Iconic band’s music
Founder Todd Hunter speaks with
On With the Show’s SHIRLEY BROUN
In a fan celebratory move Dragon has launched into a major Australian and New Zealand Trilogy concert tour set around the music that contributed to the band’s sensational rise to major success in the annals of rock history.
Founder and songwriter/bass player Todd Hunter said Dragon effectively experienced three key eras during its 40 year history including the Young Years (1973-1979), the Glory Years (1982-1998) and the Phoenix Years (from 2006 on).
40 years of hits
“The music from each era is distinctly different to the next and the Trilogy Tour allows us to honour all of the songs across our 40 years on stage,” said Todd, who as founder has been with the band since its inception in New Zealand.
“Dragon was a dream come true. All my late brother Marc Hunter and I ever wanted to do as kids was to be in a band.”
But it wasn’t just any band. Dragon dominated the Australian music scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s with its live shows selling out around the country. Its notoriety was buoyed by a rock’n’roll lifestyle that was constantly in the headlines.
While the outrageous on-the-road antics have faded the swag of hit songs, awards and accolades have continued to grow culminating in Dragon being inducted into the Australian ARIA Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.
Lady luck played a part
It wasn’t all calm sailing for the iconic band whose name was quoined as the result of a throw of the I Ching on New Year’s Eve in 1973.
Their journey into the Australian music history books was fast-tracked by Todd’s brother Marc whose unique vocals provided an easily identifiable hook that brought fans, record producers and opportunities in their droves.
The Young Years saw Dragon release six albums and hit singles including April Sun in Cuba, Are You Old Enough and Still in Love. In 1979 Dragon called it quits but by 1982 the call of live performances and rising debt drove them back together for what is now referred to as The Glory Years.
Emmanuel was world class
“Those were the years when we had such fine musicians as Tommy Emmanuel, Doane Perry and Alan Mansfield,” said Todd. “Emmanuel told the worst jokes but he was brilliant on stage, a true world-class musician.”
It’s little wonder Todd remembers the band making a huge sound in the 80s when Dragon was kicking goals with hits such as Rain, Magic, Cry, Speak No Evil, Young Years and Celebrate. “At the Sydney Entertainment Centre one night there were 12,000 people singing Rain at the top of their voices. It was incredible and became The Live One album.
Dragon’s 1984 album Body and the Beat became one of Australia and New Zealand’s biggest selling albums.
Age of Reason
It was during the 1980s when touring Europe with Tina Turner for six months that Todd and partner Johanna Pigott wrote the John Farnham hit Age of Reason. “John asked us to write a song for him which we did while we were on tour. We sent it off and didn’t hear anything back for about a year. It was really a bit of a fluke that it all came about,” recalled Todd.
Age of Reason went on to win the APRA Most Performed Australasian Popular Song of the Year in 1989.
The Glory years, in which Dragon sold another million records worldwide, continued on into the 1990s until 1998 when Marc Hunter lost his battle with throat cancer. “Dragon went into hibernation for eight years after we lost Marc.”
The eight year hiatus saw Todd concentrate on writing songs. He was composer for the hit TV series Heartbreak High for which the theme song gained nomination for a 1994 APRA Television Theme of the Year award. The series also spawned over 20 other songs written by Todd and Pigott.
The pair also composed music for films including The Girl Who Came Late (1991) and Alex: The Spirit of a Champion (1993). Todd also worked on the TV series `Out of the Blue’ and `Pride of Australia’.
But by 2006 Todd was keen to return to his first love – live performance with the reformed Dragon which included Mark Williams, Bruce Reid, Pete Drummond and Todd.
Sure, things had changed as technology had developed but for Todd the relaunch of Dragon in the Phoenix Years presented a new and exciting era. All of a sudden their music was appealing to new generations of fans.
“We proved our songs were durable and worked across generations. And, one of the great things that has happened is that the internet has brought back the power of a great song. If you can write and release a good song these days you can conquer the world,” said Todd.
His personal Dragon favourite is Rain. “It was a new direction for us and Rain allowed us to reconnect with everyone in the 80s.”
Never give up
Todd urged anyone wanting to write songs not to give up. “It’s very important that if you want a long career in music you need to have the utmost patience. Many beginners write great songs because they bring a fresh approach to it. Condensing a story down to a three minute song can be a lot of fun.”
One difference between Dragon’s early days and the band today is that members get more time to spend with their families. “We mainly tour on weekends these days and we fly to the venues and our gear is already there, ready to go … not like the old days.”
Todd has three adult sons including Harry who is currently working on the movie Gods of Egypt (technical side), James who plays basketball in America and Joey who is an artist.
As for Dragon … the band is expecting to launch a new album in August and is looking forward to its forthcoming tour of New Zealand.
In the meantime, Dragon’s Trilogy Tour takes them to Queensland this weekend with performances at Kedron Wavell Services Club tomorrow and Twin Towns Services Club on the Gold Coast on Saturday.