Episode 3.6: Jobriath

jobriath-album-cover

Jobriath – Jobriath – Elektra – 1973

Bowie. Bolan. The Dolls. These are the names that we have hallowed through the decades as bastions of glam rock, the genre that defined the early ‘70s urban rock scene. Simultaneously swirling around the glam galaxy was a soft-spoken, fair-featured piano prodigy who called himself Jobriath, and though he is less featured in the annals of music history, his influence is no less felt by generations of flamboyant, theatrical rock performers who came after him.

Often cited as the first openly gay rock star, Jobriath rocketed from musical theatre actor and folk songwriter to full-on glam star in seemingly no time at all, thanks to aggressive marketing strategies from his Svengali-like manager, Jerry Brandt. Jobriath burned hot and bright for a few years, but his star fell just as quickly as it rose, and he spent the remainder of his days living out of the pyramid apartment on the roof of the Chelsea Hotel before his premature death in 1983. 

In this episode, we unpack the many ways Jobriath’s story — though shorter than his glam peers — has volumes to teaches us about the genre, changing social norms between the last decades of the 20th century and now, gender and sexuality, and why in the h*ck someone would even want to be famous in the first place.

Listen to Jobriath: iTunesSpotify 

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • If you know Jobriath, welcome. If you’re new to the party, there’s room for you here, too.
  • Listen, we know Spotify is mostly shady. But, man, we’ve discovered — and re-discovered — so many awesome artists through our Discover Weekly playlists, and that’s worth a shout.
  • The hype machine behind Jobriath is very much of its time. We had a lot to say about how we look at it now, and whether or not that could happen today. Have thoughts? Get at us.
  • Shoutout to the collapse of the American Dream and its reverberating effect on how we consume culture as a whole!!!
    • If you are any kind of sociologist, anthropologist, historian… in that general realm… and want to talk to us about this for show purposes, YOU KNOW WHERE TO FIND US!
  • Needless to say, the album bombed and music journalists — mostly men, duh — had a field day writing “you’re a cheap Bowie impersonation” takedowns.
  • We stan a good, hit-the-ground-running album opener!
  • Revisit our episode on the Rolling Stones’ Some Girls to get an idea of what we’re talking about with this whole Mick Jagger comparison and ~circle of influence~
  • Jobriath made great strides as the first openly gay rock star, but it’s interesting to see how much he kept private at the same time.
  • Carly is ABSOLUTELY that Theatre Girl who will reference obscure cast recordings, do not @ us!!!
  • Again, maybe Carrie’s 21st century cynicism speaking but: When an artist candidly states their desire for fame and a glamorous life, how do you tell what’s authentic? When does their art transcend being something they love and becomes something they do because it gets them fame?
  • Okay but seriously, peep the lyrics to “World Without End” and try to tell us culture isn’t cyclical
  • Is “Space Clown” just generic brand “Starman”?
  • Late-60s/early-70s pop culture was truly wildin’ for space and an abstract view of the future and we love how endearingly dated it ends up being
  • “I’m a Man” is an ahead of its time jam and a half, thank you for coming to our TED Talk
    • We’ll do an episode on John Cale eventually. We know we bring him up too often for not having given him his own episode to shine.
    • Masculinity is so complicated and we cannot believe this song about the ways it can be both aggressive and fragile came out in 1973.
    • Like, seriously, we’re only now starting to seriously talk about gender and toxic masculinity and just now see more inclusivity for pop stars challenging gender norms. Shouts to Jobriath for bringing this up decades ago.
    • Here’s a quick guide to androgyny in rock — which shows its male privilege and begs us to question: Why weren’t women afforded the same opportunities — or as many opportunities — to gender-bend as their male counterparts?
    • In the end, it’s all a flex.
  • Once again, we LIVE for the way ‘70s music referenced rock of the ‘50s and how much glam influenced punk.
  • It’s incredible see how much Jobriath’s legacy lives on, particularly in very recent history. You know we’ve got a bunch of examples for you in our new and improved master playlist.
    • We’ve split our playlists up by season because the one got too big. You’re so welcome!
    • Follow season one, season two, and season three (we’re on season three now).
  • As always, find and follow us on Facebook and Twitter if you don’t already.

Favorite track(s): I’m A Man (Carly) | I’m A Man (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Space Clown (Carly) | Blow Away (Carrie)

Album credits:
we couldn’t find anything further detailed than “performer” for many of the talent credited

  • Jobriath — writer, performer, producer
  • Steve Love — guitar
  • Billy Schwartz — guitar
  • Andy Muson — performer
  • Ken Bichel — performer
  • Peter Frampton — performer
  • Carl Hall — performer
  • Tasha Thomas — performer
  • Heather Macrae — performer
  • Peggy Nestor — performer
  • John Syomis — performer
  • Gerhard — performer
  • Zenobia — performer

Further watching:
Jobriath A.D. – Glam Rock’s Lost God trailer | 2012
“I’m A Man” live on The Midnight Special | 1974
“Rock of Ages” live on The Midnight Special | 1974

Further reading:
Music’s Unsung LGBTQ Heroes | Rolling Stone (June 2018)
The Tragedy of Jobriath, the World’s First Openly Gay Rock Star | Gay Times (May 2018)
The Unbelievably True Story of Jobriath, Music’s First Openly Gay Rock Star | Highsnobiety (April 2017)
The Rise and Fall of Jobriath, Pop’s First Openly Gay Star | AnOther (January 2017)
A Life Story of Glitter and Tragedy | The New York Times (May 2014)
Cole Berlin: An Elegy | The Spectacled Avenger (July 2012)
Jobriath: The Man Who Fell To Earth | The Guardian (March 2012)

Episode 5: THE SLIDER

t-rex-the-slider

THE SLIDER – T. Rex – T. Rex (UK)/Reprise (USA) – 1972

By 1972, British music had fully renewed itself on the American scene in the form of glam rock. David Bowie, Slade, and Roxy Music were all part of this musical landscape that Marc Bolan and his band T. Rex expanded and exemplified. Glitter, platform boots, sci-fi imagery, and ’50s rock n’ roll roots made this sub-genre exciting, fresh, and new to kids of the ’70s who may not have realized that this was the rock n’ roll of Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Richard — just amped up and fuzzed out for the new generation.

T. Rex’s album The Slider made full use of all of these elements to create a vibe that spoke to a new generation of rock fans. The album was the pinnacle of the dreamworld that Marc Bolan created, and it leaves us spellbound more than 40 years later. In this episode, we theorize over some extremely poetic lyrics, attempt to decode Bolan, introduce a new hashtag (#RespectTheSequence), and somehow, somehow connect T.Rex to DJ Khaled.

Listen to The Slider: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • We sound better! Thanks to our friend Jesse Berney for the mic recommendation.
  • We’re on Facebook! Like and follow us here, or just search for us. We are literally the only thing that comes up when you search 77 Music Club.
    • We’re also on Twitter! We tweet fun things! Follow us!
    • Last shameless self-promotion bit: follow us on Spotify, where we host a master playlist with all the songs we reference in each episode
  • Here’s a summary of how T. Rex morphed from psychedelic folk group Tyrannosaurus Rex to glam rock T. Rex.
  • “Ride a White Swan” was T. Rex’s real breakthrough to glam rock in 1970.
  • Pitchfork placed “Metal Guru” at 154 on their best 200 songs of the 1970s (more about that later) — read what they had to say about it here.
  • Our last episode highlighted a band whose method was music first, then lyrics. With Marc Bolan, the lyrics came first, then the music. When met with criticism that T. Rex’s music was often repetitive or formulaic in composition, Bolan explained that this was intentional: the music needed to remain simple to let his complex lyrics shine.
  • “The Slider” definitely references drugs, definitely has exaggerated coke sniffing lines, and allusions to growing pot. Just @ us if you think we’re wrong, but it screams “Hm, do you get high? Do you? I don’t know, why don’t you tell us more.”
  • Marc Bolan’s lyrics are bonkers poetry and we absolutely love them. Just read “Baby Boomerang” and see for yourself.
    • The songs were mostly nonsense, but rather than sounding like gibberish, Bolan seemed to be speaking in an alien code that, to this today, we’re still not cool enough to decode.” — Pitchfork, getting something right in their deeply flawed (our opinion) 200 Best Songs of the 1970s list.
    • The Shins covered “Baby Boomerang” in 2004 and you should definitely give it a listen.
  • Anyway, here’s “Spaceball Ricochet.”
    • Part of punk rock’s merits was that it heralded in a greater acceptance of songs that weren’t joyous or pompous, rather, songs that were real, songs that were honest about insecurities in their lyrics and weren’t pretending to be cool. We think “Spaceball Ricochet” stands as a precursor to the genre; we’d love to know your thoughts on this hypothesis.
  • Listen to “Buick McCane.” Then listen to the Black Keys. (They’re both in our playlist; and, actually, it’s been noticed more than once that they wrote a song that is basically “Mambo Sun,” so.) Let us know if you think they could totally kill a T. Rex cover.
  • “Telegram Sam” is about Marc Bolan’s accountant, not his drug dealer. Sorry.
  • Can anyone tell us what “Rabbit Fighter” is about? Because we are truly stumped.
  • If “Ballrooms of Mars” sounds like a very Bowie-esque title (and song), don’t be surprised— Bowie and Bolan were bros.

Favorite track(s): Telegram Sam and Ballrooms Of Mars (Carly) | Metal Guru (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Rabbit Fighter (Carly) | Rabbit Fighter (Carrie)

Album credits:
Marc Bolan – vocals, guitar
Steve Currie – bass guitar
Mickey Finn – percussion, vocals
Bill Legend – drums
Mark Volman (“Flo”) – background vocals
Howard Kaylan (“Eddie”) – background vocals
Tony Visconti – production, sleeve photography, string arrangements
Ringo Starr – sleeve photography
Dominique Blanc Francard – engineering
Freddy Hansson – engineering
David Katz – orchestra contractor
Andy Scott – engineering assistance
Mark Paytress – liner notes
Chris Welch – liner notes

Further watching:
T. Rex – Get It On (Bang a Gong) on Top of the Pops | 1971 (Note: Bolan wears glitter under his eyes in a move that many music historians credit as the ushering in of glam rock)
T. Rex in Concert – Wembley | March 1972
Marc Bolan-Russell Harty interview | 1972

Further reading:
The Slider reissue review | Consequence of Sound (October 2010)
The Slider reissue review | Pop Matters (December 2010)
The Slider box set review | The Quietus (December 2012
The 10 Best T. Rex songs | Stereogum (June 2013)
Revisiting a Glam Milestone, T. Rex’s The Slider | Ultimate Classic Rock (July 2012)
The T. Rex Wax Co. Singles review | Pitchfork (January 2006)