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Dragon is bringing something different to the Hunter...

Image by Cole Bennett

Known for iconic pop-rock anthems like April Sun in Cuba, Rain, and Dreams of Ordinary Men, New Zealand born and Australian claimed band Dragon will play two pub shows later this year at Toronto Hotel and Shoal Bay Country Club.

While Dragon is well-known for its famous songs, and was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2008, the band also has an infamous history.

No stranger to drug addiction, overdose and several line-up incarnations, the band lost it's first original member, drummer Neil Storey, in 1975 to a drug overdose only months after first arriving in Sydney.

Nine years later the band also lost key songwriter Paul Hewson, who suffered the same fate just months after leaving the band to return to New Zealand in 1985. Hewson was an influential songwriter for the band, penning a number of hits including April Sun in Cuba which reached number two on the Kent Music Report Singles Chart and remained on the chart for 22 weeks.

The band was to suffer yet another loss in lead singer Marc Hunter, who joined the band in 1973, was fired in 1979, and rejoined again in 1983 until esophageal cancer forced his retirement in 1997. He passed away less than a year later.

While many recall Hunter as the face of Dragon, the singer was not without criticism having led a controversial life as a heavy heroin user and offending American crowds during the band's first US tour in 1978 when he used abusive language that inspired one concert goer to threaten shooting him on stage.

Dragon members Alan Mansfield, Marc Hunter and Todd Hunter

While Dragon is well-known for its famous tunes, and was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2008, the band also has an infamous history...

But perhaps the most enduring and constant presence in the band is bass player Todd Hunter, now 67.

Brother to former front-man Marc and founding member of the band, Hunter describes the early years as being more than a little hectic.

"The 70s was a very dangerous time which I did not enjoy one bit," he says.

"I was that guy. The one who stayed sober and just thought 'what the hell is going on here', all the time. But the band had its own rhythm and way of enduring and over the years it's been an incredible journey of playing great music."

Hunter took a break of his own in 1995 after recording the band's 10th album Incarnation to focus on composing music for TV and film, but rejoined in 2006 when Mark Williams stepped up as lead singer after Marc Hunter's death.

The band soon began releasing live albums, working on new material and embraced a busy touring schedule, playing around 100 shows per year.

"We probably work more than any other band in the country," Hunter says.

"We just hit our 1000th show with the current line-up since 2008. The goal for us is to keep playing and we're fortunate to get a wide variety of events, from these kinds of pub shows, to festivals and everything in-between.

"But for us pub gigs are where we came from. We started by playing out in the western suburbs and pubs of each town. It has taken us a while to get back, but pub shows are great audiences. In theatre shows everyone is just sitting down appraising the show, but pub gigs are different. Everyone will come up and sing, and it can get really rowdy which is good."

Mark Williams has been Dragon's front-man for the past 12 years

In theatre shows everyone is just sitting down appraising the show, but pub gigs are different. Everyone will come up and sing, it can get really rowdy which is good...

According to Hunter, the longevity and ongoing success of the band, despite all of its challenges, is simple.

"It's the songs. If we didn't have those songs we couldn't do it," he says.

"I think people's loyalties these days are not to bands or members of bands, but to the songs. Everyone is musically literate now because of the internet and Itunes.

"You can hear something and five minutes later download and listen to it. We've just done a new album and we put one song per week up onto our Facebook page. If anyone streams it then that's great, but that's the deal with older bands. You're allowed to play so long as you include the old favourites that people know and that's fine by me."

Dragon's current tour, Countdown 80s - UK Chartbusters showcases songs from some of the UK's most successful bands, giving audiences a chance to hear even more hits they know and love.

"This tour has an organic foundation in that last year we did an Australian edition of Countdown Chartbusters which was very popular, so this year we had a lot of requests for something similar," Hunter says.

"The show will be split into two sets, the first being the Countdown songs and then we take a small break and come back with all the Dragon hits.

"We were a little unprepared for just how popular this has been and how much people love these Countdown songs. The television show Countdown was always very supportive of us as a band, despite often being scandalised by some of the things we would do in the 70s."

The run sheet includes classics from bands like Queen, Tears for Fears, Madness and Duran Duran, as well as all the Dragon hits.

"Audiences can expect to hear some great songs like Our House, Message in a Bottle, Rebel Yell, Under Pressure, really fun songs, as well as all of our songs of course."

Dragon will play at:

Toronto Hotel

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Shoal Bay Country Club

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Nikki Taylor is Australian Hotels Association - Newcastle Hotel Representative

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