Peter Frampton was a guitar god for a decade. Born in 1950 in Kent, England, the precocious Frampton joined The Herd in 1966 and became friends with Steve Marriott, a relationship that would change his life.
Marriott was in the well-regarded band The Small Faces at the time, and tried to get the group to agree to let Frampton join. When he was rebuffed, he split from the group and formed Humble Pie with Frampton in 1968. Frampton and Marriott played together for three years until Frampton embarked on a solo career three years later.
Already highly regarded as a guitarist, Frampton was invited to play guitar on the George Harrison album All
Things Must Pass. Besides Harrison and Frampton, the heady company included Eric Clapton and Dave Mason. Frampton was slowly building a public following to match the critical and insider following he already had.
His album Frampton reached the Billboard Top 40 album chart, but superstardom came with the release of Frampton
Comes Alive. The album, recorded in San Francisco in 1975, quickly became the best selling live album of all time. Although that record has since been eclipsed, many critics consider the release of rock’s seminal works.
More success and notoriety came with I’m In You, his follow-up studio album. The title track reached as high as #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100, a remarkable achievement for an arena rock guitarist. Frampton also played Billy Shears that year in the Robert Stigwood-produced Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Despite The Bee Gees and George Burns co-starring with cameos by some of music’s biggest bands including Aerosmith and Earth Wind and Fire, the movie tanked and took some of Frampton’s credibility with it. Complicating matters was a serious car accident that year in The Bahamas that required a long convalescence.
The layoff and poor movie choice seemed to hurt Frampton’s fame. His next album, Where I Should Be, struggled to reach gold status in 1979. The lack of momentum was undoubtedly heightened by Frampton’s decision to semi-retire between 1982 and 1986 following the birth of his daughter.
He returned to music with plans to reunite with Marriott, but Marriott died in a house fire in 1991. Instead, Frampton backed stars such as David Bowie on their tours and sporadically released albums. He told Rolling Stone magazine at the time, “When you become the biggest of anything, you are definitely going to reach that point where they just crucify you because it’s overkill. That’s the nature of bigger than big. And unfortunately, you have to take the rough with the smooth because you are not going to come close with the next record — I don’t care who you are. Michael Jackson didn’t. Carole King didn’t with the follow-up to Tapestry.”
Frampton and other rockers marked the 10th anniversary of Marriott’s death with a memorial concert in 2001, and Frampton also led a charity concert later that year after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Calling the Cincinnati site of the concert “my new home city”, Frampton led an all star concert including Blessid Union of Souls for charity.
Frampton still stays current, writing two songs for the movie Almost Famous and teaching actor Billy Crudup how to look like a rock star playing guitar. The guitarist now approaching 60 still stays current with music, telling Rolling
Stone that he is a “big Pearl Jam fan” who also loves the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters.
Since it is doubtful that Frampton’s music will ever sell in the millions again, it appears that his career will have missed charting a #1 record or receiving a Grammy Award. Thus far, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has also eluded the guitarist who, for a relatively brief time, outsold any live album by any artist ever.