2011 ➤ Peter Frampton: how Bowie changed my life at Bromley Tech

Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive,world tour 2011,1954 Les Paul Custom

Frampton then and now: the 1976 gatefold sleeve shot for Frampton Comes Alive! by Richard Aaron... and earlier this year playing live at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, photographed by Wenn... Both pictures are united by Frampton’s signature guitar, the solidbody “Black Beauty” 1954 Les Paul Custom, which was re-finished with three pickups by the Gibson factory in 1970. In fact the original Black Beauty (left) was lost in a 1980 cargo plane crash, after which Gibson’s crafted another guitar in the image of the 1954 Les Paul Custom but with a slim-carved neck profile for optimum speed plus ebony black finish (above right)

❚ 35 YEARS AGO BRITISH-BORN GUITARIST Peter Frampton was a rock god, given two Rolling Stone covers within months of each other, the second declaring him Rock Star of the Year. His appeal has evidently been reignited by this year’s 35th anniversary world tour of his multi-platinum album Frampton Comes Alive!, drenched as it always was with West Coast sunshine. The “better than ever” tour has been extended from this Friday with extra dates in the UK and Europe, and yet more in the US from February. There is no support and the show runs for three hours. FCA! is the first set, including a 14-minute arrangement of Do You Feel Like We Do to re-create his epic stadium concerts of 1976. The second half features newer work, but also earlier numbers that resulted from forming the supergroup Humble Pie with “little” Stevie Marriott of the Small Faces in 1969.

Peter Frampton, Rolling Stone, magazines, Rock Star of the Year,

Cover star: in April 1976 Frampton Comes Alive! won him the cover of Rolling Stone. Afterwards, he feared the shirtless photo by Francesco Scavullo “turned me into a pop idol” and would reduce his career to 18 months... Fortunately by the following February he was photographed by Annie Liebovitz as Rock Star of the Year

It has taken this comeback to remind us, or for most of us to reveal, that Frampton learned to play the rock classics at the feet of another Beckenham boy, David Bowie, when they were students together in south London.

➢ The Bowiezone website supplies these (and other) childhood details:
[Frampton] first became interested in music when he was seven years old. Upon discovering his grandmother’s banjolele (a banjo-shaped ukulele) in the attic, he taught himself to play, and later taught himself to play guitar and piano as well. At the age of eight he started taking classical music lessons.

Both he and David Bowie were pupils at Bromley Technical High School where Frampton’s father, Owen Frampton, was head of the art department. The Little Ravens played on the same bill at school as Bowie’s band, George and the Dragons. Peter and David would spend time together at lunch breaks, playing Buddy Holly songs.

At the age of 11, Peter was playing with a band called The Trubeats followed by a band called The Preachers, produced and managed by Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones. He became a successful child singer, and in 1966, he became a member of The Herd, scoring a handful of British pop hits. Frampton was named The Face of 1968 by teen magazine Rave!.

➢ In an interview this summer with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Frampton himself added this first-hand account:

I got to know [Bowie] when I was 12 and he was 14, 15, maybe. I said, ‘What music do you like right now?’ He said, ‘Buddy Holly.’ I said, ‘Teach me that.’ I remember sitting on the stairs at lunchtime with two guitars and him and George Underwood — who became the artist who did the covers of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane — and the three of us would hang out and play Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly numbers.”

While in school, Frampton became lead singer and guitarist of the Herd. In 1969, he formed Humble Pie with Steve Marriott of the Small Faces and also did session work on albums, including George Harrison’s classic All Things Must Pass. After five LPs with Humble Pie, he went solo in 1971.

Bowie and Frampton in New York rehearsing for the Glass Spider Tour, 1987: Peter contributed to the album Never Let Me Down, Bowie’s follow-up to Let’s Dance, then played lead guitar on tour. Photograph by David McGough

The Bowie connection was rekindled in 1987 when Frampton was hired to play on the Never Let Me Down album and then as lead guitarist for that year’s Glass Spider Tour. Echoes of Bowie can often be heard in Frampton’s own vocals, especially his acoustic version of Baby I Love Your Way — shown below in impressive footage recently released from promoter Bill Graham’s archive.

➢ Bowiezone recently published an interview with Mick “Woody” Woodmansey, the drummer on Bowie’s early 70s albums

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