Dragon

Dragon are a New Zealander rock band that released nine studio albums between 1974 and 1989 and scored Australian hits with “April Sun In Cuba,” “Rain,” and “Are You Old Enough?”

They emerged on Auckland’s pub circuit and signed to Vertigo for the 1974–75 albums Universal Radio and Scented Gardens for the Blind, both comprised of lengthy progressive-rock epics.

Despite their early flux, the lineup stabilized with drummer Kerry Jacobsen, guitarist Robert Taylor, keyboardist–songwriter Paul Hewson, singer Marc Hunter, and his older brother, bassist–founder Todd Hunter.

In Australia, Dragon signed to CBS and embraced guitar-fueled R&B–rock and piano-based harmony pop on the 1977–78 albums Sunshine, Running Free, and O Zambezi. After Marc’s departure, a revised six-piece lineup issued Power Play, then disbanded.

Dragon reformed in 1982 and scored multiple hits from their 1984 Polydor album Body and the Beat, followed by the 1986–89 albums Dreams of Ordinary Men (billed stateside as Hunter) and Bondi Road.

Members: Todd Hunter (bass, vocals, 1972-97, 2006-present), Ray Goodwin (guitar, keyboards, vocals, 1972-76), Neil Reynolds (drums, 1972-73), Graeme Collins (piano, vocals, 1972), Marc Hunter (lead vocals, 1973-79, 1982-98), Neil Storey (drums, 1973-74, 1975-76), Ivan Thompson (keyboards, 1973-74), Geoff Chunn (drums, 1974), Bob Taylor (guitar, 1975-79, 1982-84), Paul Hewson (keyboards, 1976-79, 1982-84), Kerry Jacobsen (drums, 1976-79, 1982-83), Billy Rogers (lead vocals, saxophone, 1979), Richard Lee (vocals, violin, 1979), Alan Mansfield (guitar, keyboards, 1983-98), Terry Chambers (drums, 1983-85), Doane Perry (drums, 1985-87), Don Miller-Robinson (guitar, 1985)


Background

Todd Hunter (b. June 22, 1951) took up guitar as a child when he played Taumaranui family functions with his saxophonist father, pianist mother, and younger brother Marc, who first played drums. As a teenager, he led the neighborhood trios Zeke and Heavy Pork.

He attended Waikato Teachers College, where he switched to bass and linked with guitarist Ray Goodwin. In 1971, they formed OK Dinghy, a powertrio that hit the local circuit. After their drummer quit, they linked with two ex-members of unrecorded rockers Movement in a new band, Anteapot, a two-guitar rock quartet. They held a three-month Auckland club residency, then morphed into Staff, a revolving-door act that folded in November 1972, soon after the arrival of pianist–singer Graeme Collins (ex-Dedikation).

Hunter and Goodwin formed a new band with Collins and drummer Neil Reynolds. They secured a slot at the Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival, a three day farm event (Jan. 6–8, 1973) on the Waikato River. In need of a new name, Graeme checked the I Ching (Book of Changes, an ancient Chinese divination text) and chose Dragon. Ngaruawahia marked their first performance under this name in a lineup comprised of new Kiwi talent (Blerta, Butler, Split Enz, Ticket) and veteran acts (The La De Da’s, Max Merritt & The Meteors), plus the international stars Black Sabbath and Fairport Convention.


Formation

After their lukewarm reception at Ngaruawahia — an event marked by Black Sabbath’s cross burning and the nudity of Blerta’s Corben Simpson — Dragon rehearsed at a shared flat in Herne Bay. Collins and Reynolds soon cleared for two ex-members of unsigned locals Mandrake: keyboardist Ivan Thompson and drummer Neil Storey.

With the vocalist slot now open, Todd on-boarded his younger brother, Marc Hunter (b. September 7, 1953), who recently sang and drummed in the Auckland restaurant band Quintessence (not the namesake English band).

Before his first stint as Dragon’s vocalist, Marc Hunter linked with Pye-subsidiary Family Records for one solo single: “X-Ray Creature,” a Graeme Collins song backed by “Dinghy Days,” supplied by Todd Hunter.

Dragon gained a local following with residencies at multiple venues (Do Re Mi, Levi’s Saloon, Rasputin’s, Tabla). Their setlist included “Black Magic Woman,” a Peter Green song originated by Fleetwood Mac and popularized by Santana. In February 1974, they linked with promoter Graeme Nesbitt, who recently managed folksters Mammal. Dragon competed at the Auckland Festival Rock Marathon and won first prize: a contract with the Australasian branch of Vertigo Records, the multi-national progressive division of Philips–Phonogram.


Universal Radio

Dragon released their debut album, Universal Radio, in June 1974 on Vertigo.

Universal Radio contains five lengthy songs, including two (“Patina,” “Avalanche”) that cross eleven minutes.

This is one of two albums with the first proper lineup of drummer Neil Storey, keyboardist Ivan Thompson, singer Marc Hunter, and Dragon’s two co-founders: guitarist Ray Goodwin and bassist Todd Hunter.

A1. “Universal Radio” (8:34)
A2. “Going Slow” (6:15)
A3. “Patina” (11:48)
B4. “Weetbix-Graves” (9:50)
B5. “Avalanche” (11:15)

Producer – Rick Shadwell
Engineer – Tony Moan

Bass, Vocals – Todd Hunter
Drums – Neil Storey
Guitar, Vocals – Ray Goodwin
Organ, Piano, Synthesizer [Moog] – Ivan Thompson
Vocals, Percussion – Marc Hunter

Liner And Cover Art – Dick Frizzell


Lineup Change

Dragon recorded their second album in late 1974 and embarked on a national tour. Early on, Todd replaced Neil Storey with drummer Geoff Chunn, recently of Split Enz (and brother of their ongoing bassist, Mike Chunn). This move prompted Ivan Thompson’s resignation.

When Chunn proved ill-suited to Dragon, Nesbitt reinstated Storey. For Ivan’s vacated slot, they invited Cruise Lane keyboardist Paul Hewson, who turned down the offer. With no-keyboardist, Dragon adopted a twin-guitar lineup with Mammal guitarist Robert Taylor.


Scented Gardens for the Blind

Dragon released their second album, Scented Gardens for the Blind, in March 1975 on Vertigo.

Scented Gardens contains six group-written, including the lengthy epics “La Gash Lagoon” and “Sunburst.”

This is the second of two Dragon albums with the first-recorded lineup of Goodwin, Storey, Thompson, and the Hunter brothers.

A1. “Vermillion Cellars” (3:23)
A2. “La Gash Lagoon” (8:20)
A3. “Sunburst” (8:35)
B1. “Grey Lynn Candy” (4:58)
B2. “Darkness” (4:43)
B3. “Scented Gardens for the Blind” (7:31)

Recorded at Stebbings Studio Auckland Dec ’74.
Producer – Rick Shadwell
Engineer – Tony Moan

Bass, Vocals – Todd Hunter
Drums – Neil Storey
Keyboards – Ivan Thompson
Lead Guitar, Vocals – Ray Goodwin
Lead Vocals, Saxophone, Percussion – Mark Hunter

Backing Vocals – Josie

Artwork – Super Graphics Ltd.

Vertigo lifted “Vermillion Cellars” as the first Dragon single, backed with the non-album “Rock’n’Roll Ponsonby.”


1975 Singles

In May 1975, Dragon released their second single: “Education,” a Robert Taylor original backed with Ray Goodwin’s “Swell Foot Sue,” both non-album tracks produced by Graeme Nesbitt.

A. “Education”
B. “Swell Foot Sue”

“Education” only appeared in New Zealand, which they departed for Australia while Nesbitt coped with legal issues. In Sydney, they linked with mogul Wayne De Gruchy, the manager of solo star John Paul Young.

In August 1975, Dragon released their third and final Vertigo single: “Star Kissed” backed with “Crystal Dove,” both Goodwin originals produced by De Gruchy.

A. “Star Kissed”
B. “Crystal Dove”


Australia

Dragon roomed in an old house in Paddington, two miles east of Sydney. Soon after their arrival, Ray Goodwin jumped at an open guitar slot in Young’s backing band, the All-Stars. His departure left Todd Hunter as the sole founding member.

Dragon re-contacted Cruise Lane’s Paul Hewson, who accepted their offer this time. His arrival reconstituted the band’s guitar–keyboard format.

In late 1975, buglars stole the band’s equipment. They staged a slow rebound in early 1976 with gigs on Sydney’s dive circuit. Hewson rehearsed his songs with Dragon and presented them to CBS, which liked the material and lured them away from Vertigo.


1976 Singles

In July 1976, Dragon released their first CBS single: Taylor’s “Wait Until Tomorrow” backed with Hewson’s “Show Danny Across the Water,” both non-album exclusives produced by Peter Dawkins, a veteran soundman from the psychedelic era (The Simple Image, The Formyula) who played in the London-based freakbeat bands Me and the Others and The New Nadir.

A. “Wait Until Tomorrow” originated as the 1973 Mammal a-side “Wait.”
B. “Show Danny Across the Water”

Dragon promoted the single on television and hit the leading rock venues in Sydney and Melbourne.

In September 1976, Dragon released their fifth single: “This Time” backed with “The Dreaded Moroczy Bind,” both group-written numbers produced by Dawkins.

A. “This Time”
B. “The Dreaded Moroczy Bind”

Just as “This Time” caught on with radio programmers, Neil Storey died of a heroin overdose. As Dragon considered retirement, Todd Hunter phoned Nesbitt, who urged the band to continue and linked them with ex-Mammal drummer Kerry Jacobsen, a twenty-year-old veteran of multiple Kiwi bands (Tapestry, Ebony). Dragon held vigorous rehearsals with Jacobsen and embarked on a nationwide tour. In November, “This Time” peaked at No. 26 on the Kent Music Report.


Sunshine

Dragon released their third album, Sunshine, in May 1977 on CBS.

Sunshine features the hit song “This Time” and the follow-up single “Get That Jive,” one of four contributions by Paul Hewson, who wrote “Same Old Blues,” “New Machine,” and the title track.

Robert Taylor wrote “On the Beachead” and collaborated with Marc Hunter on three songs: “Street Between Your Feet,” “MX,” and “The Letter.” Todd Hunter helped them write “Blacktown Boogie.”

A1. “Same Old Blues” (4:54)
A2. “Blacktown Boogie” (3:15)
A3. “Sunshine” (4:50) features Crossfire saxophonist Tony Buchanan.
A4. “On The Beachead” (3:59)
A5. “This Time” (3:07)
B1. “Get That Jive” (2:44)
B2. “Street Between Your Feet” (4:19)
B3. “New Machine” (3:47)
B4. “Mx” (3:28)
B5. “The Letter” (4:09)

Sessions took place in Sydney at Albert Studios, where Peter Dawkins produced Sunshine in sequence with albums by Air Supply, Billy T., and Rabbit; all engineered by Bruce Brown, a veteran soundman of Aussie jazz and soul acts (Daly-Wilson Big Band, Johnny Rocco Band).

Get That Jive” preceded the album as Dragon’s sixth single (b/w “On The Beachead”). It reached No. 13 on Kent. In July 1977, CBS lifted “Sunshine” as the third single (b/w “New Machine”).

Dragon toured vigorously behind Sunshine, which reached No. 24 on the Australian albums chart and certified Gold. They secured a US deal with Portrait, which issued Sunshine stateside in late 1977 with alternate cover art and “This Time” retitled “In the Right Direction.” Six months after the album’s appearance, Dragon finished a followup.


Running Free

Dragon released their fourth album, Running Free, in November 1977 on CBS.

Paul Hewson authored three songs (“Shooting Stars,” “Any Fool Can Tell You,” “Since You Changed Your Mind”) and co-wrote the lead-off single, “April Sun in Cuba,” with Marc Hunter, who wrote “Mr Thunder” and co-wrote two songs (“Rose,” “Running Free”) with Robert Taylor and Todd Hunter.

Taylor submitted “Man Gone West” and “Bob’s Budgie Boogie.” Side B contains “Some Strange Dream,” a rare Todd Hunter lone-write.

A1. “April Sun In Cuba” (3:26)
A2. “Rose” (3:36)
A3. “Any Fool Can Tell You” (4:42)
A4. “Shooting Stars” (3:30)
A5. “Man Gone West” (4:30)
B1. “Bob’s Budgie Boogie” (3:53)
B2. “Some Strange Dream” (3:15)
B3. “Mr. Thunder” (3:50)
B4. “Since You Changed Your Mind” (3:41)
B5. “Running Free” (4:16)

Recorded At – Albert Studios
Producer – Peter Dawkins
Engineer – Bruce Brown

“April Sun In Cuba” preceded Running Free as a single backed with the non-album “Telephone,” a joint-write between Taylor and the Hunter’s credited to ‘D. Agony.’ “April Sun In Cuba” spent 22 weeks on the Kent Music Report, where it peaked at No. 2 under the December–January Wings juggernaut “Mull of Kintyre,” the biggest solo hit of Paul McCartney‘s career.

Running Free reached No. 6 on the Kent Music Report. In January 1978, CBS lifted “Shooting Star” as the album’s second single (b/w “Some Strange Dream”). Meanwhile, Dragon made their first return-visit to New Zealand, where they supported Boz Scaggs at Western Springs while “April Sun In Cuba” reached No. 9 on the RMNZ chart.

In April 1978, “Mr. Thunder” reappeared on the back of “Konkaroo,” a non-album Hewson original.


O Zambezi

Dragon released their fifth album, O Zambezi, in September 1978 on CBS.

O Zambezi features four Paul Hewson songs: “Civilization,” “Midnight Groovies,” and the album’s two singles — “Are You Old Enough?” and the piano-thump ballad “Still In Love With You.”

Robert Taylor submitted two songs (“O Zambezi,” “One Look Across the Water”) and collaborated with Todd Hunter on “Politics,” a punkish cut with further input by Todd’s then-wife, poet Jen Jewel Brown. The couple co-wrote “Company.”

The album closes “Burn Down the Bridges,” a retro-Thirties Tin Pan Alley number by Marc Hunter, who co-wrote “Reach the Top” with Taylor.

Musical guests include Crossfire saxist Tony Buchanan (“Midnight Groovies”) and Sidewinder violinist Richard Lee, who plays the Vitar, a guitar–violin hybrid cultivated by American jazz-funk musician John Blair.

A1. “O Zambezi” (4:30)
A2. “Still In Love With You” (3:24)
A3. “Are You Old Enough?” (4:07)
A4. “Politics” (3:58)
A5. “Reach the Top” (4:04)
B1. “Civilization” (3:59)
B2. “Midnight Groovies” (3:19) features Buchanan on soprano sax.
B3. “One Look Across the Water” (3:16)
B4. “Company” (3:55)
B5. “Burn Down The Bridges” (3:23)

Dragon recorded O Zambezi at EMI Studios 301 in Sydney, where Peter Dawkins produced the sessions in sequence with Contraband (a renamed Finch).
Engineered By – Ric Curtin
Strings Conducted By – Adrian Scott

Dragon lifted “Are You Old Enough?” as the first single (b/w “Company”). In the video, soundstage footage intercuts with Melbourne street scenes of Marc and a lone, roaming female.

On the week of October 8, 1978, “Are You Old Enough?” reached No. 1 on the Kent Music Report, where it ousted “You’re the One That I Want,” the climactic song of Grease by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Dragon held the top spot for two weeks and bowed to “Black Is Black,” a disco cover of the 1966 Los Bravos song by the French vocal trio Belle Epoque.>

On Halloween, “Still In Love With You” became the second single (b/w “Politics”) and reached the Australian Top 30.

O Zambezi reached No. 3 on the Kent Music Report and No. 17 on the RMNZ. In North America, CBS gathered six of its songs (“O Zambezi,” “Still In Love With You,” “Reach the Top,” “Midnight Groovies,” “Civilization,” “Are You Old Enough?”) with four from Running Free (“April Sun In Cuba,” “Shooting Stars,” “Mr. Thunder,” “Running Free”) on the late-1978 Portrait release Are You Old Enough, released as a tie-in with Dragon’s US tour.


Live Antics

Dragon gained infamy for their hedonism and drug consumption. Of the five members, only Todd Hunter remained clean and sober through their grueling album–tour grind. During a mid-tour stop, they purportedly ransacked their accommodations on Magnetic Island (one of the Palm Islands off the coast of Queensland).

Marc Hunter’s live act grew provocative and cryptic. According to Stiletto singer Jane Clifton, he spat champagne across the bare back of a female audience volunteer during a rendition of “La Gash Lagoon” at Dallas Brooks Hall in East Melbourne.

In November 1978, between the chart peaks of the two O Zambezi singles, Dragon flew to the US, where they partied with fellow Kiwis Hello Sailor and supported the Johnny Winter Band before hostile crowds in the Deep South. Marc’s confrontational nature came to a head in Dallas, Texas, where (intoxicated beyond comprehension) he stood in a crucifixion pose and goaded the crowd with lurid insults, unaware that his bandmates had cleared the stage. Portrait cooled on Dragon, whose shambolic visit mirrored the January trek of the Sex Pistols (whose bassist, Sid Vicious, also baited Texans with a sexual epithet).

Dragon returned to Australia for another round of shows marked by increased unruliness from Marc Hunter. In February 1979, the others voted him out of Dragon to save the band and halt his self-destruction.

Marc rebounded with the 1979 solo album Fiji Bitter and the hit “Island Night.”


New Lineup

Dragon continued with two new members: singer–saxophonist Billy Rogers (of Perth hopefuls Hard Rock Cafe) and O Zambezi sessionist Richard Lee.

In May 1979, Dragon released their first Rogers–Lee single: “Love’s Not Enough,” a Hewson original backed with “Four Short Solos,” joint credited to Rogers, Lee, and Kerry Jacobsen.

A. “Love’s Not Enough”
B. “Four Short Solos”

In June, Dragon teamed with Hello Sailor and Mi-Sex on the “Kiwis In Concert” tour.


Power Play

Dragon released their sixth album, Power Play, in September 1979 on CBS.

Power Play contains one song (“Crooked Highway”) by Paul Hewson, who co-wrote two (“Counting Sheep,” “Time of the Year”) with Billy Rogers, who co-wrote “Same Old Lies” with Robert Taylor, who wrote “Bus Stop” and “For Free.”

Todd Hunter and Jenny Hunter-Brown collaborated on three songs: “Motor City Connection,” “Crying Shame,” and “3:33.” Side B opens with the group-written “Gans en Farben.”

A1. “Motor City Connection” (3:50)
A2. “Counting Sheep” (3:41)
A3. “Crying Shame” (3:12)
A4. “Bus Stop” (3:16)
A5. “Time of the Year” (4:09)
B1. “Gans en Farben” (3:09)
B2. “Crooked Highway” (4:31)
B3. “For Free” (4:19)
B4. “3:33” (3:00)
B5. “Same Old Lies” (3:52)

Recorded At – EMI Studios 301
Engineer – Howard Steele

Dragon lifted “Counting Sheep” as a single, backed with the non-album “Now That Daddy’s Home,” a co-write between Todd Hunter and Jewel Brown. In October, “Motor City Connection” became the final single of Dragon’s original run (b/w ‘”Same Old Lies”).


First Breakup

In December 1979, Dragon disbanded due to mounting debts and decreased public enthusiasm.

Kerry Jacobsen did 1980–81 stints in Mondo Rock and the Kevin Borich Express.

Paul Hewson returned to New Zealand and joined the Pink Flamingos, a band formed by Dave McArtney of Hello Sailor (who disbanded the same month as Dragon).

Todd Hunter divorced Jenny and partnered with XL Capris frontwoman Johanna Pigott. He produced their first album, Where is Hank?, and joined for their second, Weeds.

Marc Hunter continued his solo career with the 1981 CBS release Big City Talk.

(more to come)


Discography:

  • Universal Radio (1974)
  • Scented Gardens for the Blind (1975)
  • Sunshine (1977)
  • Running Free (1977)
  • O Zambezi (1978)
  • Power Play (1979)
  • Body and the Beat (1984)
  • Dreams of Ordinary Men (1986)
  • Bondi Road (1989)

Sources:

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