Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 22 April '50, Beckenham, Kent) UK guitarist. Formed pop band the Herd early '65, with Andy Bown, keyboards; Gary Taylor, bass; Andrew Steele, drums. Parlophone dropped them after flop singles; they signed to Fontana, where songwriters Howard and Blaikley (see their entry) orchestrated a blend of pop and flower power: second single 'From The Underworld' reached no. 6 with help from pirate radio, followed by similar 'Paradise Lost', no. 15 early '68. Frampton was dubbed 'The Face of '68' by teen mag Rave. An album named after the second hit included some of the band's writing, but the highest chart placing went to the formula pop of Howard and Blaikley's 'I Don't Want Our Loving To Die' (no. 5). Steele left, replaced by Henry Spinetti; Frampton, dissatisfied with teen idol status and disappointed with the failure of 'Sunshine Cottage' (reversion to psychedelic style), left for Humble Pie.

(Bown and Spinetti made a flop single 'The Game', then formed shortlived Judas Jump with Mike Smith and Allen Jones, saxists from Amen Corner, and Welsh vocalist Adrian Williams; Taylor and Steele reunited for a one-off single 'You Got Me Hangin' From Your Lovin' Tree' '71; Taylor became a disc jockey, later worked with Fox; Steele and Spinetti did session work; Bown joined the folk group Storyteller.)

Humble Pie, with ex-Small Faces leader Steve Marriott, never lived up to the sum of its parts; Frampton left the hard-rocking Marriott, his love of melody persisting from youthful influences (e.g. Kenny Burrell). His first solo LP Wind Of Change had melodic pop helped by heavy friends Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Klaus Voorman, etc (he'd entered the Beatles' orbit sessioning on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, as well as Harry Nilsson's Son Of Schmilsson). He formed Camel (which became Frampton's Camel, because of Peter Bardens's Camel) for live work, with Mike Kellie (ex-Spooky Tooth), drums; Rick Wills (ex-Cochise), bass; keyboardist Mickey Gallagher: early music (cf. Frampton's Camel '73) was high on melody, low on lyrical content. But the band toured widely, making a basis for future success; Kellie was replaced by ex-Mitch Ryder drummer John Siomos; by Frampton '75 the bassist was the returned Bown (who later reverted to keyboards with Status Quo); LP contained trademark tracks: 'Baby I Love Your Way', 'Show Me The Way', voicebox-led 'Do You Feel Like We Do'; all USA top 20 hits '76 in different live takes on the two-disc Frampton Comes Alive, recorded at San Francisco's Winterland: this was one of the decade's best sellers, no. 1 USA for ten weeks, in the chart for nearly two years, the biggest-selling live pop album ever, a reward for years of touring. In retrospect, attractively acoustic songs with sinuous electric lead were inferior in live versions whacked out at stadium volume, but 15 million-plus sales brought a following, especially girls (as Humble Pie's Performance -- Rockin' The Fillmore '71 established just before Frampton left: manager Dee Anthony was behind both ventures). But Frampton was mishandled by Anthony, who pushed a vapid studio follow-up out of him too quickly: I'm In You '77 couldn't be rescued by superstar guests, although the title track was USA no. 2, LP no. 2 (in chart only 32 weeks). He was also pushed into a starring role in flop Robert Stigwood/Bee Gees film Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. A good musician, Frampton had a tendency to retreat into drink under pressure and needed somebody less greedy than Anthony to look after him; and with punk/new wave in full swing he began to look like a dinosaur, but melodic pop looks like outlasting the snarling kind after all. A sabbatical dictated by a near-fatal car crash '78 ended with Where I Should Be '79, no. 14 USA hit 'I Can't Stand It No More'. Breaking All The Rules '81 and The Art Of Control '82 saw his locks shorn for a new image and Premonition '86 on Virgin updated his sound with slabs of synth, but nothing caught fire. Peter Frampton '94 on Relatively was an unpretentious gift to fans. His Framptone company manufactured hand-made gadgets for guitarists, such as two-way and three-way amp switchers and the Talkbox, which makes the guitar sound like a voice; the devices were used by people like Dave Grohl (the Foo Fighters) and Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi).

Frampton remained a very successful touring artist, and Live In Detroit was recorded '99, an appealing mix of old and new material, Frampton singing as well as ever; the accompanying DVD was one of the first recorded in both high-definition TV format and 5.1 surround sound. His 'Hour Of Need' (using the Talkbox) was featured in Cameron Crowe¹s charming film Almost Famous 2000, set in the 1970s and one of the two or three best movies ever made about the rock business. Now 2003 was a new studio album, with Bob Mayo on keyboards (played a famous part on 'Do You Feel' in the '70s), John Regan on bass (with the band since '79) and ace Nashville session drummer Chad Cromwell (touring with Frampton since '97). Frampton described Now as 'a very selfish album . . . It's me, doing what I want to do, for the first time in nine years.' Maybe he should have allowed some input: the album was co-written mostly with Gordon Kennedy and includes some clumsy lyrics; a tribute to his daughter probably should have stayed in the family. Still, 'Hour Of Need' was included, while 'Verge Of A Thing' and 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' (a tribute to George Harrison and the only cover on the album) were successful singles; and there are still a lot of fans for music from the pre-punk 1970s