“If I’m going to do a farewell tour, I want to play good. I want to rock it. I know that this tour, I will be able to do everything I did last year and the year before. That’s the most important thing to me. I want to go out screaming as opposed to, “He can’t play anymore.” – Peter Frampton on his farewell tour.
It seems lately that I’ve been on a guitarist kick, having first done Les Paul then Roy Buchanan. It wasn’t at all my intention to do another one. But then I heard on CNN that Peter Frampton was doing his finale tour. Sure, we’ve heard it all before from everyone from Cher to The Who. But this time it may really be true. Frampton has been diagnosed with a progressive muscle disorder called Inclusion-Body Myositis. (IBM).
It is “characterized by muscle inflammation, weakness, and atrophy. IBM develops in adulthood, usually after age 50. The symptoms and rate of progression vary from person to person. The most common symptoms include progressive weakness of the legs, arms, fingers, and wrists. Some people also have weakness of the facial muscles (especially muscles controlling eye closure), or difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). Muscle cramping and pain are uncommon but have been reported in some people.”
According to an article in Rolling Stone, “Then it was revealed to me that it wouldn’t just affect my legs and my arms, but it’s going to affect my fingers. That was the most troubling thing, obviously, for me.” He is still able to play guitar without any difficulty, but with the window now beginning to possibly close forever, he booked a farewell tour that will keep him on the road this summer and possibly a bit longer.”
Frampton said in a CNN interview that (smart man) he’s working on four different albums, the first of which – a blues album – will be released in June of this year.
A little history is in order: Frampton was born in 1950 in Bromley, Kent, England, yet another of that seemingly endless generation of great British guitarists. His influences were Cliff Richard, Buddy Holly, The Beatles, and Belgian gypsy Django Reinhardt. I think I mentioned the following tidbit before but it bears repeating:
Wikipedia: Both Frampton and David Bowie, who was three years older, were pupils at Bromley Technical School (where his father Owen Frampton was Bowie’s art instructor). Frampton’s band, The Little Ravens played on the same bill at school as Bowie’s band, George and the Dragons. Peter and David would spend lunch breaks together, playing Buddy Holly songs.
When he was 18 Frampton joined forces with Steve Marriott to form the mighty, mighty Humble Pie. I saw the Pie back in the day and Frampton would have been in the band. But I am 100% certain his name didn’t register with me at the time.
I decided if I was gonna do a Frampton six-pack I had to throw in at least one Humble Pie tune with Frampton on lead guitar. This is a cool Marriott song called “Silver Tongue” from the album Town and Country.
Frampton left Humble Pie in 1971 just in time to watch the band’s fortunes rise. As I mentioned in my post on British blues, “Frampton had by then left the band and said it was one of the worst years of his life watching that album’s success while he was on the outside looking in.”
Frampton released four studio albums in the early ’70s and for the life of me, I don’t recall him having much, if any, impact. He was doing some nice, tuneful stuff and building a fan base but I don’t recall a lot of it being on the radio. Could just be my flawed memory, who knows?
But in looking back it’s clear to see that while still very much the rocker, he was drifting away from the hard-rock boogie of Humble Pie and more into a melodic singer/songwriter mode. There’s even quite a bit of acoustic guitar on his debut album Wind of Change.
But I dig this song from that album called “Alright” which has a distinct early Steve Miller Band feel to it:
By 1975, Frampton’s unique style of melodic pop with exquisite guitar solos and his distinctive voice were really starting to gell. In that year he released his fourth studio album Frampton which portrayed him in a trio setting. To my knowledge this was the first time he utilized the talkbox which he helped to popularize.
From that album here’s a nice tune called “Apple of Your Eye.” This is a good tune that puts all the pieces of the Frampton phenomenon-to-be together:
Whatever fame and fortune Pete missed by not sticking around for Humble Pie’s live album he more than made up for in 1976 with the release of the then-inescapable Frampton Comes Alive! If you weren’t around then or were living in a cave, this fucking thing was all over the radio. Stats?
The album was on the Billboard 200 for 97 weeks, of which 55 were in the top 40, of which 10 were at the top. The album beat, among others, Fleetwood Mac’s Fleetwood Mac to become the top-selling album of 1976, and it was also the 14th best seller of 1977. With sales of eight million copies, it became the biggest selling live album, although with others subsequently selling more it is now the fourth biggest. Frampton Comes Alive! has been certified as eight times platinum
Largely recorded at San Francisco’s Winterland in front of a rabid audience, Frampton’s slow-build patience had borne fruit. if you hadn’t heard these songs before, well, you did now. And still do. They have become staples of classic rock radio to the extent that they practically define it. Here are “Show Me the Way,” and “Baby I Love Your Way.” Frampton was miles away from Humble Pie:
Frampton was BIG and made a couple of regrettable mistakes. For one thing, he posed shirtless for Rolling Stone which made him seem more like David fucking Cassidy and less like a rock star. For another, he starred in one of the most egregious pieces of shit ever made, the filmed equivalent of “Sometimes When We Touch,” the Sgt. Pepper movie. This thing could have been done better by any average high school marching band, three random people off the street and a couple of cheerleaders.
Since it didn’t sell 8 billion copies, Frampton’s next album “didn’t live up to expectations,” then he later got into a car accident, his career took a nosedive, yadda, yadda, yadda.
“The ’80s were a difficult period for me,” Frampton told M Magazine. “It wasn’t until my dear friend David Bowie got me out on the road for the ‘Glass Spider’ tour and on his Never Let Me Down record and reintroduced me as a guitar player around the world. I can never thank him enough for believing in me, and seeing past the image of the satin pants and big hair to the guitar player he first met when we played together in school.”
Frampton got back together with old chum Steve Marriott in 1991 for a few gigs. Alas Marriott died that year in a house fire which sent Peter into a tailspin
Frampton over the years has continued playing and recording in various configurations over the years but could never again quite catch that lightning in a bottle. And then this shit happened.
For the sixth tune, I’d kinda hoped they’d sneak one of the new blues tunes out there somewhere. And sure enough, they did. It’s a nice simmering version of “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” featuring Kim Wilson of Fabulous Thunderbirds on harp.
Thanks for the good times, Peter. Keep the faith.