Rock musician Peter Frampton turns sixty-eight today and I was thinking- how many artists are remembered mostly for a live album? The only other performer I can think of at the moment would be Richie Havens who when I think of him I immediately think of his epic opening performance at Woodstock.
Peter Frampton before 1976’s “Frampton Comes Alive!” album was known as a member of Humble Pie and had released four solo albums to that point. He hadn’t had a hit single. His 1975 album Frampton was his greatest success reaching #32 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart. That album did contain two songs which would become the showcase for Frampton Comes Alive– Show Me The Way and Baby I Love Your Way.
Frampton Comes Alive! which is a double album was released on January 6, 1976 and debuted at #191 on the Top 200 but then it caught fire and on April 10th it was #1 and would stay at #1 for ten weeks. It would go on to become the best selling album of 1976 with 8 million sold. It has to date sold around 11 million worldwide.
There were three hit singles from the album in the US-“Baby I Love Your Way” #12, “Do You Feel Like We Do” #10 and “Show Me The Way”# 6.
Coming off this great success Frampton released in early 1977 his next studio album “I’m In You” with the dreadful single of the same name. Both the album went to #1 and the song reached #2 but the song which would later be parodied by Frank Zappa- was laughable and I think that and especially Frampton’s participation in the dumpster fire movie “Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” stop all momentum that “Frampton Comes Alive!” had built.
His next two albums continued his fall- Where I Should Be peaked at #28 in 1979 and Breaking All The Rules in 1981 peaked at #42 and although he had made albums since none have gotten much attention not even 1996’s sad attempt at recapturing the magic “Frampton Comes Alive II” He has made a living in the past 35 years though as a session musician and he turns up now and then on tour or touring with someone else. Maybe in the end he was just a capable musician who struck magic once but didn’t have the songwriting chops for a long run at it. One thing for certain that one album has put a lot of food on the table in the past forty-two years. Good for him.
My friend Martin a few years ago was raving on and on about Frampton [after seeing a feature on him on the Sunday Morning Show} and I tried to talk sense into him. Fast forward to a couple months ago. We were hitting some record stores in Pittsburgh and there was Frampton Comes Alive! in vinyl for $5. I pointed it out several times to him since he doesn’t own the album- he wasn’t interested and seemed somewhat embarrassed by my bringing it up. I along with millions did buy the album back in the late 70’s- it’s nice but I don’t find it anything special. I remember it mostly as a moment in time, one of those events you remember an era by-in this case the 1970’s.