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Peter Frampton

Peter Frampton

Peter Frampton rocketed to fame in 1976 with Frampton Comes Alive!, a double LP that reshaped songs from his first four albums into versions that became era-defining hits. In their live incarnations, "Show Me the Way," "Baby, I Love Your Way,'' and "Do You Feel Like We Do" all became Top 40 smashes that captured the arena-filling glory of album rock in the days prior to punk. The success of Frampton Comes Alive! was so great that it overshadowed his early days as a hotshot guitarist in the Herd and Humble Pie, and it also shaped the impression of the music he made in its immediate aftermath. Over the ensuing decades, Frampton proved that he was a survivor, working steadily on his own and as a sideman, notably playing on David Bowie's 1987 album Never Let Me Down. By the early 2000s, he settled into a regular circuit of touring and recording, maintaining a faithful fan base and once again earning attention for his guitar prowess: his 2006 LP Fingerprints took home the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album. Frampton announced a farewell tour in 2019 after receiving a diagnosis of inclusion body myositis but his health stabilized, allowing him to release Frampton Forgets the Words in 2021 and return to the stage in the 2022 homecoming concert released in 2023 as Peter Frampton at Royal Albert Hall.

Peter Frampton was born April 22, 1950, in the town of Beckenham in Kent. He started playing guitar at age eight, and took several years of classical lessons. In his early teens, he played with rock & roll combos like the Little Ravens, the Trubeats, and the Preachers, the latter of which were managed by the Rolling Stones' Bill Wyman and appeared on the TV show Ready, Steady, Go. In 1966, Frampton dropped out of school to join the mod-pop group the Herd, where he got his first taste of success. The Herd scored several British hits over 1967-1968, and Frampton became something of a teen idol, earning the tag the "Face of 1968" from the music press. In 1969, Frampton left the Herd to form the harder-rocking Humble Pie with former Small Faces frontman Steve Marriott. Although Humble Pie was poised for a breakthrough after two years of touring, Frampton departed in 1971 over differences in musical direction, and decided to start a solo career.

Having already performed on George Harrison's landmark All Things Must Pass, Frampton contributed guitar work to Nilsson's Son of Schmilsson, and released his debut solo album, Wind of Change, in 1972 with help from the likes of Ringo Starr and Billy Preston. He next formed an official backing band dubbed Frampton's Camel, which included keyboardist Mickey Gallagher (Cochise), bassist Rick Wills (Bell & Arc), and drummer Mike Kellie (Spooky Tooth). After the release of the 1973 album, Frampton's Camel, Frampton began to build a following through near-constant touring over the next few years. Despite this, he broke up Frampton's Camel prior to the release of his next album, 1974's Somethin's Happening. The title would prove prophetic: the follow-up, Frampton, became his first hit LP in America, climbing into the Top 40 in 1975 and going gold.

By this point, Frampton had amassed a considerable catalog of underexposed songs, the best of which were tightly constructed and laden with hooks. He'd also developed into a top concert draw, since he was able to inject those songs with an energy that was sometimes missing from his studio outings. Plus, in concert, he often expanded the songs into vehicles for his economical, tasteful guitar playing, and his pioneering use of the talk-box guitar effect became a trademark part of his performances. All those elements came together on Frampton Comes Alive!, a double-LP set recorded at San Francisco's Winterland in 1975. The album was a surprise smash, rocketing to the top of the charts (where it stayed for ten weeks) and selling over 16 million copies worldwide to become the most popular live album yet released. It stayed on the charts for nearly two years, and spawned Frampton's first three hit singles: "Baby, I Love Your Way" and the Top Tens "Do You Feel Like We Do" and "Show Me the Way." Naturally, his supporting tour was a multimillion-dollar blockbuster as well. When the dust settled, Frampton was a star, and Rolling Stone named him its Artist of the Year.

Under pressure from A&M to deliver a quick follow-up, Frampton fought his better judgment and went back to the studio, instead of taking a break to rest and let his success sink in. The result was I'm in You, which rose to the number two spot on the album charts soon after its release in 1977. Its title track did the same on the singles charts, giving Frampton the biggest hit of his career. In the wake of the Frampton Comes Alive! phenomenon, it was perhaps inevitable that many fans would regard I'm in You as a disappointment; even though it sold over three million copies, its hasty writing process showed through in spots.

Unfortunately, 1978 was a disastrous year for Frampton. He made a high-profile acting debut playing Billy Shears in the big-budget film version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, a tremendous critical and commercial flop. In June, he was involved in a near-fatal car accident in the Bahamas, sustaining a concussion, multiple broken bones, and muscle damage; to make matters worse, he and his longtime girlfriend also ended their relationship. Frampton recovered fully from his accident, only to endure a brief slide into drug abuse. His 1979 album Where I Should Be went gold, and its biggest hit was the Top 20 "I Can't Stand It No More" -- respectable, but nonetheless a startling drop-off from the success Frampton had just recently enjoyed.

Frampton seemed increasingly directionless as the '80s dawned. After two albums, 1981's Breaking All the Rules and 1982's The Art of Control, that failed to return him to the top of the charts, Frampton retreated from the music business for several years. He returned in 1986 with Premonition, and gained substantial rock radio airplay for the cut "Lying." The following year, Frampton played on onetime schoolmate David Bowie's Never Let Me Down album and accompanying tour. He recorded another new album, When All the Pieces Fit, for Atlantic in 1989, and had been planning a reunion with Steve Marriott not long before Marriott's tragic death in a 1991 house fire.

Frampton subsequently started touring again, and cut an eponymous album for Relativity in 1994. The following year, he issued the newly recorded live album Frampton Comes Alive II on I.R.S. During the late '90s, he recorded and toured with Bill Wyman & the Rhythm Kings and Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band. Frampton's first DVD, Live in Detroit, was released in 2000; a newly recorded concert also issued on CD by CMC International, it was eventually certified gold. The generally well-received Now, his first studio album in nine years, arrived in 2004, followed in 2006 by Fingerprints, the latter of which earned him a 2007 Grammy Award for Pop Instrumental Album of the year. His 14th studio long-player, 2010's Thank You Mr. Churchill, was supported by a North American stadium tour with Yes.

The following year, Frampton embarked on "The Frampton Comes Alive 35th Anniversary Tour," playing the original concert album set list in sequence. His 2013 "Frampton's Guitar Circus" tour featured a rotating cast of guest performers including Kenny Wayne Shepherd, B.B. King, Rick Derringer, Robert Cray, Roger McGuinn, David Hidalgo, Dean DeLeo, and many others. Early the following year, Frampton was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame. Later in 2014, he released Hummingbird in a Box: Songs for a Ballet, an EP of seven new original guitar pieces that were inspired by the Cincinnati Ballet. He revisited his catalog the following year on Acoustic Classics.

In February 2019, Frampton announced he was suffering from the progressive muscle disorder inclusion body myositis. This diagnosis instigated a farewell tour in 2019 called "Peter Frampton Finale," concerts that coincided with the June release of All Blues, a record where Frampton dedicated himself to covers of classic blues songs. Two years later, he released Frampton Forgets the Words, a collection of instrumentals, which was followed in 2020 by Do You Feel Like I Do?, a memoir he co-wrote with Alan Light.

Frampton returned to the stage in August of 2022, playing Buddy Holly's 85th Birthday Celebration in the early rocker's hometown of Lubbock, Texas. A few months later, he had a triumphant homecoming at London's Royal Albert Hall, playing a concert in November 2022 that was released as an album in September 2023. Peter Frampton at Royal Albert Hall appeared at the conclusion of a tour called Never Say Never, concerts he played after realizing that he was healthy enough to for another round of shows. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Steve Huey

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