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Digging for Treasure: Jobriath, the First Openly Gay Rock Star

"He's the only one who doesn't know that sexual fulfilment is the banana life dangles in front of us just to keep us running." - Cole Berlin, aka Bruce Wayne Campbell, in reference to his alter-ego Jobriath.

Caption: Bianca Jagger, Andy Warhol and Jobriath, staring straight into your soul. (via ReplicaLosAngeles.com)


Raise your hand if the 1998 movie Velvet Goldmine significantly influenced your sexual awakening.


Now raise your hand if you knew the character Brian Slade wasn’t just a nod to David Bowie, but to Jobriath, the larger than life (and self-proclaimed) “True Fairy of Rock & Roll.”


Yeah, us either. But when we stumbled across a copy of Creatures of the Street, Jobriath’s 1974 sophomore album, we were mesmerized by the messy, theatrical collection of tracks.


While many of the songs stand up just fine on their own, listening to the album front-to-back feels like the beginnings of an ambitious rock opera - the musical equivalent of Michaelangelo’s “Prisoner” sculptures. Powerful and arresting, but only because of the potential their unfinished state only hints at.

Via Last.fm images by bluedirts and Bullsik.


Which sums up Jobriath quite well, really.


In retrospect, his life looks like a series of unfinished vignettes, each act dominated by a new persona, a new life, a new fantasy. As Kieran Tuner, director of 2012’s documentary Jobriath A.D., said,

“Every time he went through a different—for lack of a better word—phase, he would drop the people surrounding him and take up with a whole bunch of new ones. If you ask me do I feel like I got to know the real Jobriath, I don’t think anybody got to know the real Jobriath—so why would I have the pleasure?”

There’s much to be said about Jobriath’s career - this piece from Marianne Moro does a great job covering the most important bits - but his most significant contribution is undoubtedly the unapologetic and very public declaration of his homosexuality. He rarely made an appearance or gave an interview without reminding everyone in the room that he was the “TRUE Fairy of Rock & Roll,” no doubt a dig at the glam superstars of the time who were happy to leverage sexual ambiguity and androgyny to sell records, but never had to actually live the life of a gay man in the 1970s.


It was this outspokenness, alongside a marketing plan built on his manager’s overhype and overconfidence, that ultimately tanked Jobriath’s career before it really even started. Even in the age of Marc Bolan, Lou Reed and David Bowie - and despite Jobriath signing the largest record deal in history at the time - being openly gay was too tough of a sell. By 1975, Jobriath was no longer, reinvented instead as Cole Berlin, a NYC lounge singer living in the infamous pyramid penthouse atop the Chelsea Hotel.


A true gay icon, Jobriath deserves a spot in the queer pantheon, and as such, we’ve packaged Creatures of the Street with two other essential queer albums: Judy Garland’s A Star is Born, and Love Is a Drag (for Adult Listeners Only), a reissue of the groundbreaking 1960 underground album.


Experience Jobriath, and more amazing artists through the SOUNDBOX LOVE ME QUEERLY Mini Box Set.

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