Guitarist Peter Frampton is nothing short of a musical legend. From his beginnings as a teen as part of the mod-pop group The Herd through blues-rock super group Humble Pie and his record-breaking solo career, Peter is rightfully regarded as one of the most iconic guitarists and performers of the last century.
And though sold-out concerts, awards, record sales and accolades are always nice, only a certain echelon of musicians can lay claim to having appeared on the long running cartoon television show The Simpsons. Peter Frampton can indeed count himself as one of the lucky ones.
“It was such an honour when I got the phone call to be a part of The Simpsons,” Peter begins. “At that point, I wasn’t very active with my career so it was something that kind of came out of the blue. I received a call from Bonnie Pietila who was the casting director on The Simpsons at the time. She explained the premise behind the ‘Homerpalooza’ episode and that I would be headlining a music festival. Though I was terribly excited about being featured on the show, I said to her, ‘Bonnie, there is no way I would be headlining a Lollapalooza-styled music festival.’
“There was complete silence for probably a minute. And then I got it,” he laughs. “I got to portray the old crusty musician that has endlessly been through the mill. The whole experience was so incredibly gratifying.”
Inspired by the likes of Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and The Shadows’ Hank Marvin, Peter began playing guitar at the age of eight. He played in several bands in his teens before eventually joining The Herd in 1966. The group managed to score several hits in the late 60’s but in 1969, Peter left the group to form Humble Pie with former Small Faces member Steve Marriott.
Although he would eventually leave the group in pursuit of a solo career, Peter looks back on his tenure with Humble Pie as one of the most exciting experiences of his life.
“Humble Pie was certainly getting to the point that it was just an amazing band to be a part of. But I think at that time, when I was 21 or 22 years old, I was just feeling that I couldn’t bring some of the material I had been writing to the table. The band was writing increasingly heavy music, which I loved, but I couldn’t do just that anymore. Being a self-professed control freak, I wanted to lead. I was getting to the point where I needed to have everything the way I wanted it and so I struck out on my own.”
After making the decision to strike out on his own, Peter admits there was more than one occasion that he questioned his decision. This rang especially true after Humble Pie’s iconic live album Rockin’ The Fillmore (on which Peter performed) began racing up the charts.
“When I left Humble Pie only to see Rockin’ The Fillmore begin zooming up the charts, I seriously thought I had made the worst decision of my life,” Peter says.
Peter released his solo debut, Wind of Change, in 1972, followed by Frampton’s Camel the next year. It was with 1974’s Frampton that Peter’s solo career began picking up momentum, setting the stage for the blockbuster Frampton Comes Alive two years later.
Despite only having found moderate solo success in the time leading up to his landmark live album, the record struck a chord with the record buying public. At the time, live albums weren’t typically seen as an artist’s calling card however Frampton Comes Alive defied that theory, going on to sell more than eight million units in the United States alone.
“The success of Frampton Comes Alive was definitely surprising,” he says. “At the time, we were seeing my touring audience getting bigger but my record sales weren’t necessarily reflective of that.
“But having seen the way Humble Pie’s Rockin’ The Fillmore broke through with audiences, we felt that putting out a live record might be the way to go. Obviously, we had no idea of what it would become.”
The success of Frampton Comes Alive was especially sweet for Peter in light of the fact that just a few years prior, he pondered whether he had made a mistake in leaving Humble Pie.
In the wake of the album’s success however, Peter says that the immense jubilation of having such a successful record soon turned to the realization that matching or topping the album’s success was going to prove to be near impossible.
“The pressure to follow up Frampton Comes Alive was intense. I realized that it was going to be nigh on impossible to top. Imagine you’re the guy that invented the Rubik’s Cube. Where do you go from there?”
Subsequent albums certainly fared decently but none were able to match the success of Frampton Comes Alive. After a brief hiatus from the music business in the 80’s during which time he recharged his batteries, Peter rediscovered his love for the guitar courtesy of his old friend David Bowie.
“David had initially asked me to play on [1987’s] Never Let Me Down, which I was thrilled to do. He took me out for dinner not long after and remarked how we had never performed together live. He extended an invitation for me to join the Glass Spider Tour as the guitar player. It was just amazing. I got to travel the world and play a lot of those same venues I had performed in the wake of Frampton Comes Alive. He ultimately helped me reinvent myself and helped me rediscover my love for the guitar. I don’t think I could ever truly thank him enough for that,” Peter says.
Far from being content to lean on his past achievements to keep him occupied, Peter continues finding new outlets and collaborations to expand his horizons.
His most recent work comes in the form of Hummingbird In A Box, a mini-album inspired by the Cincinatti Ballet. Frampton wrote all seven pieces on the record with Gordon Kennedy with whom he had previously teamed up for the Grammy Award winning album Fingerprints. The recently released album has already received widespread critical acclaim from media outlets including The Huffington Post and Guitar World Magazine.
And for what it’s worth, Peter says that he has another album of material waiting to be recorded. It is this unrelenting drive that has helped the musician maintain his relevancy for almost five decades now.
“There is something so organic about playing an instrument together with three or four other people and just simply going for it. Life is a one-off experience; I have always prided myself to be the best I can be both live and on record.”
What: Peter Frampton
When: Wednesday July 2 and Thursday July 3, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $59.99 plus taxes and service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone at 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca