Few performers in this country, or anywhere else for that matter, could command the sheer presence of Dragon frontman Marc Hunter. The man exuded a kind of charisma that simply couldn’t be ignored and he had the talent to back it up. While most people are well aware of his artistry as a singer and performer, he was also a gifted songwriter and an upcoming show called ‘Communication – The Marc Hunter Song Book’, to be held at the Flying Saucer Club in Melbourne next month, will showcase some of those songs with the help of a great ensemble of artists to add their own flavour to some classic material and more.
A few years ago, Melbourne musician and Marc’s good friend, Alex Formosa Baudo, put together a show at the Gershwin Room in Melbourne’s Espy Hotel in celebration of Marc’s life, fifteen years after his passing and decided to do it again last year but, this time with a bit of a twist, building a narrative around the show and telling a few stories between songs. The show in April will be a little different. “There won’t be so much of that in this one,” he tells me in our recent interview. “There will be a storyline but a little bit less and more focusing on the tunes. The songs will speak for themselves.” There will, however, be a great line-up of artists performing those songs. Joining Alex will be Mick Pealing, Billy Miller, Tracy Kingman, Nikki Nicholls, Mike Oliphant, Mike Doyle and Roger McLachlan. He is doubtful that there will be any more shows like this one with an all-star line-up, at least not in the foreseeable future. “It’s a lot of work,” and, as he points out, “You’ve also got to juggle everyone else’s itinerary to make it fit so it makes it really awkward to get everybody on board to try to make that date.“ So next month’s show will definitely be something pretty special.
He stresses that this is not a Marc Hunter or Dragon tribute show. “I really believe that this show is a completely different show to Dragon’s show. They’ve been touring and they’re doing really well. I don’t want to see it as a second version of a Dragon show. It’s not a tribute band. It’s basically a story around Marc and the songs that he has written or co-written and that might take you to Dragon’s songs; it might take you to Marc’s solo stuff as well. He had five solo records so there is so much stuff to draw from that. Plus he had all the other stuff that he co-wrote with Dragon.”
In addition to the live performance, Alex has also been working on an album featuring some of the songs that the audience will hear in the show. The project has been a lot of work but one that is very close to his heart. “The idea is to try to recreate the live renditions as near as possible on a CD. It will be about a ten track CD featuring all the tunes from the show except for one which will be a song that I wrote with Marc and his wife Wendy. I recorded that a while ago in Italian and it was basically a song that Marc had a rough sketch of. I found this cassette at the Hunters’ house after Marc passed away and it was just a rough little sketch that Marc had. I really liked it and basically I finished it off in Italian. Everyone was grieving around that time so I wrote it about Marc’s passing. His last wish was to be buried at a certain spot in southern NSW. In English it was ‘Fly Away’ so it’s basically a translation of what he was thinking at the time. It’s a pretty moving kind of song, especially if you know the Italian language. Basically he’d had enough of the pain and suffering and he wanted to move on to another place. When we started recording this album, we had about twenty five songs to choose from so we had to narrow it down to ten and of course the show has about twenty songs anyway and we added another five and we thought: ‘How are we going to work this out?’ And of course we don’t want to make it a complete cover of the original. That would be silly because the songs are so strong just as they are. So we decided to record my renditions of the songs because we wanted to have that personal touch. It gives you another interpretation of what the song can sound like.”
The purpose of the show, according to Alex, is to remember Marc as a songwriter and an artist. “That’s basically the focus of it. It’s got nothing to do with Marc, the scandalous type that everybody talked about and his antics and the drug taking and all that. I don’t want to know about that. That’s not my vision of the show. It’s basically to talk about Marc’s creative side and how strong he was and to remember him in that light and that’s what we’re doing. He was very creative and a lot of people don’t understand or remember how creative he was. He came up with some great songs. He wrote a lot with Paul Hewson, Alan Mansfield, and with his brother Todd and Johanna (Todd’s wife). The whole band was so creative and successful with that. But he also wrote some amazing songs by himself which were very strong and a lot of them were really huge successes. Some of them were mild ones. And that’s basically what the show is about. When you hear a song, you go ‘Wow! I didn’t know he wrote that.’ It takes you back to a place that you remember being and that’s what I’m trying to create. I saw Cold Chisel last year and the crowd was a vast age group. I saw the parents bringing their teenage kids to the shows. Those kids were brought up on Cold Chisel so that’s created another audience for them. And this is what I would like to happen; to remember that Dragon and Marc Hunter were pretty much in that era of popularity and see if we can recapture some of that now. “
“I was very close to Marc. He was a dear friend and I will always cherish those important moments and some of those funny stories and I love to share those with other people. He was a very funny man; he was intelligent and well-read and a bit of a debonair. He was a real gentleman. A rock and roll animal is what some of the press portrayed him as and, you know, he definitely had that in his young days when he was a hungry young man but he changed into this very cool guy; very well spoken and a real gentleman.”
Alex continues to be amazed that Marc never quite ‘made it’ overseas. ”He was very frustrated about that and rightly so because, for example, we’ve been listening to the original songs to track down the chords and the words to record this album. My brother Ric and I couldn’t believe the amount of hits that they had but also why those hits weren’t big hits in other countries. It’s just got me beat and Marc was very frustrated about that.” Alex is hopeful that radio in this country will get behind this record and perhaps find a new audience for Marc’s songs. “That would be great because that would be like keeping the torch lit, if you will.”
This show will also be a little bit different, arrangement wise, to the previous ‘Communication’ show, he reveals. “We’ll be doing a few songs that we’ve already performed and we’ll be adding a few as well. There’s going to be a duet with Mick Pealing and Billy Miller as well so there will be a few changes and I like that too because it keeps it revitalised all the time. And that’s my intention when we tour the show; I will be changing the repertoire constantly because there’s so much material to draw from. There’s enough material to do another record after this one. The CD will be available at the show and will hopefully be released the week before. We’re getting very excited as the date gets closer and we’re very happy with the results so far and I hope that everybody else can appreciate the work and enjoy it. Marc’s life was cut so short and I really think the torch of Marc Hunter should be kept burning for the people who did not have the chance of getting to know his talent.”
You can catch ‘Communication – The Marc Hunter Song Book’ at The Flying Saucer Club in Elsternwick in Melbourne on Sunday, 3rd April. Click on the link below for full details and to book your tickets.
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2016. All rights reserved
Click here for more info and to book tickets for ‘Communication – The Marc Hunter Songbook’