Morrissey and Jobriath: Telegraph 01/04/2020

Lots of interesting Morrissey mentions here: the career and sad early demise of Jobriath, and Morrissey's own personal link to his story. Pasted in full as it's behind a paywall.

David Bowie's arch enemy: the sad, strange saga of Jobriath - The Telegraph
Bowie and Bolan stole his act, and his manager thought he could be bigger than Elvis. Then why did “rock’s truest fairy” die in obscurity?

By Ed Power 1 April 2020 • 10:44am


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Jobriath performing on the TV show MIdnight Special, in 1974 Credit: getty

Early in 1992, Morrissey set about organising a tour in support of his latest solo record, Your Arsenal. The album was something of a departure for the singer. Morrissey’s instantly familiar vocals– a cockatoo trill pulsating with heartache, repressed anger and end-of-pier innuendo – were for the first time called to do battle with squalls of rockabilly guitar.

The gladiola-flourishing indie icon had vacated the student disco for a brave new world splashed in testosterone and cheap aftershave. And amid the tumult the most revealing moments on Your Arsenal were those where Moz paid tribute to the stomping glam-rockers of the Seventies. As critics were quick to point out, David Bowie and Marc Bolan were the obvious references here. Morrissey was all but shouting these influences from the rooftops on larking cuts such as Glamorous Glue and We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful.

Nobody noticed it at the time but there was, however, another artist to whom the pop’s great outsider, who has just released a clattering 13th long player, I Am Not A Dog on a Chain, was doffing cap. A rock’n roll casualty who could very well have been the subject matter of bittersweet single I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday.
“You say that the day /just never arrives ,” Morrissey croons. “And it’s never seemed so far away/ still I know it’s going to happen someday / to you.”
Of course it never did happen for Jobriath, the extra-terrestrial pop casualty who had manifested in New York in 1973, like a feverish Times Square take on Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. And who, after a few outrageous years, vanished without trace.

Morrissey was in 1993 fast becoming the Quentin Tarantino of rock (and this before Quentin Tarantino was fully the Quentin Tarantino of filmmakers). Just as Tarantino would gain renown for reviving the careers of actors in a tail-spin so Morrissey loved to champion obscure or forgotten acts.

Sandie Shaw, the New York Dolls, even Oscar Wilde, had all been introduced to new audiences by Morrissey. He was eager to similarly bestow his imprimatur upon Jobriath. To that end he had resolved to offer him the support slot on the Your Arsenal tour.

Jobriath going on the road with Morrissey was almost too perfect. Moz’s run of dates began on July 7 in France. Twenty years earlier, Jobriath had been primed to explode upon the world stage with a residency at the Paris Opera House. He was to have climbed a phallic recreation of the Eiffel Tower while dressed as King Kong before “morphing” into Marlene Dietrich. Alas, the money ran out long before Paris and with it Jobriath’s career. Morrissey’s plan was to bring him back to France, where he could finally keep that date with destiny. And so he set about making inquiries.


His first discovery was that, after Jobriath, the singer born Bruce Wayne Campbell in 1946, had taken on new persona. He’d ditched the Bowie trappings and transformed into raffish cabaret entertainer Cole Berlin – named in tribute to Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.

In that guise he had rented the bizarre split-level “pyramid apartment” that stood atop the roof of the Chelsea Hotel on the fringes of Midtown Manhattan. He had even appeared in a 1981 BBC One documentary about the hotel. In it he played the theme song from an unproduced play called “Sunday Brunch”.
You can watch it on YouTube and it really is something. Imagine being biffed across the back of the head with the collected works of PG Wodehouse while listening to a Noel Coward audiobook with the volume set slightly to high. It’s like that, only more disturbing.

Jobriath, wearing a tight-fitting t-shirt with a slash across the centre, also described to the BBC the “incredible flashes of creativity” he experienced living in a residence that looked out over the Empire State Building. And it must genuinely have felt like heaven, especially to Jobriath. Just a few years previously, before Cole Berlin, he’d been reduced to turning tricks as a male prostitute in Time’s Square in order to make rent.

It was also the apartment, Morrissey learnt, where Jobriath died from Aids in August 1983, just as The Smiths were becoming stars. His body laid undiscovered for four days. One story is that he was found slumped over his grand piano. Another has it that the smell was so bad one of the three NYPD officers who kicked in the door immediately turned away and threw up.
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Jobriath, circa 1970 Credit: getty

Pop at its essence is a story of winners and losers. David Bowie also died in Manhattan, in 2016. When he did the world mourned an icon. It is possible, just about, to imagine for Jobriath a Bowie-esque trajectory where his early dalliances with gender-fluid glam transitioned into art-pop. And later, to continue the Bowie analogy, world-conquering Mondeo Man funk.

Yet this is a tale that fizzled out almost before it began and seemingly without a legacy. Or so it appeared for many decades. In recent years, though, the cult of Jobriath has taken root. There is Morrissey, who in 2004 oversaw the first CD release of Jobriath material, the compilation Lonely Planet Boy. Other fans include Marc Almond, Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters, Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields and Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, who covered Jobriath’s Heartbeat on the Sheffield headbanger’s 2006 tribute collection Yeah!

“Bowie and Marc Bolan had it easy,” Lisa Fancher, founder of Los Angeles punk label Frontier Records, would tell rock journalist Mark Spitz in his 2001 oral history, We Got The Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of LA Punk (Jobriath came up in the LA avant-garde scene before moving to New York.

“Jobriath was the real thing. He really was gay,” she said. “He wasn’t just wearing the clothes. When English glam started gathering steam, Elektra Records signed him for about $300,000 which was a lot of money in those days. Jobriath had some kind of career in New York but he started out in Los Angeles. He was a fabulous dancer and singer who wrote his own material.”


Jobriath hated the Bowie comparisons. And he did his best to wage a feud against Ziggy Stardust’s alter-ego by calling out the future Thin White Duke’s flirtations with androgyny as a sham. In an instantly notorious 1973 interview with Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine the singer took the gloves off in describing himself as “rock’s truest fairy”.

This was interpreted as a dig at Bowie, Bolan and glam’s other glitter-boys. They flirted with gay iconography without ever fully going there. Jobriath, by contrast, was in all the way. He was also, by the time of the fairy interview, under the wing of svengali Jerry Brandt, who had discovered Carly Simon and was the first promoter to bring the Rolling Stones to America.

Brandt, described by contemporaries as “handsome in a reptilian way”, likened his relationship with Jobriath to that between Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis. As manager, he certainly aimed high. One of his first acts upon taking the reins of Jobriath’s career was to boast of talking Elektra Records into a $500,000 record deal (the true figure was closer to $30,000). He also plastered Manhattan in posters for the singer’s forthcoming debut album.

These included a 41’ by 43’ billboard in Times Square, portraying Jobriath as a broken (and nude) Roman statue crawling across the ground, bare-buttocks shimmering for all to see. Above, the words “Jerry Brandt Presents” were almost as big as those spelling Jobriath. “Jerry had all the right intentions and on paper, his plan seems audacious and risky and exciting,” says Kieran Turner, director of the acclaimed and very moving 2012 documentary about the singer, Jobriath A.D.

“But Jerry was a straight man who I think by the time he met Jobriath was middle-aged and about a half a decade behind what was happening. He approached the marketing of Jobriath academically. And that's the only time you'll ever see that word associated with Jerry. He did things from his gut.”

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Jobriath performing on Midnight Special Credit: getty

“I don't think anything Jerry Brandt did to promote Jobriath was a positive,” Turner continues. “At least at the time. Now, however, it's become part of legend and some of it's true and some of it's bull___t.

“And it amazes me that after I created something which has set the record straight… people are STILL printing the legend. I cannot tell you how many people have written about Jobriath since the film came out and they still cite the half a million dollar contract, et al. And I think – well, maybe they didn't see the movie… but several of them cite the doc. So I wonder if anyone has an attention span these days.”

Brandt hyped his client as a natural born star. A favourite catchphrase was: “Elvis, the Beatles, and Jobriath”. Jobriath appeared to agree with this assessment and to believe his early life had forged him for greatness. He’d grown up in an unstable home in the fantastically named town of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, raised by an attention-seeking mother who worshipped but also tried to control her son.

She was also completely denial about his homosexuality. A friend once suggested her beloved Bruce might not be the type to bring a nice girl home. She refused to talk to the other woman for years. He’d been close to his mother but found her suffocating. Desperate to escape he joined the army, only to go AWOL within a few weeks of enlisting. Fearing he would be arrested for desertion he changed his name to a compound of Biblical bad-boys Job and Goliath.

Fleeing to LA “Jobriath Salisbury” blagged his way into a starring role as gay teenager Woof in the clothing-optional hippy musical Hair, running at the Aquarius Theatre on Sunset Boulevard. On the side he fronted the psychedelic folk band Pidgeon. The latter was an outlet for his astonishing musical skills, in particular the virtuosic classic piano style he had honed playing organ in his local church.

Success was coming relatively easily to the former Bruce Campbell. Still the demons were not so easily assuaged and he fought a running battle with alcoholism. The military also caught up with him, at which point he had a breakdown and was consigned for several weeks to an army psychiatric facility.


“I was floating down in the gutter,” he said of that period. “I didn’t eat. I just drank beer all the time. With no money, I hustled for booze and drugs.”
Hair closed in LA in 1971. Jobriath was immediately offered the part of Woof on Broadway. In New York his Jobriath demos found their way to Brandt. The impresario was convinced he was had stumbled upon a superstar, with the potential to be bigger than Carly Simon.

The problem was that Jobriath felt he should be huge immediately. Even Bowie and Queen, with whom Jobriath had a lot in common musically, had played their dues. They had slogged for years in smelly, smokey clubs, honing both their image and their sound. Jobriath, egged on by Brandt, expected to be an overnight superstar.

“Did he want to be successful? Absolutely,” says Kieran Turner. “No artist wants to toil in obscurity and failure. I'm not sure he would have handled success any better than he handled failure, though. If you're asking if he was driven to be successful to “prove something” to his mother or his family, I actually don't know. It's easy to say yes, because that's such a cliche . I just don't know how much his mother's approval drove what he did professionally. He definitely wanted her approval and love, but I'm not certain how hard he worked to thaw that iceberg, so to speak.”

As a songwriter he threw everything into the pot. He was clearly operating on the same frequency as Freddie Mercury circa Bohemian Rhapsody. To modern ears, songs like I’maman and Rock Of Ages also carry resonances of contemporary artists such as Of Montreal, Antony and the Johnsons and John Grant.
Those acts are beloved by their fans but they will never headline arenas. Jobriath’s downfall may have been that he was determined to be a mainstream star rather than a cult one.

He learned just how daunting a feat that would be when his self-titled debut album was released in June 1973. It featured a guest appearance by future Bowie collaborator Peter Frampton. There was also a striking sleeve shot by Shig Ikeda, who would go on to photograph Blondie for the cover of their 1976 first record.

“Jobriath” wasn’t universally condemned. But reviews were spectacularly mixed. Rolling Stone hailed him “the most promising thing in pop”. The New York Times, by contrast, described Jobriath as a “pop parody”. “Jobriath…writes about “space clowns,” “earthlings,” and “morning starships”,” continued the review. “The results can only be described as dismal”.

If critical opinions different, it was obvious that in the homophobic world of mainstream America rock, a self-proclaimed “fairy” with a rumoured $500,000 record deal was never going to be embraced. Evasive action was called for. And so, in January 1974, Brandt secured a national television performance through his then-girlfriend, a booker on the influential Midnight Special music show.

Finally here it was: Jobriath’s moment to blind the world with his fabulousness. In the Hollywood version of his life, Midnight Special would have been for Jobriath the equivalent of Bowie belting out Starman on Top of the Pops in July 1972. Bowie ascended to stardom the moment he threw his arm around guitarist Mick Ronson on BBC Two, his red cockatoo quiff seemingly possessing a will of its own.

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Jobriath performing on Midnight Special Credit: nbc

Alas, for Jobriath everything went wrong. Under the withering studio lights his costumes looked tacky and taped-together. He went on stage straight from a furious backstage row when Midnight Special’s producers objected to the sadomasochist overtones of Take Me I’m Yours. He agreed to perform the more generic Rock of Ages in its place, along with his single I’maman.

He was introduced by Gladys Knight. She had clearly never heard of this huge new star and mispronounced Jobriath. Both tracks were received in hostile silence by the crowd.

“The ballet steps and bod-stocking were camper than Ziggy and too Broadway for rock, too rock for Broadway,” writes Martin Aston in 2016’s Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache: A History of How Music Came Out. “Both Brandt and Elektra dropped Jobriath like a hot stone.”

Midnight Special was the moment the bell truly tolled for Jobriath. Brandt quit shortly afterwards. He doesn’t even mention Jobriath in his autobiography. The singer soldiered on with a second album, 1974’s Creatures of the Street. Cobbled together from unreleased material from the original “Jobriath” sessions it likewise flopped.
He hoped against hope through this period that the gay community might support him as a groundbreaker and innovator. Instead he was shunned.

“As a gay man who came of age in the Nineties, I was very puzzled by why the openly gay rock star/true fairy thing didn't work with at least one audience – the gay audience,” says Kieran Turner. “And that was probably the biggest question I had going into this whole thing. Why didn't the gay community, four years post-Stonewall, cheer this guy on and go crazy over him? He was handsome, he was young, he was sexy and he was saying and doing what they had just fought for.

“And the answer I got from a lot of gay men who were around back then, some of whom remembered Jobriath, some who didn't, was that gay men in 1973 hated flamboyance, they hated effeminate behaviour. They wanted hyper macho guys. And this really surprised me. It completely made sense as to why Jobriath failed with that demographic, but I found it fascinating and somewhat disappointing to hear it.

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The cover of Jobriath's album Creatures of the Street

“And this is why Jerry blew it? How would he have known this? He wasn't part of the community. I suppose Jobriath could have spoken up, but my guess is he went along with it because who wouldn't? Jerry was a salesman. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, but he definitely sold Jobriath on JOBRIATH.”

With the jig long since up the singer’s behaviour turned ever more erratic. He lashed out at bandmates and grew increasingly isolated. Brandt, fleeing the scene, described his former client as schizophrenic. Jobriath would soon shed his identity and move back home to King of Prussia, plain, unglamorous Bruce Wayne Campbell once more.

“Jobriath committed suicide in a drug, alcohol and publicity overdose," he said in a 1979 interview with US magazine Omega One, speaking of his previous persona as if he were another individual. “The whole hype just drove him crazy. His lifestyle was hotel suites and limousines, and enough drugs to get him from one to another. He struck back by disappearing into thin air. Jobriath is dead, and he had a reason for being. He was a vaccination for the rest of us.”

And so it would remain until Morrissey stumbled upon his music and decided to make a cause of the pop’s lost boy.

“He likes lost causes. Jobriath is somebody that Morrissey can possess completely,” Morrissey biographer Mark Simpson said in 2004, when the new Moz-approved compilation was released. “ There aren't many Jobriath fans around, so he can appoint himself as the secretary of his metaphorical fan club. Morrissey has always been interested in people who have fallen off the edge of the world – and Jobriath certainly has."

Yet Moz is a conspicuous absence from Turner’s movie. “All I can say is I tried, more than twice,” says Turner. “And I was told nicely to stop trying. And all my messages and requests got to Morrissey because the Moz Universe actually wanted him to participate. I got adopted by them early on and they were very keen to help. And they knew where he was nearly every minute of the day. It was a little scary.

“I did roll my eyes when I'd read a review that questioned why I wouldn't have Morrissey in the movie, as if it had never occurred to me. I'm pretty sure you can't watch this movie and come away with the impression that I was lazy or not thorough in my research and who I spoke to. I put private detectives on some people I was trying to find.

“At the end of the day, I didn't need him. It would have been great to have him, but Jobriath's story is such that it's all you need. And I remain ever grateful to Morrissey because if it wasn't for him putting out the compilation, I would have never heard Jobriath's music, which sparked the desire to make the doc. So thank you, Morrissey.”

This piece is part of Behind the Music – a weekly series celebrating music's untold stories, from band-splitting feuds to the greatest performances of all time
 
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Comments

joe frady

Vile Refusenik
Thank You for posting P. :tiphat:

í will get around to reading, as í love Jobriath. Unlike most Moz anointees, he is a true smasher. But í shall have to steel myself to get beyond 1st paragraph shite like "cockatoo trill pulsating with heartache"...

What the actual fuck does that even mean?

As í zoomed through though, í did spy a line from Bruce Wayne Campbell himself ~
"Jobriath was a vaccination for the rest of us".

í like that.

.
 

Peppermint

Well-Known Member
Thank You for posting P. :tiphat:

í will get around to reading, as í love Jobriath. Unlike most Moz anointees, he is a true smasher. But í shall have to steel myself to get beyond 1st paragraph shite like "cockatoo trill pulsating with heartache"...

What the actual fuck does that even mean?

As í zoomed through though, í did spy a line from Bruce Wayne Campbell himself ~
"Jobriath was a vaccination for the rest of us".

í like that.

.
You're welcome, Joe. Actually, I rather liked the '[cockatoo trill] pulsating with heartache, repressed anger and end-of-pier innuendo'... I guess one person's shit metaphor is another person's amusing insight :lbf:
 

notawoman

Member
Jobriath’s downfall may have been that he was determined to be a mainstream star rather than a cult one.
I wonder if this could also apply to Moz?
 

Bluebirds

Well-Known Member
Fascinating. Thanks for posting
 

joe frady

Vile Refusenik
You're welcome, Joe. Actually, I rather liked the '[cockatoo trill] pulsating with heartache, repressed anger and end-of-pier innuendo'... I guess one person's shit metaphor is another person's amusing insight :lbf:
Which rather explains Morrissey's entire career ;)

.
 
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Mayfly

Well-Known Member
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece.
Just one question: Has anyone seen that movie or doc by Turner mentioned in the article? Is it on YouTube.
 

gashonthenail

Well-Known Member
The sexual ambiguity of Bowie and Bolan - and Morrissey, back in the day - was what I loved most about them. Ambiguity is the essence of art. Who wants reality and 'real life'? The public persona is all a role-play anyway, a mask. Bowie understood that to a T.
 

Thewlis

Junior Member
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece.
Just one question: Has anyone seen that movie or doc by Turner mentioned in the article? Is it on YouTube.
Yes, saw it in the cinema at the time. Amazing documentary! You can I think watch it online:
 

notawoman

Member
Morrissey is either or, take your pick ... hot woman ......
Ok, my pick. For sure he is a -sometimes blindly loved- global cult star. It´s kind of bizarre that he is longing to be a massive mainstream act (his chart obsession), but by deliberately ignoring or violating the rules of the business. On the other hand he wouldn´t be that massive cult star if he followed those mainstream rules.
 

Nerak

Reverse Ferret
Ok, my pick. For sure he is a -sometimes blindly loved- global cult star. It´s kind of bizarre that he is longing to be a massive mainstream act (his chart obsession), but by deliberately ignoring or violating the rules of the business. On the other hand he wouldn´t be that massive cult star if he followed those mainstream rules.
I think he's longing for the mainstream to change so you don't have to be mindlessly positive, do all the publicity rounds, team up with other brands, create bullshit legends, sell a version of your private life or a highly curated persona & get awards purely because your record company is using its clout & money to get them.

But in trying, despising it & failing he's building up a fairly impressive archive that can be mined, shaped & sold when he's gone & can't disrupt it.

I think he knows that.

He probably didn't understand just how violent Twitter hate is, but he seems to be adjusting after looking shell shocked.
 

notawoman

Member
I think he's longing for the mainstream to change so you don't have to be mindlessly positive, do all the publicity rounds, team up with other brands, create bullshit legends, sell a version of your private life or a highly curated persona & get awards purely because your record company is using its clout & money to get them.

But in trying, despising it & failing he's building up a fairly impressive archive that can be mined, shaped & sold when he's gone & can't disrupt it.

I think he knows that.
:thumb: Famous when dead.
 
S

Stve

Guest
The only people who should be interested in authenticity are antique dealers. Pop music is about artifice, fakery and dressing up. Jobriath's music and creativity can't hold a candle to Bowie's - even if some claim 'he got there first'.
 

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