Albums I Want to Be Buried With: Dragon, “Body and the Beat”

Unless you’re from Australia or New Zealand, you’ve likely never heard of the rock band Dragon.  And you would be sorely deprived from this loss.

Dragon was one of Oceania’s most popular rock bands; they evolved from a prog-rock group into a solid core of dedicated tunesmiths; they broke up, they reunited, had more monster hits, they toured the world, they broke up, they reunited, they influenced a generation of musicians from Down Under.

Dragon, "Body and the Beat"I first learned of Dragon in 1983, when I was a college student.  The year before, I had actually written an editorial for Billboard magazine about the benefits of college radio as a promotional tool for new artist releases.  The article was very well-received (in fact, Billboard ran it in their 1982 year-end issue), and a few months later, I received a cassette tape full of Australian Top 40 songs from a mobile DJ named Jim McCaslin.

McCaslin was an American who moved to Melbourne, Australia and became a successful mobile disc jockey and promoter.  Over time, he sent me several cassette tapes of the top hits in Australia – stuff that hadn’t hit American radio stations yet, including InXs and Real Life and others.  On one of the cassettes was a track by Dragon, an uptempo song called “Rain.”

I immediately fell in love with the song and wanted copies of it – not only for myself, but for the college radio station.  And proceeded to drive everybody at the college radio station absolutely bonkers by playing this song morning, noon and night.

Eventually I was able to obtain a copy of the Body and the Beat album on vinyl and eventually on CD; of the ten songs on the LP, five of them became Oz Top 40 hits, including “Rain” (which hit #2).  “Rain” actually charted in America, getting as high as I believe #88 on the Hot 100 charts in the summer of 1984.

The lineup at the time of this album’s release was almost a United Nations of pop music – the Hunter brothers, lead singer Marc Hunter and his brother Todd, were from New Zealand, where the band originated.  Paul Hewson (no, not the one who became Bono) was also from New Zealand, he wrote many of the group’s earlier hits, including “April Sun in Cuba,” “Are You Old Enough” and “Still In Love With You.”  The drummer, Terry Chambers, was a former member of XTC.  The keyboardist, Alan Mansfield, was from New Jersey, and had worked as the producer for the Body and the Beat album.

The respect Dragon received in their native land was extremely deep and dedicated.  One of Keith Urban’s first gigs was as a musician on Dragon’s 1993 album Reincarnations. Another legendary guitarist, Tommy Emmanuel, was part of Dragon in the mid-1980’s, appearing on their album Dreams of Ordinary Men – an album that was produced in New York by the great Todd Rundgren.

When Marc Hunter was diagnosed with malignant throat cancer in 1997, Australia’s top musicians and bands held two fundraising concerts for him.  Members of such legendary bands as Little River Band and Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel and Australian Crawl, performed Dragon’s greatest hits in those sold-out concerts. This YouTube clip shows Jimmy Barnes of the band Cold Chisel performing “Rain” at the Marc Hunter tribute concert.

Marc Hunter passed away in 1998, but the band Dragon still performs today.  I still have my copy of Body and the Beat; it’s an autographed copy signed by all six members of the band.  It’s framed and hanging on the wall of my home office.