Lords and Retainers

Dave the Rave put me on to a guy called Ray who used to be in Dragon before they got famous. He’d lived in that house in Double Bay, he remembered things nobody else knew about any more because they were all crazy or drug-fucked or dead. Ray was a second-hand goods dealer who had a house down the bottom of Erskineville full of baroque clutter. Searchlights, dentist’s chairs, bathroom tiles. He moonlighted as a stage hand at the Opera House. He was bitter about Dragon because he’d left before the money started coming in. But my question was: did he jump or was he pushed?

Anyway he said what happened was they did a gig in Melbourne, in St. Kilda, the pub down there near the pier where there used to be a gig, and the support band was The Birthday Party. In their early punkoid phase. And Harry just went, fuck! these guys are amazing. And rocked up afterwards and said he wanted to work for them. Of course they already had roadies plus plenty of wanna-bes so they told Harry to fuck off. It was too late, he’d already told Dragon he was leaving, he didn’t even go back to Sydney to get his stuff, he just stayed in Melbourne.

Ray said what Dave said about Harry reading poetry was true, because he had the actual copy of Imitations which Harry left in Double Bay along with all his other stuff. He showed it to me—a little Faber & Faber paperback with wine stains and cigarette burns on the cover and the most amazing inscriptions all the way through, tiny little runic marks made with a pencil, more or less unreadable ... Ray said I couldn’t take it away and study it, it was too valuable, one day when people realised who Harry was the book would be worth a lot of money.

Ray said the way Harry got to work with The Birthday Party was by getting them drugs which they couldn’t get that cheap or in such quantities anywhere else. That’s how he penetrated the inner circle, hitting up with Nick and the others or at least being there while they were hitting up. Loyalty is what makes a good roadie, absolute fealty both to the music and those who make the music. A band and its roadies are like Lords and their Retainers. Harry became a Retainer to Nick. That’s what Ray said. They were like that, he said, holding up his thumb and his second finger and clicking them.

No comments: