to be.'

He doesn't like the cover which Pono Phonogram the record company, came up with a painted face by Super Graphics Ltd with a lot of brilliant colours and the words Dragon and Scented Gardens for the Blind in large letters.

(Ray): 'We didn't mean 'Scented Gardens' to be taken seriously at all - really it was just a track on Rock and Roll Ponsonby.'

When the interview began we moved to the relative quiet of the kitchen: Todd, who had left the Union Hall before the others, being the only band member not present.

Salient: Listening to you play tonight I didn't notice any big difference in the sound and it occurred to me that you, Robert, might be compensating for the organ in some way - perhaps when you might have preferred to other things.

Robert: No. I just believe in playing complementary to how a song is written . . . how the feel is . . . songs from the LP have sections where I would Definitely play something with full chord feeling. . . the guitar is not in there just to play breaks. . .

Mark: The songs are being played to promote the LP and because they're good songs. So Robert would just naturally learn the songs and you can say that he was filling in for the organ.

Are there any songs, besides your Robert, which you play now which you couldn't have done with an or-gan - songs like 'Dixie Chicken' and Rebel Rebel'.

Ray: Well personally I just think they sould better with Robert . . . he's a better style of player for that kind of song.

How important is it for Dragon to be ploying their own material.

Ray: Well I'd love more than anything to play a concert of our own material . . . so it is important.

Do you think that will happen when you have more original songs.

Ray: Well, the potential for writing our own material is greater than ever.

Yet you have two albums already - why don't you just play those songs instead of songs by other people which - although played well - makes you just another pub hand.

Robert: It all depends on who you're playing to whose dancing or listening at any time.

Do you ever play concerts of album material?

Mark: We have done it quite a lot and it's what we're working for now. With the old band it was easy to do because we'd established ourselves, but with the new band we need to have money ... we need to play in as many places as we can. We're going to do a tour next of just concerts, but at a four hour dance at a university you've got torrelate on that level.

How do you feel about the selections on the album. It seems to be very uneven - side one has three strong songs, side two has none.

Ray: Fucking Rick Shadwell! ... we had it all picked out and Rick changed it. 'Rock and Roll Ponsonby' was going to come after 'Grey Lynn Candy' but Rick put 'Darkness' in instead.

And what about 'Vermillion Cellars'-the title.

Mark: It pertains to a very refined sense of culture. Todd wrote the lyrics and it reflects his imagination as such.

When I first heard 'Vermillion Cellars' I though - ah! that's a New Zealand song. I couldn't imagine an overseas band writing it.

Mark: You know if you're talking about defining New Zealand music obviously you're talking about bands who write lyrics about New Zealand.

Well without being so obvious as having lyrics with Maori names - the Fourmyula's 'Otaki' for example -I think I recognise other qualities. There are no really strong melodies for instance.

Mark: It's just a lack of experience . . you can hear an amazing motown band play two chords for three hours and it sounds brilliant, but on New Zealand records it's really terrible because the production is bad. But you cannot say that there's a characteristically New Zealand sound just because it's a bad production. It's a bad production, that's all; a lack of experience on the part of the technicians.

But isn't it also the music itself -doesn't it often seem inferior.

Mark: Not really. I've heard a John Rowles record that sounds brilliant. Graham: It's just that the studio people do not know enough about rock music . . . there's not enough business ... as in the States or in England to keep technicians producing rock music all day long.

Ok. What about 'La Gash Lagoon I think it's probably the best song on the album.

Mark: La Gash Lagoon was originally Todd's name for Auckland. I wrote the lyrics a long time ago ... it used to have words like: 'Are we men, are we fools. . .'

Neil: We were at Granny's one night and we just blew on it - is that right?

Mark: Something like that. The song was around for years and years ... it wasn't 'La Gash Lagoon' at all. . . it was something else for a long time.

Neil: And we played it for a while and didn't like it, then resurrected it again a long time later.

Mark: That's right. It was hard when we first started to do it - we couldn't do it properly.

Robert: It's still hard to do. . .

Let's talk about the New Zealand rock scene.

Ray: About a year ago hauraki was presenting rock concerts that were extended into nightly concerts in a theatre - that's how it all got started.

Neil: Buck-a-head concerts . . . free at Albert Park . . . that's more or less what is happening.

Ray: If you can make it at a buck-a-head concert then I guess that admits you to the New Zealand rock scene.

Robert: I think the New Zealand rock scene comes from getting the best records from England and the best records from America . . . the New Zealand hit parades have always had better music than many overseas places cause they've always been into Tamla Motown and things like that. . .

Are you saying that New Zealand music is copied from someone else. Robert: It's not copying other people it's listening to people and finding out what you like. There's no band in New Zealand that can say it didn't learn anything from someone else, just as there's no band in America that can say it . . . most rock musicians have a pretty good cause for not feeling nationalistic.

What are the best New Zealand records you've heard?

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Neil: The Underdogs had a very good record called 'Wasting Our Time'. . . the production wasn't very good but the songs were excellent There was another album alter that, 'Space Farm' that was also very good, the songs were excellent.

A lot better than say, what Human Instinct have done.

Neil: Yeah. Far better I didn't think their songs were particularly good.

Robert: Blerta did a song called Freedom St Marys' (flip-side of 'Dance All Around The World') which is the best recorded piece of music I've heard. . . it's just amazing. It's also the best song I've heard from New Zealand. It was written by Bruno. . .

Ray: Littlejohn were brilliant . . .

Peter Dawkins?

Mark: Yeah, he was the best thing to come out of EMI. We haven't had such a good sound 'or a long time.

Well flow can we begin to talk about a national rock music?

Mark: You can't define it like that. Split Enz is brilliant ethnic music but it's really highly derivative.

But Split Enz virtually deny all connection with New Zealand - they're constantly looking overseas.

Neil: Yeah well they're not willing to stay it out at all.

Ray: They're a concert band.

What other good concert bands have come out of Auckland?

Ray: I know Father Jive but I haven't heard them, and Think.

Neil: Think play all original material.

Graeme: Ragnarock are pretty good. . .

Neil: Rock Squad, Powerhouse, Mandrake. . .

Ray: You're just saying all the groups you used to be in!


Mark: Quintessence were fucking amazing, amazing..

Ray: Teddy Tuhoe's band!


Robert: It's hard to say who was the best in Auckland - there's so many . . . thousands of bands.

So Auckland is really Rock City. What else?

Ray: When you fly through New Zealand to Christchurch, you get out, get into a taxi and the driver will say: 'Yeah? You fly to Auckland, to the taxi stands and there's 20 taxis - all with islanders in them. Polynesians everywhere ... it's just a lot more colourful. And it's so obviously just a big drag - just look at it.