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 

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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!
  • VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION: Is Richard Gere a zaddy!?
    • Ya we know, totally random that he was at the recording sessions for this album but, hey, the ‘70s.
    • If you are like “tf is a zaddy…” please pause what you’re doing and take a look at our updated glossary page. We’ll wait.
  • 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 af.
  • 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
  • Shoutout to songs that have shoutouts to other people and influences — we love a good fangirl/fanboy moment!!!
    • ICYMI here’s our Tom Tom Club episode we dropped a silly reference to.
    • @ drag queens: seriously consider doing “Movie Queen” in your act. You’re welcome!
    • More info about Jobriath’s alter ego Cole Berlin in our further reading notes below.
  • “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)

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Emphasizing musicians’ gender is an increasingly debatable practice. After all, “female” isn’t a genre. Still, though, we here at ’77 Music Club believe that women have made incredible contributions to music that, for too long, have lingered in the shadows of their male peers. We’ve strived to have a hand in the telling of musical stories from a different perspective in all of our episodes; often, that means gravitating towards telling stories about other women.

Earlier this year, we celebrated International Women’s Day with an excessively long Twitter thread lauding some of our many favorite women who have made (and continue to make) music that has shaped our world. Today, we’re back to soundtrack IWD’s sister holiday, International Day of the Girl. We rounded up our favorite episodes featuring women who have challenged the status quo and let the world know that you don’t need to be a generic white dude to make some goddamn great music. These women have inspired countless girls to pick up guitars or basses or microphones and speak their truths. Tune in, turn it up, and join our musical girl gang. If we get enough people, we’re getting jackets.

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