On April 21st, Jobriath A.D., Kieran Turner’s incredible 2012 documentary on the life of glam rock casualty and gay icon Jobriath, will be released on DVD, paired with an LP’s worth of previously unreleased recordings. One of the cool bonuses on the DVD is a short film of a 1971 Jobriath studio session with a bunch of celebrities—before they were famous—and Dangerous Minds has scored an excerpt for your viewing pleasure. But first, some background for the uninitiated.
Jobriath Boone is a fascinating and tragic figure. His story is one that seems torn from the pages of a Hollywood screenplay. Jobriath’s 1973 debut LP (released by Elektra Records) was a showcase for an intriguing talent—one that mixed classical, pop, Broadway musicals, and good ol’ rock-n-roll—but it went virtually unheard. Jobriath was preceded by incredible hype, with much of the publicity focused on his homosexuality. Jobriath was actually the first rock performer to out himself (David Bowie and Lou Reed merely danced around the issue), but there was a backlash to the hard sell of this “true fairy,” with critics and the public soundly rejecting him. After a second record, 1974’s Creatures Of The Street, also bombed, Jobriath was dropped by Elektra and promptly vanished from the music scene. A few years later, he re-invented himself as the classy lounge singer Cole Berlin, performing in New York City piano bars; he took requests, but refused to play his old songs. Just as this new persona was gaining momentum, Jobriath was diagnosed HIV positive. He died of AIDS in 1983 at age 36, his body found in the pyramid-shaped apartment he resided in atop the Chelsea Hotel.
So, this is a sad saga, yes, a cautionary tale on the perils of fame and what can happen to those that break ground before the world is ready. But it’s also an account of a talented artist lost through the cracks of time that has been waiting to be told for decades. Kieran Turner does an incredible job of finally telling his story and does so in a definitive manner. Interviews with fans and many of the people who populated Jobriath’s personal and professional universe are interspersed with photos, footage, and even a few nicely done animated sequences, resulting in a compelling and well-rounded documentary that does his legend proud. And Jobriath is a legend—you may not know it yet, but you will after watching Jobriath A.D..
The demos and rehearsal tapes for his musical Popstar make up the contents of the previously unreleased LP. Though some elements of the musical were lost, it’s a gift to be able to hear any previously unreleased Jobriath tunes, and these recordings are the most intimate to emerge to date. It’s obvious that Popstar was based on his own brush with fame, and the re-writing of the facts was likely a form of therapy for Jobriath. Unfortunately, Popstar, like his later show, Sunday Brunch, wasn’t produced.
The 1971 session for a Jobriath song called “As The River Flows” took place the evening of August 24th at Electric Lady Studios in New York (with producer/engineer extraordinaire Eddie Kramer behind the board). In the film of the session, Jobriath can be seen directing a chorus of singers through the paces of the track. This chorus was largely comprised of Jobriath’s friends and cast mates in the musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair, including future disco queen Vicki Sue Robinson (“Turn The Beat Around”) and everyone’s soon-to-be favorite bartender, Issac, a/k/a Ted Lange from The Love Boat. But the biggest star on the horizon there that night was Richard Gere, who was brought along by Robinson. “As The River Flows” was placed on Jobriath’s 1972 demo tape, but the song remained unavailable to the general public until last year, when it was included as the title track of a compilation of Jobriath outtakes. Jobriath looks positively ecstatic in the film of the session, which, aside from a few brief segments in the documentary, hasn’t been seen since. Our preview of this charming short can be seen below.
Check out the Jobriath A.D. trailer and pre-order the DVD/LP set here, or get it on Amazon.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Lonely Planet Boy: An interview with ‘Jobriath A.D.’ director Kieran Turner