Recordings | March 26, 2015

By Cait Brennan, March 26, 2015.


Jobriath A.D.

Factory 25 | 

Jobriath’s list of firsts is inspirational and heartbreaking – he was the first openly gay rocker ever signed to a major label, back in 1973. And 10 years later, he was the first rock star to die of AIDS complications, alone and forgotten. With heavy-hitting celebrity fans like Pet Shop Boys, Morrissey and Def Leppard, though, the controversial, maddening, pioneering artist’s legacy simply couldn’t remain lost to cruel history.

At the height of the glam era, Jobriath and his powerful manager, Jerry Brandt, took dead aim at David Bowie’s cagey, contradictory statements about his sexuality. Bowie’s gay drag came on and off more often than a prom queen’s promise ring, but Jobriath dared to declare himself “rock’s true fairy,” and Brandt’s bombastic hype machine practically anointed Jobriath as the second coming. The resulting backlash sunk his critically lauded debut album, and drove Jobriath from the business.

His saga is chronicled in director Kiernan Turner’s documentary Jobriath A.D., which is out now on DVD with a new album of never-before released material from Jobriath’s audacious, provocative (and ultimately cancelled) stage musical, Popstar. With orchestration from the London Symphony, slated for the Paris Opera House, Popstar sounds like it would’ve been a Gaga-esque dream; Jobriath announced he’d appear dressed as “King Kong being projected upwards on a mini Empire State Building. This will turn into a giant spurting penis and I will have transformed into Marlene Dietrich.” Alas, that’s a spectacle we’ll never see, but the 14 tracks here help show what might have been. Popstar isn’t the perfect introduction to Jobriath – pick up the Lonely Planet Boy compilation for that one – but along with Turner’s loving documentary, it’s a marvelous addition to his legacy.

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