Et j'ai vu quelques fois ce que l'homme a cru voir

I was actually more interested in finding out how a guy from the remote King Country ended up mixing with international rock stars than I was in Harry Graves' reading habits. Then I met Dave the Rave at a party in Bellevue Hill. Dave was a roadie from Auckland who ended up in Sydney; we had mutual friends. I didn’t get much out of him at the party because, while we were standing in a line leaning against a fence sampling the joints that were being passed along, Dave took an enormous toke on one then fell over flat on his face on the concrete path and split his head open. There was lots of blood but when he woke up Dave said he’d had worse things happen and just kept on partying. He was that kind of guy.

We met up a few weeks later at gig in the Darlinghurst Squats—it was Vix’s band of the time, MX Warheads—and had time for a bit of a talk. Dave said Harry came up to Auckland in 1971 was it? to the Led Zeppelin concert at Western Springs and just never went home again. Somehow or other he ran into Jenny Tits, as she was known, and started sleeping on her floor in the flat she had in St. Kevins Arcade overlooking Myers Park. She took him around to Mandrax Mansion in St. Mary’s Bay one day and he ending up getting a room there. And it was there, Dave said, that he met the guys from Dragon who’d come up from Hamilton to do a gig in the big upstairs room in that house.

He followed the band to Sydney and got peripherally involved in the Mr. Asia thing, Dave said, which intersected at various points with the Dragon extravaganza. There was this house in Double Bay where the band lived, to which guys like Greg Ollard, if that was his name, used to come. Some of the Dragon boys were notorious users of hard drugs, as everyone knows, though I don’t think Harry was. Anyway Dave said an interesting thing, which was that, when he got to know Harry at Mandrax Mansion, he always carried around a book with him. What book? I asked. It was a poetry book, Dave said. Imitations. By Robert Lowell.

Well that seemed like an odd thing for Harry to have been reading, a book of translations of various foreign, mostly dead, mostly European poets by a mid-twentieth century vaguely aristocratic American from New England, also dead. It was the 19th century stuff he liked, Dave said. Heine dying in Paris, Baudelaire, the Rimbaud poems ... knew them all by heart, could recite some in the original French. Le Bateau Ivre, for instance: Comme je descendais des Fleuves impassibles ...

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