When Peter Frampton fans remember first hearing many of his hits on the radio, they also recall the shout of "Thank You" and the roar of the crowd from Frampton Comes Alive, the double album that defined his career and sold some 16 million copies worldwide.
Recorded at Winterland in San Francisco, the album was #1 for 10 weeks, in four visits during a record breaking two year stay. This was the first some rock fans heard from Frampton, but he had been slowly building an audience for much of the prior decade.
The English native, born in Kent, started playing guitar at age eight and took several years of classical lessons. In his early teens, he played with various rock & roll combos; The Preachers were managed by Bill Wyman and appeared on the TV show Ready, Steady, Go. Frampton dropped out of school to join the Herd, which scored several British hits in 1967-1968; he became something of a teen idol and was given the tag "Face of 1968" from the adoring music press.
In 1969, Frampton left the Herd to form the harder-rocking Humble Pie with former Small Faces leader, Steve Marriott. After two years or touring and appearing on such classic rock albums as George Harrison's All Things Must Pass and Nilsson's Son of Schmilsson, he launched his solo career with Wind of Change in 1971. He then organized the band Frampton's Camel, featuring Mike Kellie, Rick Wills and Mickey Gallagher of Spooky Tooth, Cochise and Bell and Arc, respectively, to do U.S. concert dates. Three relatively successful studio recordings followed: Frampton's Camel (1973), Somethin's Happening (1974), and Frampton (1975).
But it was Frampton Comes Alive, which chronicled the growing excitement of his live shows, put him on the rock map to stay; like Jeff Beck, he used the voice tube gimmick on "Show Me The Way", a U.S. #6 hit in February 1976. Its follow-up, I'm In You (1977), sold several million, which was a disappointment in contrast, even with its #2 title track. The great fall many skeptical critics were expecting came in 1978, when he suffered a near fatal car crash and starred as Billy Shears, alongside the Bee Gees, in the ill-fated Robert Stigwood extravaganza Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, a commercial and critical disaster.
His 1979 recording, Where I Should Be, earned favorable reviews, but turned out to be his last hit album. Following The Art Of Control, Frampton disappeared until 1986, when he was signed to Virgin Records, and released the synthesizer-heavy Premonition. He returned to session work thereafter, playing most prominently with former school chum David Bowie on 1987's Never Let Me Down. In 1991, he was considering the idea of reforming Humble Pie with Steve Marriott, but Marriott died tragically in a fire at his Essex Home before anything could come together. Frampton later released Frampton Comes Alive II, and in 2000, he served as a musical consultant on Cameron Crowe's 70s rock biopic Almost Famous.