Few Kiwi bands of the 1970s made it past our own shores, and fewer still weathered adversity to conquer foreign territories. Dragon belongs to that elite number who not only made it in Australia, but were taken to the bosom of their adopted country as one of their own.
Centred on the gangly charisma of Marc Hunter, the group’s enormous success revolved around songs penned by their keyboardist, Paul Hewson – songs like “Are You Old Enough?” and that radio perennial, “April Sun In Cuba”. But during their New Zealand years, Dragon was a different beast altogether, their first two albums (Universal Radio, 1974 and Scented Gardens For The Blind, 1975) eschewing pop for a progressive rock sound. Having become a big live attraction without scoring a hit, the group left for Australia in 1975, where Hewson joined and offered up his killer pop songs, turning the group into one of Australia’s biggest acts of the late seventies.
Like their buddies in Hello Sailor however, Dragon were beset with drug addictions. Drummer Neil Storey died of a heroin overdose in 1976, aged just 22, almost killing the band off in the process; Marc Hunter’s live performances were famously erratic, leading to his sacking in 1979; and Hewson returned to NZ, where he overdosed in 1985. Dragon reformed in 1982, and against all odds, hit the bigtime again with the single “Rain” and in 1984, the album Body And The Beat. Marc Hunter died from oesophageal cancer in 1998, bringing to a close another chapter of the group, but Marc’s brother Todd revived the group in 2006, with a new lineup that included NZ singer Mark Williams in Marc’s role. The current incarnation tours relentlessly, and has marked up more than 500 shows together, but it’s the classic late seventies Marc Hunter/Paul Hewson lineup that will be enshrined in pop lore.
Paul Hewson (keyboards) • Marc Hunter (vocals) • Todd Hunter (bass) • Kerry Jacobsen (drums) • Alan Mansfield (keyboards) • Neil Storey (drums) • Robert Taylor (guitar).