Dragon – April Sun In Cuba
Dragon formed in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1972, with a line-up that featured Todd Hunter, guitarist Ray Goodwin, drummer Neil Reynolds and singer Graeme Collins; by 1974 several personnel changes had occurred including the introduction of Todd’s brother Marc Hunter on vocals and Neil Storey on drums.
The band recorded two progressive rock albums in New Zealand, Universal Radio and Scented Gardens for the Blind, the second with an added guitar element from Robert Taylor. Paul Hewson also joined the band on keyboards and from this point Dragon’s music took on a pop-flavoured AOR feel.
Dragon eventually landed a contract in Australia with CBS Records and relocated to Sydney in 1975.
Always a lightning rod for controversy, the band was rocked by the heroin overdose death of drummer Neil Storey only weeks after arriving in Australia and their original manager was also deported back to New Zealand on drugs charges. By then, founding member Ray Goodwin had left the group.
Storey was replaced by Kerry Jacobson and, between 1975 and 1979, Dragon scored a string of major hits on the Australasian pop charts with songs including “April Sun in Cuba,” “Are You Old Enough” and “Still in Love With You” and with the albums Sunshine and O Zambezi, making them one of the region’s most popular rock acts.
Marc Hunter left Dragon in 1979 due to health problems which were, by then, seriously affecting his performances. New singer Richard Lee was recruited and the group recorded the Powerplay LP before breaking up in 1979.
Dragon was forced to reform in 1982 to pay off outstanding debts, but they stayed together and decided to have another shot at success. The band’s second comeback single “Rain” proved to be a massive hit, but Kerry Jacobson left the band for health reasons and was replaced by British drummer Terry Chambers, formerly from the band XTC. American keyboard player and producer Alan Mansfield also joined the band at this point.
The group’s 1984 album Body and the Beat became one of the biggest-selling albums in Australia and New Zealand and the band was restored to something close to its late 70s glory. Their public profile was further raised at this time by the Marc Hunter solo album Communication. Its title track became a moderate hit in Australia.
Paul Hewson left Dragon and tragically died of a drug overdose in New Zealand in January 1985, with Terry Chambers and Robert Taylor leaving Dragon some time after. American drummer Doanne Perry replaced Chambers, and Taylor was eventually succeeded by local Sydney guitar ace Tommy Emmanuel.
This line-up recorded the Todd Rundgren-produced Dreams of Ordinary Men album and toured Europe under the name Hunter in 1987, where they were somewhat misrepresented as a heavy metal band in some markets.
Dragon again split up in 1988 although a year later Todd and Marc Hunter and Alan Mansfield reconvened once again with guitarist Randall Waller and drummer Barton Price (ex-Models and The Choirboys) for the 1989 Bondi Road album, which actually featured Tommy Emmanuel’s guitar playing.
Dragon continued to record and tour with varying line-ups centered around the Hunter brothers and Mansfield until 1997, although Todd Hunter had largely retired from the band to do soundtrack work.
In 1998, Marc Hunter was diagnosed with severe throat cancer and died later that year. The compilation CD Forever Young, released on Raven Records, captures many of the highlight tracks of his tumultuous career.
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