Peter Frampton’s 1976 double live album Frampton Comes Alive! sold 8 million copies in the United States and went on to become legendary.
The struggles Frampton endured right after its release are just as legendary. His next album was a relative flop, which led to hard financial times. He starred in the epically terrible 1978 film Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. That same year, he was in a near-fatal car accident.
However, in the late 1980s, Frampton’s career began to rebound. In 2007, he won a Grammy in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category for Fingerprints, which has just been re-released on vinyl. He’ll be stopping by Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Friday, Aug. 31.
During a recent phone interview, Frampton said he liked the idea of the re-release of Fingerprints.
“We wanted to put it out on a limited-edition vinyl,” Frampton said. “When that was brought up, they said it would be a good idea to reissue the CD as well. That came along as a plus, but the main intent was to just get it out on vinyl (after fans) had been shouting out for it.”
Fingerprints included some great collaborations with members of Soundgarden and the Rolling Stones.
“I went to Seattle after having made friends a few years before with the Pearl Jam people. I’m getting chills right before I say this, but to be doing ‘Black Hole Sun’ with the same drummer, Matt Cameron, who played in Soundgarden, as well as Pearl Jam—what a way to start!” he said. “Not only did we do that song, but we wrote one together in their warehouse rehearsal area, which was amazing. It started at the top, and everything else seemed to be just as exciting. It was like doing an album for each track. It took about a year to get around and do all these things. Of course, reuniting Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman—who I have both known since I was 14, and to actually have them on a session and write the tune that brought them back together again—it was phenomenal.”
I told Frampton that when he had an acoustic guitar in his hand, it was evident that Django Reinhardt is one of his influences. He responded with a laugh.
“He’s been with me my entire life, even though we lost him in 1953. My parents before, during and after the second World War were huge fans,” Frampton said. “That was something when we got our first record player. I was probably 8 or 9, and I wanted to get an album by The Shadows, and I got it, and my mom and dad bought Quintette du Hot Club de France. I hated it; I thought it was disgusting, and it was this jazzy stuff. I’m listening to stuff featuring Fender Stratocasters and Vox AC30s—the early beginnings of rock ’n’ roll. Every time I finished playing my Shadows album about four or five times, I’d go upstairs to play what I’d just heard, and then my mom would put on Quintette du Hot Club de France, and I couldn’t get out of the room fast enough. So, I’d gradually get up the stairs and hear a solo from Django, and I’d go, ‘What? That’s hard!’ Gradually, I’d stay in the room—and I was the guy putting on that album and not my parents. They were very happy about this.
“He’s someone I still listen to, at least a track or two a day. I’m obsessed with his soul, the choice of notes and the way he could play a thousand notes a second.”
There’s a video online of Peter Frampton shopping at Amoeba Records with his daughter, Mia Frampton. Frampton said he and his kids share music back and forth.
“I listen to everything they tell me to listen to,” he said. “My son, Julian, turned me on to Radiohead, and I wondered why I hadn’t picked up on it sooner. I’ll send them old Otis Redding tracks or stuff like that. All of my kids are very involved in and have a passion for music.”
Frampton was not the only artist who found wild success in the late 1970s—before enduring dry periods due to the changing musical landscape in the ’80s.
“What happened in 1979 was the drum machine, and from then on, everyone was playing to a drum machine in the ’80s,” he said. “That’s why everything seems so sterile to me—but not everything; there were the Pretenders, who are still phenomenal to this day. (Drum machines) were very appealing, but we don’t have a drummer anymore, and it’s gone computerized. I got involved in it, too, but I think everything got a little too sterile and perfect. Bands weren’t playing in the studio anymore.”
Frampton admitted there was a bigger issue at hand that led to his downfall, and joked about his appearance in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which last year was released on Blu-ray.
“I think it was me—I think that was the reason it took so long to come back,” he said. “I had been working since I was 14 with my first semi-professional band, until I became 30. That’s when I took a bit of a break. I was exhausted and disillusioned by those people around me who took a lot of my money that wasn’t theirs, and I went through going from the biggest-selling record of all time to a great fall. I made a couple of really bad mistakes, and I take full responsibility, but I was talked into things that weren’t good, and one of them just was re-released. They always get re-released!
“I can’t offend the people that love it—and I don’t understand why they love it!” Frampton said, holding back laughter. “I can’t offend them, because the people who like it are very passionate about it, and I’m very happy for them!”
He credits an old childhood friend for helping him resurrect his career.
“David Bowie—or Dave Jones as I knew him, and who I went to school with—said in 1986, ‘I love what you did on your last record. Would you come play on my record?’ Finally, we get to play again together. The last time was on the steps of the school. When I was in Switzerland doing the album with him, he asked if I would play on the Glass Spider Tour. He showed me a huge picture of the stage, and I said, ‘Absolutely!’ What I didn’t realize at the time was how powerful it was. I thought, ‘It’s great to play with David on the same stage at the same time.’ But then I realized afterward that he was so clever: He knew what I was going through at the time, being a well-respected guitar-player and writer turned into a teeny-bopper pop star, and the guitar was kind of forgotten. What he gave me was a gift. He took me around the world twice in stadiums and reintroduced me as a musician and guitar-player, which changed my trajectory, and I’ve never been able to thank him enough. I still thank him.
“It was a very powerful gift. After David, a few years went by, and I was touring like crazy again and building it back up. I started in clubs and ended up in arenas again.”
Peter Frampton will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 31, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $29 to $69. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.