An in-demand player in New Zealand long before he made the move to Australia with Dragon in 1975, Hewson started his professional career playing with bands The Marble Arch and Freedom Express before joining club band Cruise Lane with former Underdogs singer Murray Grindlay, drummer Brett Neilsen (The La De Da's), former Layabout Mike Wilson and ace guitarist Red McKelvie.
After years of playing clubs and doing session work, he had gone a long way in paying his musical dues, but success with Dragon still wasn’t immediate. Their initial contract with PolyGram had not translated into sales and touring was relentless.
But the combination of a new contract with CBS, the production skills of Peter Dawkins, rock star attitude, countless live performances — and Hewson’s remarkable gift for coming up with unforgettable songwriting hooks — resulted in big hits, fame and money.
In addition to ‘April Sun In Cuba’ (co-written with Marc Hunter) and ‘Are You Old Enough’, Hewson wrote ‘I’m Still In Love With You’, 'Sunshine’, ‘Get That Jive’ and more.
In addition to ‘April Sun In Cuba’ (co-written with Marc Hunter) and ‘Are You Old Enough’, Hewson wrote ‘Still In Love With You’, 'Sunshine’, ‘Get That Jive’ and more.
With Marc Hunter, he partied hard at Hello Sailor’s house during their time in Los Angeles. He also contributed keyboards to two tracks on Hello Sailor’s 1978 album Pacifica Amour.
After Dragon’s initial split in 1979 Hewson joined Dave McArtney and the Pink Flamingos, which began as a resident club act at Auckland night spot Jilly’s. He played on their self-titled 1981 debut album.
Hewson took the back seat in the Flamingos and left the songwriting to McArtney, who was flush with new tunes. But the instrumental breaks and layered keyboard tracks on songs like ‘Hungry Night’ and ‘Is That The Way’ showcase Hewson's incredible musical talent and contribution.
Hewson joined Dragon again for a short-lived reunion in 1982 and would surface yet again with Sonny Day’s All-Stars.
At the time of Hewson’s tragic death from a drug overdose in January 1985, he was only 32. A uniquely flamboyant, successful figure in New Zealand and Australian music, he is recognised as one of our greatest songwriters. His death prompted many tributes in New Zealand where rock and roll death by misadventure just didn’t happen.
In NZ rock history book Stranded In Paradise, author John Dix writes, “All were welcome to join him in his Champagne lifestyle, socialising in the best restaurants, the sleaziest bars, the liveliest parties and the grubbiest low-rent flats.”
And in Dave McArtney’s posthumously released memoir Gutter Black, he remembers his close friend Hewson, who was nicknamed “Sharkie”, thus: “You always knew when Paul had had a hefty royalty payment … because he’d be sporting an elegant, preferably silk, new outfit. Sharkie was rich, and he lived the rock’n’roll lifestyle absolutely shamelessly. Bless his soul, he was another of life’s uniquely beautiful people.”
In 1966, Paul Hewson and his best mate Kevin Walden crawled under a fence and gatecrashed the farewell garden party of Kiri Te Kanawa, whose parents lived in the same street as the Hewson family.
Hewson's band The Marble Arch played at Dragon guitarist Ray Goodwin's sister's wedding in Avondale, Auckland, years before Dragon had even formed. The two musicians didn't meet though, because "None of the band mingled. They were deadset pop stars.”