Are You Old Enough? (M Hunter/P Hewson) – Dragon 1978
Dragon wanted to be the Lou Reed and Velvet Underground of the Antipodes but ultimately became pop stars and the subject of teenybopper adulation. Marc Hunter projected the charisma and had the cocky strut of the arrogant and talented front man that he was, but he could be quite disrespectful of his audience, occasionally whipping them with a riding crop or selecting a young female fan to join him onstage to participate in a mock-rape routine.
This translated into a disdainful rock lifestyle, that was dangerous, substance-dependent, and ultimately fatalistic, this song would come to exemplify the exploitive sexuality of Dragon’s lyrics as it teetered on the edge of condoning statutory rape and musing on how an ex-con could avoid “jailbait”.
“Ten years in the jailer’s eye/And I ‘m thinking ‘bout my baby/Looking at my life go by.” Controversial references to indiscriminate sex with minors under the age of consent featured “I just wanted to kiss someone/I got the moon dog blues/You just happened to be standing there/So won’t you tell me the truth/Are you old enough”.
The topic of underage sex has fascinated singers for decades, and what constitutes statutory rape depends on the prevailing legislation in each location. But there are many notable examples of songs which throw the rule book out the window and even boasted about it – Sweet Little Sixteen (Chuck Berry), Your Sixteen (Your Beautiful And Your Mine) (Johnny Burnette and Ringo Starr), Young Girl (Gary Puckett and the Union Gap), Don’t Stand So Close To Me (Police), Stray Cat Blues (Rolling Stones), Oh Carol (Smokie), Hot Child In The City (Nic Gilder), Walk This Way (Aerosmith), etc.
Todd Hunter has recounted how his brother Mark and bandmate Paul Hewson were having a holiday on Magnetic Island in the middle of a national tour, when they went into a local music shop and bought a $20 guitar, hired a small boat, sailed off over the horizon with a couple of local girls, and what unfolded on that trip, became the inspiration for the song.
The pointed lyrics of Are You Old Enough, did not go unnoticed by the young female fans in the audience in the Countdown studio, who added a side chorus to the song – “Are you old enough/ it’s OK /Are you old enough / you can trust me “. Marc Hunter was reportedly surprised by the complicit chant which had clearly been rehearsed, it also confirmed the status of the band and the popularity of this song which became Dragon’s only #1 hit, on which Renee Geyer contributed uncredited backing vocals.
Are You Old Enough confirmed that bands should never over-estimate what constitutes bad taste if you can wrap it all up in a catchy hook and a sing-along chorus. This wasn’t the only time that a Dragon song teetered on the edge of endorsing pedophilia, as a cursory check of the lyrics to 1978’s Still In Love With You, the follow up to Are You Old Enough, will confirm.
Are You Old Enough was the 14th biggest-selling record of the year and became the theme music for the 2012 production of the TV series Puberty Blues. The promo video is a time capsule of 1970’s Melbourne with Marc Hunter riding trams, and wandering through the city’s streets and alleyways.Dragon were inducted into the ARIA Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 along with Russell Morris, Max Merritt, the Triffids and Rolf Harris (who was subsequently stripped of this honor)
Drummer Neil Story (1976), songwriter/keyboards player Paul Hewson (1985), and lead singer Marc Hunter (1998) all ultimately succumbed to the fatal attractions of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.