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!
  • 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)

Episode 3.1: Eli and the Thirteenth Confession

laura-nyro-eli-and-the-thirteenth-confession

Eli and the Thirteenth Confession – Laura Nyro – Columbia – 1968

The source of inspiration for her peers and generations of songwriters to come, Bronx-born Laura Nyro has a legacy that has only grown in legend and mysticism since her untimely death in the early ‘90s. Lauded by Carole King, likened to Joni Mitchell, and emulated by some of today’s cleverest singer-songwriters, her style was singular, speaking of and to the female experience in a way that was at once specific and universal, relatable and abstract.

In this episode, we comb through her 1968 album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, a collection of songs so rife with evocative imagery and sense of self that it brought up many of our own memories, connections to our own experiences as young women in 2018, and of course, musical earworms. For a 50-year-old album recorded and produced by a 20-year-old girl, this prodigious record still remains astonishingly relevant.

Listen to Eli and the Thirteenth Confession: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Hello, and welcome to a new season of the pod! Literally nothing has changed; we’re just calling it a new season because we took a break (because we are our own bosses who determine when and why we go on hiatus and when and why we come back!)
  • Some things we mentioned to check out:
    • The Rock & Roll Explorer Guide to New York City is a dope book if you’re into New York and music and history and where they all intersect and want to know where everything happened. We were pleased to moderate the discussion for the book’s launch at Rough Trade this week.
    • ‘80s Redux is a dope book if you’re into music and the ‘80s and photography of cool people doing cool things.
  • So, uh, more than a year into this pod and this is the first time we’ve actually covered a ‘60s album. Can you believe?
  • We’re gonna talk about this a lot because we’re so shook by it, but something to keep in mind during this whole thing: Laura Nyro was just 20 when this was made. TWENTY.
  • Lol here we are again debating an album’s season.
    • Is Eli and the Thirteenth Confession a fall? Or a summer?
    • Do other normal people classify music like this?
  • Don’t forget to hit up and follow our master playlist on Spotify to hear all these songs, the covers that actually made money, and more!
  • “YES, WE KNOW.” — all of you when Carrie says she hates flutes
  • See our further watching links below to see the debut of “Poverty Train” at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Cry your eyes out when you hear they were yelling “beautiful” at her, knowing she spent her whole life since thinking they were booing.
  • Evergreen Take: “Dated” doesn’t always necessarily mean bad or unenjoyable.
  • “Lonely Women” clearly created a divide in interpretation between the two of us. Slide into our DMs or email us to let you know what you think. It’s complicated and we’re interested.
  • In case you missed it, this album is feminist as hell, and it’s fascinating and surprising to see how much of it translates to today.
  • See our further reading links below for some more info about Laura Nyro’s relationship with Maria Desidero, who may or may not have been the inspiration for “Timer” and “Emmie.”
  • We definitely have very specific wishes of songs that we’d want other bands or artists to cover — so specific we can hear how they’d sound in our brains — that will likely never, ever happen. Message us to find out / Please tell us if you’ve done this too so we don’t feel too weird.
  • Don’t listen to “December’s Boudoir” unless you’re ready to get the Sunday Sads.
  • Talk to us about anything and everything ~feminism~ we covered re: “The Confession” — i.e. second wave feminism vs. fourth wave, “as a father of daughters…” — ANYTHING! We love to talk about this stuff.

Favorite track(s): Luckie and Timer (Carly) | Eli’s Comin’ and Stoned Soul Picnic (Carrie)
Least favorite track: December’s Boudoir (Carly) | December’s Boudoir (Carrie)

Album credits:

  • Laura Nyro — piano, vocal, harmonies, “witness to the confession”
  • Ralph Casale — acoustic guitar
  • Chet Amsterdam — acoustic guitar, bass
  • Hugh McCracken — electric guitar
  • Chuck Rainey — bass
  • Artie Schroeck — drums, vibes
  • Buddy Saltzman — drums
  • Dave Carey — percussion
  • Bernie Glow, Pat Calello, Ernie Royal — trumpet
  • George Young, Zoot Sims — saxophone
  • Wayne Andre, Jimmy Cleveland, Ray DeSio — trombone
  • Joe Farrell — saxophone, flute
  • Paul Griffin — piano on “Eli’s Comin'” and “Once It Was Alright Now (Farmer Joe)”

Further watching:
Laura Nyro in the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame | 2014
Laura Nyro’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction | 2012
Alice Cooper discusses his love for Laura Nyro (ed note: OH MY GOD) | 2011
“Poverty Train” at the Monterey Pop Festival (with current intro from D.A. Pennebaker, Michelle Phillips, and Lou Adler) | 1967

Further reading: 
Laura Nyro remembered: “A musical force of nature” | Uncut (June 2017)
Laura Nyro’s Lasting, Eclectic Musical Legacy | NPR (December 2011)
Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, Maria Desiderio | Rabdrake Blog (October 2009)
An Enigma Wrapped in Songs | The New York Times (October 1997)
Laura Nyro’s legacy of passion | Entertainment Weekly (April 1997)