Jobriath's hyped debut albumBefore there was Lana Del Rey, there was Jobriath, the original cautionary tale of how too much hype, too soon, can derail a promising young musician's career. Back in the early '70s, singer-songwriter turned glam-rock "True Fairy of Rock & Roll" Jobriath was supposed to be The Next Big Thing, but that sadly never happened. Instead, Jobriath ended up dying alone in obscurity, of AIDS, a decade later at New York's Chelsea Hotel. He was only 37. And until recently, he was known mainly for being one of the biggest commercial failures in music business history.
The downfall of Jobriath certainly had nothing to do with his talent. The fact that he was the first openly gay rock star probably had something to do with his failure to connect with the record-buying masses, but even more so, it was the obnoxious and aggressive hype-mongering of his brash, Colonel Parker-style manager, impresario and Carly Simon associate Jerry Brandt, that likely did him in. Jerry plastered Jobriath's garish, nearly-naked likeness on thousands of city buses and talked him up to the media as the second coming of Elvis and the Beatles combined, before anyone had heard a single note of Jobriath's (actually excellent) music, and this unfortunately turned off many potential fans and even much of the gay community. The backlash against Jobriath was swift and vicious, even in that pre-Internet, pre-Twitter, pre-Lana age.
'Jobriath A.D.' premieres March 29 in LondonOver the past quarter-century, however, Jobriath's music has experienced an underground resurgence. Acts as diverse as the Pet Shop Boys, Gary Numan, Def Leppard's Joe Elliot, and Siouxsie Sioux have cited him as an influence, and Morrissey is perhaps Jobriath's most prominent celebrity fan. After learning of Jobriath's 1983 death while seeking out the reclusive star to offer him an opening slot on a 1990s tour, Moz labored to get Jobriath's two out-of-print albums reissued--a move that eventually helped usher in a slow-building Jobriath revival, as a slew of new fans discovered the glam man's long-lost music.
Now Jobriath's little-known life story is finally being told in a new rockumentary, Jobriath A.D., directed by Kieran Turner, narrated by Henry Rollins, and featuring commentary by Soft Cell's Marc Almond, Joe Elliott, Magnetic Fields' Stephen Merritt, Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears, Semi Precious Weapons' Justin Tranter, Okkervil River's Will Sheff, and even a surprisingly candid Jerry Brandt. The fascinating film is making its world premiere at the BFI London Gay & Lesbian Film Festival on March 29 and its U.S. premiere at the Florida Film Festival on April 14, but you can see an EXCLUSIVE CLIP from it right here, right now, below: