When You Cry, You Bring The Sky Down. Jobriath’s Music And What It Means To Me

Jobriath

(originally appeared in Thrust Magazine: November 2010)

If we can set the facts aside long enough and try not to let the myth become larger than the man, then we will finally realize that in the end it’s the music that truly matters. In this case Jobraith stands alone. He was dubbed a Bowie rip-off. Whether or not that’s true is simply a matter of opinion. In 1969 Jobriath formed Pidgoen (credited as Jobriath Salisbury), a California quartet that mixed progressive rock with a gentle, mellow folk styling. On the track “Of The Time When I Was Young” Jobriath’s vocals and acoustic guitar accompaniment join together to create a wistful sadness that permeates throughout the track. If you can gain anything from his life story and have the opportunity to revisit this track, you’ll be able to see Jobriath is all his sadness as well as his greatness. The album as a whole is a far cry from what Jobriath brought us 5 years years later with his Elektra debut Jobraith, a title that perhaps speaks to us and cries “i’m here world, pay attention!”. It’s interesting to think such a thing could be true with the title track called “Take Me I’m Yours”.  Perhaps in doing so Jobriath has created a sub-conscience juxtapose?

 

Whatever the reasoning might have been, tracks like “Be Still” call out in a way that will make you sing along or cry, or both. An emotional connection like this is one of the marks of a truly great artist and Jobriath was just that. Soon after the release of Jobraith Elektra Records released Jobriath’s second, and final record titled Creatures Of The Street.  Sources claim that the music contained of Creatures are “scraps” from Jobriath. Like many of the facts that surround his life this may or may not be true. Again to revisit the unconscious side of Jobraith’s music, was it deliberate when he put himself next to Godliness on track two “Street Corner Love” by saying “I need more than religious affection”. Or in the song “Scumbag” when he sings “he used to be a famous actor, the pretty Broadway butterflies would flutter to his dressing room at night”. Is Jobriath obsessed with the fallen?, a foreshadowing perhaps for he too eventually became one among the ranks.

 

While touring the US in 1974 Jobraith recorded demos for his third untitled and currently unreleased album. What we hear in these muddled recordings is a man who will not give up. Songs like ‘Weightless” and “Actor Loves Himself Better” are sheer rockers. The demo quality in my opinion only adds to this, to the point where if I heard high quality recordings of these songs i’d be disappointed. These demos are not in any way foretelling of Jobriath’s ultimate demise, they instead sound like an artist breaking out and into a new period of his musical life.

Unfortunately in 1975 Jobraith announced his retirement from the music business, changed his name to Cole Berlin and began his career as a lounge singer in New York City. Before his death in 1983 of AIDS related illness he was working on a play. The theme song “Sunday Brunch” was, according to an interview with Jobriath “it’s about a tourist who comes to New York and he meets all these outrageous people. It’s semi-cannibalistic as he becomes eaten alive in the streets of New York”. The interview asks “is that your own experience?” to which Jobraith responds with “oh every day”.

 

In conclusion I chose to leave you with a quote  from a 1991 MTV interview with Krist Novoselic of the band Nirvana. In the interview he spoke of Nirvana’s fame and the huge success of their second album Nevermind.  Although he was speaking of Nevermind specifically, I believe it encompasses so much more. He says that “at the end of the day if you can put a record on and say “hey that’s a really great record”, then all this other junk is just irrelevant”.

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