Posts Tagged ‘Frampton Comes Alive’

Frampton Comes Alive!

40 years ago today, Peter Frampton released “Frampton Comes Alive!” and it became the best-selling album of 1976.

The ’70s were the era of the live album. the ’70s were the live album’s golden age.

The gauntlet was thrown down in May 1970 by a pair of future live classics released only a week apart. The Who‘s Live at Leeds and the triple live album Woodstock soundtrack brought the show into kids’ bedrooms better than anything that had come before, and both were rewarded with stellar sales and critical praise. A format that was once reserved for contractual filler or stopgap releases was suddenly fashionable. Before the year ended, the Rolling Stones released Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!”; before the decade ended, we had live releases from the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Ted Nugent and Aerosmith. It was a status symbol, an indicator of commercial clout: The bigger you were, the more likely your discography sported a live album.

In the middle of the decade, another pair of live albums changed the paradigm. Both featured artists whose recording careers were floundering but who did well on the road. With one last chance to catch on with the record buying public. The first was the September 1975 release of Kiss Alive! Three months later (and also sporting an exclamation point), A&M Records released former Humble Pie guitarist Peter Frampton‘s concert masterpiece, “Frampton Comes Alive!”

Frampton was a prodigy who counted David Bowie among his childhood friends. By age 18 he’d already tasted success with the Herd and had formed Humble Pie with Steve Marriott . Together they would record four studio albums before jumping on the ’70s live LP bandwagon with another classic live album “Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore” at the end of 1971. It would be Humble Pie’s most successful album, but the band’s hotshot guitarist was gone before it was even released.

At the tender age of 21, Frampton had two successful bands in his rear-view mirror and a limitless road ahead of him. His first solo album, 1972’s Wind of Changeeschewed the muscular boogie of Humble Pie for a more acoustic, singer-songwriter vibe . Songs like the album’s title cut introduced the new, mellow Frampton while “It’s a Plain Shame” and a cover of the Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jump Flash” seemed tailored for his established fan base. In other words, the album was neither fish nor fowl, and sales were disappointing.