photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
timing really is everything.
generations of musicians limited not to the PET SHOP BOYS, GARY NUMAN, THE MAGNETIC FIELDS, MARC ALMOND (SOFT CELL), DEF LEPPARD, HENRY ROLLINS (BLACK FLAG), THE SCISSOR SISTERS, JAYNE COUNTY and MORRISSEY (THE SMITHS) would fervently attest that the PRODIGIOUSLY TALENTED LYRICIST and SINGER-SONGWRITER BRUCE WAYNE CAMPBELL, who went by the stage name JOBRIATH, was indeed far ahead of his time. TRAGICALLY ahead.
and that is UNFORTUNATE because his legacy is one of a PROMISING TALENT whose career was derailed and prematurely quashed by the OVERZEALOUS PROMOTION of his management and BITTER lack of support from the musical press and RAMPANT HOMOPHOBIA that marked that era. it should be mentioned that JOBRIATH was the first out GAY ROCK AND ROLL musician on a major recording label in a GLAM ROCK period where ANDROGYNY and hinted-at BISEXUALITY was the norm a la DAVID BOWIE, ELTON JOHN and MARC BOLAN of T. REX. it is one of the great FAILURES of modern culture that during this period it was considered HYPER-MASCULINE to take on FEMININE ATTRIBUTES when one was in fact HETEROSEXUAL, yet being HOMOSEXUAL and taking on those same qualities was considered REPULSIVE and seen as surefire CAREER SUICIDE. it should be remembered that ELTON JOHN didnt come out as being comfortable with his own QUEER IDENTITY until well into the late 1980s, no doubt i assume because he valued his career. in order to be a successful musician on a major label with widespread airplay, one had to play the game with a TOXIC HETERONORMATIVE CULTURE that could not handle or tolerate GENDER or SEXUAL POLITICS outside of the REDUCTIVE and CONSERVATIVE variety.
JOBRIATH was a VICTIM of such a cultural heritage and has become a sort of ARCHETYPE to such SOCIETAL MISALIGNMENT right down the line to the present. thus there is a need to revisit and reevaluate his example in the recent JOBRIATH A.D. (EIGHT TRACK TAPE, 2012) documentary that follows his many transitions from the NEGLECTED child prodigy BRUCE WAYNE CAMPBELL to the space clown JOBRIATH to the after hours piano man COLE BERLIN. he was no doubt a TROUBLED man with deep issues stemming from his having to compartmentalize his IDENTITY and PERSONA and be different things to different people, namely his DIVORCED PARENTS who were both TRADITIONALLY-MINDED and never recognized their son for who he was. ever. in fact, after BRUCE's passing from AIDS in 1983, his father DESTROYED all his personal effects (stage costumes and paraphernalia save one journal) attempting in essence to EXPUNGE all trace of him from the earth. it was a different time back then, yet somehow seemingly people want to return to that HATEFUL era.
one INTRIGUING thread that the film presents is the idea of the FAILED MARKETING CAMPAIGN conducted on his behalf. in ROCK AND ROLL there is this loose (often IMAGINED) concept of a MERITOCRACY at play whereby musicians elevate from the trenches of small clubs and bars after garnering a substantial INDEPENDENT following. once major label money is sprinkled on top of such demand then a true mutually beneficial partnership (of sorts) is born. JOBRIATH and his manager shorted that whole route and promoted his act not too DISSIMILIAR from an upcoming BROADWAY production, something he was familiar with as a former cast member of HAIR. with a play that sort of UBIQUITOUS promotion (TIMES SQUARE, subway, buses, etc.) makes sense both within a ROCK AND ROLL context it is a much dicier affair. people dont like being told what is AUTHENTIC or VITAL in music if it is not an established act already. it seemed such promotional efforts were DOOMED TO FAIL from the jump.
in the current cultural marketplace there are countless musicians, artists and actors that run the gamut of expression related to GENDER and SEXUAL IDENTITY. from NON-BINARY (SOPHIE, JANELLE MONAE, SAM SMITH) to TRANS (LAURA JANE GRACE, MINA CAPUTO, KIM PETRAS) and so on its a different, more INCLUSIVE world in some aspects at the current cultural moment. where they are the most SUCCESSFUL is when that part of their IDENTITY doesnt take over their PUBLIC PERSONA. it seems like if someone is a GREAT COMEDIAN and happen to be HOMOSEXUAL than audiences dont really care, but if their whole act is centered around being a QUEER STAND-UP COMIC then their prospects are relatively dwindled in comparison. at least that is how i see the dynamic played out nowadays. for JOBRIATH the publicity was so entrenched with his identity as a HOMOSEXUAL and not his PRODIGIOUS GIFTS as a SONGWRITER, LYRICIST and COMPOSER. which in retrospect was a MISTAKE. or maybe his career was DOOMED either way. again, just too far ahead of his own time.
JOBRIATH A.D. is a HEARTBREAKING film about how cultural blindspots can manifest themselves and render us all IMPOVERISHED for not seeing the GRACE and DIGNITY in each other's HUMANITY. BRUCE's gifts should have been given the opportunity to be CELEBRATED beyond a cult following decades later, but that is show business in a VILE, still-very-much HETERONORMATIVE AMERICAN culture. it makes you consider your own COMPLICITY in that enduring dynamic for sure. this film is definitely worth checking out.