Friday, December 05, 2008

an unfinished rude review of an old book by jade hurley

Jade Hurley’s Jade: the Jade Hurley Story, self-published in 2003.

Hurley has been part of the music scene since the early 1960s, when he was ‘discovered’ and then named (real name John Hurley) by Johnny O’Keefe looking for new performers for his show Six O’Clock Rock. His first single, ‘How I Lied’, leans towards a punk masterpiece if the live performance of it captured on YouTube (from a mid-60s Perth tv broadcast) is anything to go by. Tenaciously, and despite little chart success in that decade, he appears to have managed to carve out a career for himself as a touring pianist and singer of popular songs, playing leagues clubs and the like over the decades. He seems to have found enduring fame in certain quarters as a regular on the Mike Walsh Show some decades ago, wherein he demonstrated extraordinary versatility in his ability to research and construct into medley form hits of previous decades: he called them ‘Golden Oldens’.

There is little doubting the sincerity of the man and this regard Hurley’s book is more of a ‘genuine’ story than most relics of the genre. His personality comes through in spades... What the book does lack, however, is any structure or chronology, and one wonders if Hurley had any other work from the genre in mind as a template for this one.

As a narrative, then, it needs another word aside from ‘shambles’. A crueller person than me would find some elements of the book hilarious (a smartarse way of saying that I do, of course). Let us leap firstly to the end. On page 263, in a one-page chapter called ‘The Final Word’, Hurley tells us ‘I have finished my story and my book is ready for editing’. Obviously he was distracted from arranging this by the fact that ‘I have been urinating blood’. The suspense lasts till page 265, when he is told in another one-page chapter, ‘Conclusion’, that ‘There is no cancer’.*

Piss has played a big part in Hurley’s life, and his anecdotes of life on the road show how often musicians, bored and thrown on their own resources, rely on piss for entertainment. Ray Brown’s Perth-Sydney plane flight jape of delivering a bottle of his piss to an unnamed guitarist loudly demanding more alcohol has Hurley reeling: ‘Fair dinkum, I nearly fainted’ (p. 147). The unprepossessingly named Johnny Bogie, Col Joye’s drummer, pisses in Hurley’s new boots just before Hurley puts them on to go on stage: ‘they were never the same as after this performance’, he says (p. 35).

Hurley’s use of metaphor is redundant, as best shown by his description of O’Keefe as, on occasion being ‘a real arsehole in every sense of the word’ (p. 83). Sometimes his colourful language says it all, as in the long story of the ‘bloody frog rip-off merchant’ taxi driver who takes him round Paris (p. 186), also referred to as ‘the bloody frog rip-off taxi driver’ (p. 188). He is obviously more comfortable on the straight and narrow, eg his four-page anecdote ‘I split my pants’ (pp. 164-167).

Drugs, too, played a part in Hurley’s life. His discussion of an accidental use of cocaine during one performance is confusing particularly because – and there are a few contradictions of this sort in the book – this experiment leads him into hostile argument with O’Keefe who ‘never mentioned anything to do with it again’ (p. 151). However, two pages later, we are told O’Keefe ‘went to great lengths to remind me of my… performance when stoned out of my brain on cocaine’ (p. 153)

* I assume, looking back on this piece of writing about six months after I failed to finish it, that he means there is no cancer in his urinary tract, not that cancer per se does not exist. But should I assume?


Snoopy said...

I have seen Jade Hurley in concert and I have also read his book. The man is a much, much better entertainer than author but hey, he got his story across, albeit "warts and all". I have read books by other people who, despite excelling in their particular fields, lacked book writing skills. On each occasion, these people had a story to tell and I am richer for their valiant attempts to share it. One such person, a well know aviator from West Australia did die of cancer immediately after completing his memoirs. I had known the man for 30 years but some of his exploits, many of which I was unaware,would have died with him if he hadn't struggled to write his autobiography. Maybe in time, I could write mine too... if you could put up with my amateurish ramblings.

David said...

Well Snoopy you are also a prominent aviator, amongst your other exploits, and I have no doubt there's a market for your memoirs.