He was called “the American Bowie.” But in 1973 neither America, nor the rest of the world, was ready for Jobriath. He never attained the household-name status he and his management anticipated, but far after the fact the artist born Bruce Wayne Campbell has become legendary as the first openly gay rock musician signed by a major label and one of the first to die of AIDS. Glam rock incarnate, the singer was at the center of an impossible-to-live-up-to hype campaign (“Elvis, the Beatles, and Jobriath!” exclaimed his manager) ahead of the release of his self-titled 1973 debut. After both Jobriath
and its 1974 follow-up, Creatures of the Street
(both Elektra Records), flopped mercilessly, he retired to his pyramid-shaped apartment atop the Chelsea Hotel and spiraled into drugs and prostitution before finally dying in 1981. Recently, however, Jobriath has re-entered the spotlight via As the River Flows
, an album of previously unreleased music on the Albany-based Eschatone Records.
Recorded in 1971 and 1972, the tracks on As the River Flows predate Jobriath’s official studio albums and provide rare glimpses of then-incubating rock-cabaret style (eventual disco queen Vickie Sue Robinson of “Turn the Beat Around” fame is one of the back-up singers). Offered on digipak CD and 180-gram vinyl, the release comes with a free download of even more rare material. Partial proceeds from sales of the album will go to AIDS Unity.
For some insight into the phenomenon of the late rocker, check out this trailer for the documentary Jobriath A.D.:
For more information on As the River Flows, visit http://music.eschatone.com/.