Unlike many bands, there are three distinct ages that define the evolution of iconic rock band Dragon. The eras represent the rites of passage that have made the band and its music what it is today, carving out a special place in the popular music history of Australia and New Zealand. Now, for the first time, Dragon is hitting the road to celebrate these three ages with their special Dragon – The Trilogy Concert tour, which will see them performing in metro and regional centres over a few months in early 2014.
The three key eras in Dragon’s four decade history have been dubbed the Young Years (1973 – 1979), the Glory Years (1982 – 1998) and the Phoenix Years (from 2006 on). The current line-up of the band features Todd Hunter, Mark Williams, Pete Drummond and Bruce Reid.
Founder and bass player Todd Hunter says the band will revisit some obscure older songs that they have an affection for and play the hits from each of the eras. “We’ll also have a mystery song slot where we will play a different song every night,” he says. “We’ll take requests for the slot on our Facebook page. The hits speak for themselves. Our task with those is to play them and let the crowd sing along. It seemed to me that there are three distinct eras in the Dragon saga and the songs from each age are markedly different. The Dragon Trilogy Tour is a way of honoring those eras through the songs and a way of making sense of everything that has happened in the last 40 years.”
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dragon dominated the Australian music scene. Their live shows were unsurpassed and their notorious rock’n’roll lifestyle was well documented. Ever since then, they’ve continued to release hits, pack live music houses and earn a swag of fans throughout New Zealand and Australia. In 1977, Dragon won Best New Group and in 1978 won the Outstanding Local Achievement award for the then Australian music awards, TV Week King of Pop Awards. In July 2008, Dragon were again recognised by their adoptive country when they were inducted into the Australian ARIA Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.
During the first era – the Young Years – the band formed in the pre-historic wilds of New Zealand, with Todd Hunter there on bass right from the start. It was named Dragon after a throw of the I Ching on New Year’s Eve in 1973. Todd’s brother Marc joined later in 1973 and the band continued touring extensively. In May 1975, they packed their bags and headed for Australia. As frontman Marc Hunter made a name for himself as one of Australia’s most enigmatic lead singers and Dragon carved themselves into the Oz music history books.
“When we first came to Australia we were cynical young Kiwis on the brink of an incredible adventure. Everything was different here – the people, the light, the brashness of 70’s Sydney” says Todd, remembering the Young Years. “On our first day in Australia, Marc and I walked from Paddington to Bondi Beach and stood on the rocks in the sun. There was a feeling of freedom – of endless possibility, and we loved it. When we went on the road driving to Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide – the distances, the age of the landscape – we got to love those huge vistas – and God knows we saw a lot of them!”
Dragon released six albums during this era – Universal Radio (1973) and Scented Gardens for the Blind (1973) in New Zealand and Sunshine (1976), Running Free (1977), O Zambezi (1977) and Power Play (1979) in Australia. Singles such as Sunshine, This Time, Still in Love, April Sun in Cuba and Are You Old Enough graced the airwaves during this era. “Australia embraced us – sort of – even though we were confusingly pop in an era of pub rock.” Todd remembers. The band called it quits (for the first time) in 1979, “bringing a close to the Young Years.
Three years later in 1982 the band reformed to pay off a mountain of debt from the excesses of the 1970s. They smashed their way back onto the airwaves with Rain and the second era – the Glory Years – was born. The 1980s were certainly the glory years for the band, they released the albums Body & the Beat, Dreams of Ordinary Men, Live One, Bondi Road and Incarnations and had hits with singles such as Magic, Cry, Speak No Evil, Young Years and Celebrate.
“The band in the 80s made a huge sound,” remembers Todd. “Tommy Emmanuel, Doane Perry, and Alan Mansfield gave it incredible oomph and class. Whether it was at a pub in Jindabyne where the sheer volume and intensity flattened the crowd on to the back wall, or in huge arenas in Europe to crowds of 100,000, it was an awesome outfit. One of the most memorable shows was to a crowd of 12000 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre that sang Rain at the top of their voices. That show was recorded and became The Live One album.
The band continued to play intermittently throughout the 1990s until the sad passing of Marc Hunter in 1998, calling an end to the Glory Years. There was no sound from Dragon for the next eight years. The band was essentially defunct. Todd Hunter was busy working on his own composing career, and aside from the odd song on radio, it seemed Dragon was now only in the history books. It was 2006 when Todd felt the urge to play again and contacted fellow Kiwi Mark Williams to see if he wanted to ‘be in a band’. Bruce Reid and Pete Drummond joined to fit the puzzle together and Dragon was reborn, the Phoenix Years had begun. Dragon have already released several albums under this guise, including Sunshine to Rain (2006), Remembers (2007), Live 2008 (2008), Happy I Am (2009), Heart of Gold (2010) and The Great Divide (2011) and The Dragon Years (2013).
“On New Year’s Eve 2011 we played the Rhythm and Vines Festival, it’s an amazing thing to be in your 60s and smashing through a great bunch of songs and to look out at 35,000 kids leaping up and down and singing songs that were written decades before they were born,” Todd says. “It’s a great way to grow old disgracefully.”
The band celebrated their 500th show of the Phoenix Years in July 2013 and have no plans to stop! Let the music continue…
Dragon play Adelaide on Friday May 30
For tickets & further info go to: http://www.dragononline.com.au