Remember when the great Mike Myers character said these words in Wayne’s World II:
“If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it. It came in the mail with samples of Tide.”
I hope you remember what album he was talking about to Cassandra. It was one of the albums that I associate with the Summer of 1976, and there were several. Wayne was talking about Peter Frampton’s classic live double album Frampton Comes Alive. Now, being the oldest offspring in my house where I was the only one really getting into music, I thought ALL live albums were going to be rowdy affairs, much live KISS Alive! was just last year. Little did I know that until I was over at the neighbors’ home listening to albums, when the oldest daughter, Kim, put on this very album. I remember making my hyperactive body calm down long enough to listen to the first side, since it had “Show Me the Way”, and I loved that song.
Well, to be honest, I only kind of liked it. That’s it. Just kind of. I liked “Show Me the Way” because it put me in a calm place to run distance. I wasn’t always good at pacing, and that’s what Frampton Comes Alive is all about…pacing. I understand that now as an adult, who is no longer physically hyperactive due to chronic back pain and spasms. Now, I can see the attractiveness of this Frampton album in that you can kick back on a summer’s night, open the windows to the house, crank up the speakers, drink some wine and let Frampton’s tunes take you away as the sun sets. It all makes sense now 40 years later.
I did eventually buy this album for the first time back in the early 2000s, since Tide was no longer handing out copies of it. Oh, sure, some smart-ass bought the 8-track tape for me back when it was popular, but I barely listened to it. Right now, I am listening to it, and it seems to be putting me to sleep. Of course, that could be do to the medicine change that I got yesterday in my pain pump. I didn’t have a concentration change or anything like that, but I still feel wiped out after getting some fresh meds in my pump.
Okay, enough of my random pain references! You came here for the music talk. Personally, I think that Frampton Comes Alive can be summed up in one word: talkbox. You know, that crazy guitar piece that runs a tube, and thus your breath/voice through your guitar to get that crazy sound that everyone thought was so futuristic back in 1976. And, Frampton only used it on one song, “Do You Feel Like We Do”. I have to admit, I still love hearing it on the radio, but I even know what it is used for by the DJ – to go to the restroom. We had several 10- to 15-minute songs that we used for bathroom breaks. For me, this was my personal favorite one to use. The key to playing this song on your high school radio station is that you HAVE to let the talkbox section play, which means all 14 minutes and 15 seconds of the song will be played.
The other highlight for me on this album was “Baby, I Love Your Way”. And I want Frampton’s version, not that semi-reggae version that was popular in the late-80s as a medley with Skynyrd’s “Free Bird”. That thing was sacrilege. No, Frampton’s version was fantastic during the summer of 1976 for slow dancing at the summer dances that were held at the gymnastics center in town. Or, as my youngest son would call it, great for a “big make-out session.”
So, does anyone remember how Peter Frampton followed up this live album? Well, his label, A&M, wanted to focus on the fact that the man was blessed with great looks, so they went the superficial route and tried to make him into a teen idol. The problem was that the man was blessed as a guitarist, and that ability needed to be on display. So, what we got with his next, highly anticipated album I’m in You was an uneven mess of teen idol crap (though don’t let anyone fool you! “I’m in You” really is a good song! And, I stand by that statement!) and a semi-rocking display of Frampton’s guitar prowess. And, although that album I’m in You was a big seller, it was not critically acclaimed nor well liked.
So, how did Peter get back on the right track? Well, he was signed to join the Bee Gees in bringing The Beatles’ songs to life on the silver screen in the 1978 film Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Frampton was to play Billy Shears, the dude who was the lead singer of the Lonely Hearts Club Band. Once again, his management was trying to play upon his looks. Of course, the movie flopped. But, somehow the Bee Gees came out of the fiasco unscathed, while Frampton’s career was essentially over. And, even though he released albums, little was heard from him until he went on tour as David Bowie’s guitarist on Bowie’s Glass Spider Tour of 1986-87. That move brought Frampton some musical respect back for his playing, and word had that Peter was enjoying being in the background of his old friend’s stage show.
To this day, Frampton is more remembered for his musicianship than his stupid teen idol image that was laid upon him. He is a well respected guitarist in the music world. And Frampton Comes Alive continues to sell well, though nothing like it did during the Spring and Summer of 1976, and nothing when compared to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. But, at least Frampton got his respect back! And, for one short moment in rock history Frampton was more than alive, he was it.