Ah, the summer of ’76. I remember as a kid hanging out with my best friend Chuck as we listened to music. His uncle, John came in with a new album that blew our minds. John, who was only a few years older than we were, was always more reserved than either of us and to hear him talking about this album raised our curiosity. The album, of course was Frampton Comes Alive. Being the music kid that I was, why had I not heard of this before him? He put the record on the phonograph and stood back. Holy crap!
From that listless afternoon forward I was hooked. When I briefly tried to play drums in a band a few years later I went into a music store in Eastgate Mall not only to buy my first set of drum sticks (which I think I still have) and some sheet music. Looking through their limited selection I finally found a contemporary artist I like. It was the sheet music for Frampton’s follow up album I’m In You. I looked through it many times but the fact I could only afford the drumsticks and not actual drums kind of ended my musical career quickly just as the two girls who were in the band with me neither owned a real guitar. Today I’ve even heard from old friends telling me what a great drummer I was. I just chuckle to myself and say “thanks”. But Frampton was the man. I remember sitting around and for the first time really being impressed by someone’s guitar work. Yeah, sure I had of Hendrix, but to be honest was never really a big fan. Frampton had the right blend of fret work and melody going in his songs and I must not have been the only one since the album was the biggest selling live album of all time up to that point. I didn’t know music or its history the way I do now, but I knew I loved Peter Frampton.
After selling a gazillion albums his follow up sold a few million more but not to the extent of Comes Alive. And after that I never really heard much from him. I did get to see him twice in ’99 and while his hair was still red, I was disappointed it still wasn’t long and flowing like on the two earlier album covers I’ve already talked about. And other than a cartoon appearance on Family Guy when Frampton helped woo Lois back after skipping out on their anniversary to play golf (Frampton sang, “Baby, I Love Your Way”) I had not heard much of Frampton except when his long lost guitar was discovered and a very random tour in the region. Despite all of that in the rare moment an old Frampton song came on the radio while surfing channels (I still listen to terrestrial radio) and I would crank it up and still think about discovering Comes Alive in John’s living room now too long ago to count.
I read about the impending tour coming up that was basically a retirement tour and jumped at the chance to see him one last time. Twenty years had been too long and it was now or literally never. I’m glad I went.
Peter Frampton is a greater showman than he is given credit for. He’s a better guitarist than given credit for. As I sat there taking everything in not only was I transported to 1976, I felt kind of bad for the man. Despite one of the biggest selling live albums of all time, songs everybody knows, he seems to be treated like Rodney Dangerfield. It’s like people dismiss him because, oh well, he’ll be around forever. Well, he’s not and that’s the reason behind this tour. Unlike other “farewell tours we’ve seen (Cher, KISS, Lynyrd Skynyard, Elton John, Billy Joel, The Cure [since ‘89]), this one is for real and not to hype the shows or jack up ticket prices. Frampton is being force to retire because of inclusion body myositis (IBM), a progressive muscle disorder characterized by muscle inflammation, weakness, and atrophy. Having known this during the show I could tell. His fretwork was spot on but he moved around the stage slowly and deliberately at times almost like Tim Conway’s old man character in the Carol Burnett sketches. I was sad at that fact but Frampton kept his guitar singing like no one’s business like Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” and even had the talk box going full tilt on a 16 minute rendition of his classic, “Do You Feel Like We Do”. The show lasted well over two hours.
As I said earlier, Frampton is a showman and this goes far beyond this work on guitar. Frampton was quite talkative this evening and you could tell he had everyone’s attention as he told stories and back-stories of many of the songs, even discussing his past problems with substance abuse. The best story he told this evening was rescuing a large bird that crashed into the window of his hotel room, calling for help, being told how to capture it and taking it (a loon) to where it could be released. Frampton was in good spirits all night and the sold out crowd reacted. And while he is for some reason not on anyone’s greatest guitarist lists (these lists also failed to list Pete Townsend and Rick Nielson as well), Frampton has won a Grammy, something most on the list have not and has had albums top the charts in two different categories (Frampton Comes Alive and All Blues this year in the blues genre on the Billboard charts). Long live Peter Frampton and may he show me the way forever.
Peter Frampton Setlist
Baby (Somethin’s Happening)
Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours (Stevie Wonder cover)
Lines on My Face
Show Me the Way
I Saved a Bird Today
Georgia (On My Mind) (Hoagy Carmichael and His Orchestra cover)
Me and My Guitar (Freddie King cover)
Same Old Blues (Freddie King cover)
Breaking All the Rules
Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden cover)
(I’ll Give You) Money
Baby, I Love Your Way
Do You Feel Like We Do
Four Day Creep (Ida Cox cover)
I Don’t Need No Doctor (Ray Charles cover)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles cover)
– Dave Weinthal