On this day in 1976, A&M Records released a double album called “Frampton Comes Alive!”, featuring a photograph of the guitarist-singer on stage with open shirt.
Peter Frampton had been knocking on the door to stardom since he was a teenager, first with his band the Herd and then in Humble Pie, where he joined forces with former Small Faces leader Steve Marriott. Humble Pie broke through in the United States with the top-10 “Smokin’,” but that was after Frampton left to pursue a solo career.
After four studio albums, widespread fame still eluded Frampton. That, of course, was about to change.
A&M no doubt hoped the live album would bring in more money than previous Frampton efforts, but no one could have foreseen what happened next: “Frampton Comes Alive!” went on to become the biggest-selling live album in history to that point.
Thirty-six years later, we still have to ask: Why?
I was a teenager at the time and remember hearing the debut single, “Show Me the Way,” and noticing it was a live recording. That was rare for a 45, but Kiss had pulled it off recently with “Rock and Roll All Nite.”
“Show Me the Way” also featured Frampton’s work with the talk box, a gimmick that had been around for a while but was starting to get popular through the work of Joe Walsh, Jeff Beck, Iron Butterfly and others. The effect sounded cool, as did the song’s chorus, but all of that hardly made “Show Me the Way” a masterpiece.
A second single, “Baby, I Love Your Way,” was less interesting but still took up plenty of time on the airwaves, further pushing Frampton to the masses.
Most listeners’ favorite track on the album, though, probably was the 14-plus-minute “Do You Feel Like We Do.” I remember hearing the full version on FM radio and enjoying the elongated talk-box section and particularly the closing jam. On the strength of that listening session, I purchased my copy of “Frampton Comes Alive!”, which was selling at a bargain price for a two-record set.
A&M went a bit overboard by releasing a seven-minute version of “Do You Feel Like We Do” as a single; the many splices were evident and fairly ludicrous. But, hey, what record company doesn’t want to cash in on a hot product …
The main reason it was so hot had more to do with the cover than the music. Frampton was exceptionally photogenic, in his mid-20s and tremendously appealing to young ladies of a certain age.
Unfortunately, A&M pursued the sex-symbol aspect for the studio follow-up, “I’m In You.” The less said about that, the better. But Frank Zappa did a great parody of the whole situation, “I Have Been in You.” Check it out on “Sheik Yerbouti,” or beter yet, FZ’s narrative in the “Baby Snakes” movie.
Speaking of movies, Frampton launched his film career starring alongside the Bee Gees in “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The premise was … oh, it doesn’t matter. Anyone who remembers the hype surrounding the project and the lambasting it took has to snicker. I’ll admit to plunking down good money to see it and yelling, “Jump!” when the Frampton character – I think he was Billy Shears – was about to commit suicide.
Peter Frampton continues to perform to this day, and is a heck of a nice guy, according to my colleage Brad Hundt, who has interviwed him on a few occasions. Pete has to be a good sport: Just check out his segments on the “Homerpalooza” episode of “The Simpsons.”
Meanwhile, when he sang, “Must’ve been a dream, I don’t believe where I’ve been” … that pretty much sums up “Frampton Comes Alive!”