Band members Related acts
- Marc Hunter - drums
- Todd Hunter -
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Country/State: New Zealand
Grade (cover/record): VG/VG
GEMM catalog ID: 4681
Hum - Australian big hair band ... well, they're better than Air Supply.
These guys are actually kind of interesting for their willingness to adapt to changing popular tastes.
1.) April Sun In Cuba (Paul Hewson - Marc Hunter) -
2.) I'm Still In Love with You (Paul Hewson) -
3.) Mr. Thunder (Marc Hunter) -
4.) Midnight Groovies (Paul Hewson) -
5.) Running Free (Rupert Taylor - Marc Hunter - Todd Hunter) -
2.) Are You Old Enough (Paul Hewson) -
3.) Shooting Stars (Paul Hewson) -
4.) Reach the Top (Robert Taylor - Marc Hunter) -
5.) Civilization (Paul Hewson) -
During the 1970s, the notoriously decadent Dragon was among the biggest rock bands in New Zealand, gaining even greater success on the Australian circuit. Dragon's history begins with brothers Todd and Marc Hunter, natives of the North Island town of Taumarunui; from childhood on the siblings performed professionally in their parents' jazz band, with Todd learning guitar and Marc picking up the drums. As the years passed, both Hunter brothers played in a variety of local bands, both together and independently;
Dragon emerged in 1973 from the remnants of Staff, a group featuring Todd on bass in addition to singer/pianist Graeme Collins, guitarist Ray Goodwin and drummer Neil Reynolds. Personality conflicts quickly emerged, and soon the clean-living Collins was sacked by his hedonistic bandmates in favor of keyboardist Ivan Thompson. That left Dragon without a singer; however, the situation was quickly solved when Marc Hunter signed on as lead vocalist.
After Reynolds was replaced by drummer Neil Storey, the classic Dragon lineup was in place; the group favored a heavy progressive rock sound which quickly earned them a growing cult following, and in early 1974 they took home top honors from the Auckland Festival's all-day Rock Marathon.
Their success led to a contract with Polygram Records, and within months Dragon's debut LP Universal Radio appeared, becoming one of the best-selling "underground" records of the period. During a month-long residency at the Fiji nightclub the Golden Dragon, the band began developing their outrageous onstage theatrics, antics complete with a transvestite mime troupe, pregnant strippers, rotting pigs' heads on microphone stands, and rampant destruction of instruments and stage equipment. During a subsequent national tour, however, Storey was sacked, and Thompson quit in sympathy; with new drummer Geoff Chunn, Dragon struggled as a four-piece before disbanding weeks later.
Scheduling commitments, however, soon forced Dragon to re-form; Storey was reinstituted behind the drums, with ex-Mammal member Robert Taylor coming in on guitar. The group's second LP, 1975's Scented Gardens for the Blind, bore little relation to their new live sound, which rejected their prior prog-rock trappings in favor of more concise and punchy pop songs. After a series of NZ tours which greatly boosted their visibility at home, Dragon mounted a tour of Australia; there Goodwin exited, and was replaced by keyboardist Paul Hewson. The group initially fared poorly in Australia; a single called "Starkissed" stiffed, and their equipment was even stolen. After leaving Polygram, Dragon signed with CBS; their first effort for the label, "Wait Until Tomorrow," was a failure, but the follow-up "This Time" appeared poised to become a hit. Then tragedy struck: Storey died of a heroin overdose in September 1976, an incident which made headlines across the country.
With new drummer Kerry Jacobsen, a reeling Dragon returned to the road with a vengeance, and spent the next two years touring almost non-stop, eventually conquering the all-important Aussie audience. In mid-1977 they issued the LP Sunshine, scoring a hit with the single "Get That Jive"; by the end of the year Dragon was the most popular band in Australia, resulting in a U.S. deal with the Portrait label. Their next LP, 1978's Running Free, went double-platinum down under, notching a massive hit with "April Sun in Cuba." A massive tour followed; fueled by smack and champagne, Dragon was out of control, leaving destroyed hotel suites and dressing rooms in their wake. Still, they remained enormously popular, and their third CBS album O Zambesi was their biggest yet, with a number one single in "Are You Old Enough?" A subsequent American tour proved disastrous, however, and as Marc Hunter's drug problems worsened, he was dismissed in early 1979. He was replaced by singer Billy Rogers and violinist Richard Lee.
Seemingly overnight, Dragon fell out of commercial favor; their next single, "Love Is Not Enough," failed to chart, and their first New Zealand tour since 1975 was a washout. When the 1979 LP Powerplay bombed, Dragon disbanded; however, in 1982 the group's nucleus reformed to pay off their debts. The lineup — the Hunters, Taylor, Hewson and Jacobsen — fared so well during their reunion tour that they soon released a new single, "Joanne." Its follow-up, 1984's "Rain," was a massive hit, and many fans agreed that its accompanying LP Body and the Beat was among their best ever. When the old personality conflicts soon arose, only the Hunters were left. (Tragically, just hours after quitting the band, Hewson was found dead.) The next Dragon LP, 1986's Dream of Ordinary Men, was produced by Todd Rundgren; after 1988's Bondi Road, the band finally called it a day once again.
First two albums recorded in New Zealand are progressive rock. Scented Gardens... is based around a full organ sound with occasional Mellotron, along with the nice voice of Mark Hunter. The style is not unlike early British prog bands such as Fantasy, Cressida, Beggars Opera and the like. Universal Radio is said to be similar. Subsequent albums were made in Australia and are pop-orientated. Not really of interest to prog fans, except perhaps Powerplay, which seems to be an attempt to imitate Roxy Music. -- Mike Ohman
A New Zealand band who came together in Auckland in 1973, although their drummer and guitarist were actually from Wellington. Over the years their music would prove extremely diverse ranging from pop through to rock with traces of reggae and calypso. Certainly, Scented Gardens For The Blind is an excellent melodic progressive rock album with appealing vocals and some excellent keyboard and guitar moments. As one would expect the title cut is the magnum opus with a nice church organ intro giving way to a melodic, keyboard driven song somewhat reminiscent of Barclay James Harvest.
Heroes in their native land they later settled in Sydney in May 1975. Three years later, having established themselves as a household name in Australia, they headed for the States.
They went on to record a plethora of albums and 45s in the post-1975 era, enjoying two Top Ten and six Top 50 hits in New Zealand and one U.S. hit Rain. They developed a notoriety acquired through deaths and decadence but toured more extensively and attracted more press than any other New Zealand rock band. As you'll have realised by now their heyday was beyond the timespan of this book.
Vocalist Marc Hunter died from throat cancer in Sydney, July 1998.
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