Monday, May 02, 2011

Australian Archives 1: Dragon

Information Taken from Wikipedia:

Dragon formed as a prog-rock band in 1972.  However the original line-up never released any albums.  It was only after bass player, Todd Hunter, brought in his brother, Marc, as a vocalist that the band began to find success.

In 1974 they released their debut album, Universal Radio in New Zealand and followed it up in 1975 with another prog-rock album-- Scented Gardens for the Blind.  While they were successful on the live circuit, their studio albums were met with very little success.

In 1975 their manager, Graeme Nesbitt, convinced them to go in a more pop-friendly direction and to tackle the Australian market.  They brought in keyboardist Paul Hewson who had developed a reputation for being an exceptional songwriter.  In 1976 after the release of their first pop single in Australia, This Time, the band was hit with their first setback.  Drummer Neil Storey died of a heroin overdose at age 22.  Dragon considered disbanding, but again manager Graeme Nesbitt came to the rescue and recommended Kerry Jacobsen as a new drummer.

The 1975-1979 line-up of Dragon consisting of: Todd Hunter: bass guitar; Marc Hunter: vocals; Paul Hewson: keyboards & vocals; Robert Taylor: guitar; and Kerry Jacobsen: drums brought Dragon their first wave of success with Aussie hit singles April Sun in Cuba, Are You Old Enough, and Still In Love With You from their albums Sunshine, Running Free, and O Zambezi.

In 1979 Dragon attempted to break into the US market in a disastrous tour with Johnny Winter in which Marc Hunter nearly incited a riot by referring to a Texas audience as "faggots."  Upon their return to Australia the band was forced to fire Marc.  His drug abuse was adversely affecting his voice and his brother, Todd, felt that the only way to save Marc from himself was to fire him from the band. 

The band enlisted singer Billy Rogers to replace Marc and brought in violinist, Richard Lee in an attempt to change their sound and direction with their new singer.  They released one album, Power Play, that was a commercial flop prompting the band to disband in December of 1979.  Meanwhile Marc cleaned himself up and recorded his debut solo album, Fiji Bitter, and scored a minor hit with Island Nights.  He followed up Fiji Bitter with Big City Talk in 1981.  The title track was a minor hit for him.

In 1982 Dragon reformed, initially under the auspices of paying off their old debts.  Drummer Kerry Jacobsen left for health reasons and was replaced by Terry Chambers.  In 1983 Dragon scored a number 2 hit with Rain.  In 1984 Dragon saw a return to their late seventies era fame with their Body and the Beat album.  Dragon's success was further helped by the success of Marc's 3rd solo album, Communication in 1985. 

Sadly keyboardist and songwriter Paul Hewson left Dragon and died of a drug overdose on January 9, 1985.  Drummer Terry Chambers and guitarist Robert Taylor left the band shortly thereafter.  Chambers was replaced by Doane Perry (currently in Jethro Tull) and Taylor was replaced by Australian guitar ace, Tommy Emmanuel.  The band brought in Todd Rundgren to produce their next album, Dreams of Ordinary Men and toured Europe supporting Tina Turner under the name "Hunter" in 1986 (incidentally Dreams of Ordinary Men was released in the US under the band name, Hunter.  The US version of the album also included a remix of their 1982 hit Rain).

The band briefly split up but released Bondi Road in 1988 with guitarist Randall Waller and drummer Barton Price.  They continued touring into the 90s with the Hunter brothers, their longtime producer Alan Mansfield, and an ever changing line-up of keyboardists, guitarists, and drummers. 

In 1995 Dragon released Incarnations, an album featuring new arrangements of some of their biggest hits with a litany of notable Australian guest musicians augmenting these adventurous new arrangements.

In 1997 Marc Hunter was diagnosed with severe oesophageal cancer.  Marc underwent a litany of traditional and experimental treatments and his friends in the Australian music industry even performed a couple of concerts to help defer his medical costs.  At the first of the benefits, Marc appeared on stage and thanked his fans for coming.  For the second benefit he was to ill to attend but sent a video thanking his fans and friends.  That concert was released on CD as "The Concert for Marc" and includes a who's who of Australian musicians including Little River Band vocalist - Glenn Shorrock, Australian Crawl frontman - James Reyne, Midnight Oil vocalist - Peter Garrett, Cold Chisel vocalist and Australian vocal legend - Jimmy Barnes, Barnes Cold Chisel bandmate guitarist and vocalist - Ian Moss, Men At Work vocalist - Colin Hay, Daddy Cool and later Mondo Rock vocalist - Ross Wilson, Southern Sons lead vocalist - Jack Jones, vocalist Wendy Mathews, and even former bandmates guitarists Robert Taylor and Tommy Emmanuel.  Sadly Marc Hunter succumbed to his cancer on July 17, 1998.

In 2005 Todd Hunter reformed Dragon with vocalist/guitarist Mark Williams, guitarist Bruce Reid, and drummer Peter Drummond.  They released the 2 CD Sunshine to Rain in 2006 featuring acoustic arrangements of Dragon's biggest hits and fan favorites performed by the current line-up of the band.  On July 1, 2008 Dragon were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.  They were joined on stage by Australian Crawl's James Reyne and Cold Chisel's Ian Moss to perform April Sun In Cuba and Rain.  In 2009 Dragon released Happy I Am,  their first album of original material since 1988's Bondi Road.


Tender Heart Bear said...

While reading your post I didn't realize I have heard there music before and I do like there music. Sometimes I forget names of bands and songs until I listen to them. I do like there music.

Radiat10n said...

New Zealand's best band ever, clearly remember when 'Young Years' came out...back in MY young years! (I woulda been 8 going on 9...)

Perplexio said...

THB: I've been delving into Aussie music a lot lately but Dragon so far has been the most "Accessible" of the Aussie music I've gotten into. Marc Hunter was quite a singer.

Radiat10n: I'm thoroughly digging most of Dragon's great music. I think my favorite remains their 70s hit, Still In Love With You.

Mark Wedekind said...

My Favorite song of Dragon's is Sunshine.I think Paul Hewson was an amazing song writer/pianist.