Before Hedwig was a glimmer in John Cameron Mitchell's eye, before some Bowie-imitation bathhouse spillage bloomed into Velvet Goldmine's Brian Slade, before Freddie Mercury was frightened mid-rhapsody by thunderbolts and lightning, there was Jobriath, the first (and the lost) truly out, gay glam rock star. "He's one of my favorite artists," the Ark's Ola Salo enthuses when the stage name of Bruce Wayne Campbell, the man behind epics like "Space Clown," is mentioned.
The recent compilation Lonely Planet Boy (Sanctuary) takes its title from a New York Dolls tune, but the songs are by the one and only Jobriath, and for every hilarious Ziggy Stardust–inspired misfire there is an odd moment of spine-tingling magic, such as agoraphobe ballad "Inside," which could give Rufus Wainwright a lesson or two about how to rein in the braying while racing up and down the scales. A street hustler and classically trained pianist, Jobriath was also a self-described schizophrenic, just one of many reasons why his valiant attempt to kick down the closet door and race to the top of 1973's charts was doomed.
Lonely Planet Boy songs such as "Be Still" and "Ecubyan" prove just how eerily beautiful — if not exactly commercial — Jobriath's page from the book of glam could be, but he also was no slouch at giving a good quote. The gatefold sleeve of his first album featured a nude Jobriath with a truncated lower torso. "They used a mannequin's ass and it wasn't as round as Jobriath's," the artist himself told one interviewer. "That's probably why Jobriath didn't make it." It is odd how closely the manic Oz-like titters of Jobriath's "What a Pretty" resemble some Klaus Nomi songs, because Nomi and Jobriath were two of the earliest casualties of AIDS. A Chelsea Hotel resident who appeared in a BBC documentary about it, Jobriath died there in 1981.
Lonely Planet Boy was reissued thanks to one of Jobriath's longtime fans, Morrissey. "I'd told the reps from Elektra in Sweden that they should reissue the Jobriath albums or put them out on CD," says the Ark's Salo. "So when that comp appeared, I thought that was very nice." The author of Lonely Planet Boy's liner notes, Manchester-based Robert Cochrane is working on a Jobriath biography titled Gone Tomorrow, and it's fair to say that Jobriath, however obscurely, is here today. His follies are now successfully realized in the celebratory sound of the Ark. (Huston)