Jobriath was one of rock 'n’ roll’s most tragic casualties. Initially hyped as the “American David Bowie” via a massive marketing campaign spearheaded by Elektra Records and infamous Svengali Jerry Brandt, Jobriath instead faced a swift and vicious backlash — no doubt at least partially because he was openly gay, which was basically unheard-of in 1974. Less than a decade after the spectacular commercial failure of his debut album, Jobriath died in obscurity, of AIDS, alone at the Chelsea Hotel.
But thanks to the rockumentary Jobriath A.D., released on the festival circuit in 2012 and now out on DVD with unreleased Jobriath music, more people are beginning to discover, understand, and respect Jobriath’s legacy. And helping the cause is longtime superfan Joe Elliott, of Def Leppard, who is one of many celebrities and rockers interviewed for the film.
Here, Yahoo Music presents an extended outtake from Elliott’s Jobriath A.D. interview (featuring him wearing his own custom Jobriath T-shirt!), along with his answers to a few of our own Jobriath-centric questions.
YAHOO MUSIC: What is your first memory of hearing Jobriath’s music or seeing him perform?
JOE ELLIOTT: As a 14-year-old kid, obsessed with David Bowie, I saw the sleeve for the second Jobriath album, Creatures of the Street, in a secondhand record store. It was of its time, a rock star looking like an alien; I had no idea who he was, but I knew I had to find out. I never saw him perform — not many did!
Were you ever in a position where you had to defend Jobriath to those who dismissed him?
Oh, many times — both musically and, sadly, because he was gay. I didn’t know this for at least 15 years after discovering him; who cares? I just loved his songwriting. I didn’t and still don’t care who he slept with.
What is your favorite Jobriath song?
That’s a tough one. Some days it’s “Heartbeat”; others, it’s “Space Clown,” “Ecubyan,” “Gone Tomorrow,” “What a Pretty”… I like most everything I’ve heard, but his slow numbers are mind-blowing.
Why do you think in the '80s, so many androgynous bands with men in makeup hit the mainstream, in the way they didn’t in the '70s?
Because the '80s needed the '70s to set it all up. The '70s was full of bands playing with makeup — Bolan, Bowie, even the Sweet. Color TV had only just kicked in (in the U.K., at least) so all these bright colors put you ahead of the competition. I believe it’s a combination of different factors, but the most obvious is it just needed time to sink in.
Which Def Leppard song, would you say, is most influenced by Jobriath?
None, really. All the band know I’m a fan and have heard me play him often, but as an influence on the band as a whole, not really… We did, however (well, I did!), cover the song “Heartbeat” as a bonus track for our 2006 covers album Yeah!