Tag Archives: Rockin’ The Fillmore

Blast From The Past: Peter Frampton

Yeah, that’s right. I’m going to defend Frampton Comes Alive.

You need to look at art two ways – in the context of it’s time, and in the annals of history. As people’s tastes change, media becomes more sophisticated or societal norms morph into new behavior, but created art is static in its created period. In simpler words, some things are timeless; some are not. Not every album can be Blonde on Blonde. But being the right thing at the right time does have its value, whether you want to admit it or not.

Rockin’ The Fillmore, Humble Pie’s classic live album, was a fixture on my turntable and my radio show. And having watched Humble Pie grow from the ashes of The Small Faces (whose other offshoot, The Faces, are second only to The Kinks in my heart), I hated the split of Peter Frampton and Steve Marriott, although both survived and flourished afterwards.

Long before earbuds, enjoying albums was a much more organically communal experience. Suzie and I spent a lot of time together listening to records and going to concerts; we enjoyed each others’ company and our tastes seemed to align pretty closely. Being young and rootless, that translated into attending a lot of concerts and many long nights sharing our thoughts about favorite bands, songs and lyrics.

I don’t remember which of us dropped the needle on the solo Frampton album first, but Suzie and I were both on board pretty quickly. It wasn’t the lyrics – in fact some of the early solo songs sound pretty silly – but the mood of the albums was intoxicating, almost made for late night decompressing. There were gems galore – “Plain Shame”, “White Sugar”, “Doobie Wah”, “Money”, “Lines on My Face” – and he seemed as comfortable in an acoustic jam as he was making the Marshalls bleed.

He lit “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” on fire. He took a Stevie Wonder tune and reinvented it. We liked Winds of Change and Frampton’s Camel even more, but  I think Something’s Happening is the one that did it for us. “Magic Moon” and “Sail Away”, the two closing tracks, were that perfect combination of rock and trippy jam music that would encourage you to replay side two. And then the simply titled Frampton seemed to reinforce that the AOR steamroller was staring to pick up speed.

And then all hell broke loose with Frampton Comes Alive.

How the hell did our little secret suddenly create the biggest rock record of the year? Hell, how were there so many people who knew enough of the songs that they could recognize them in three notes and then sing along? We didn’t have Twitter or email; we thought we were alone in our devotion. First radio played this record…constantly. And then more. And then even more. Until even those of us who liked it didn’t want to hear it ever again.

But it’s time to forgive.

Sorry, but there are great songs here. “It’s A Plain Shame” and “Something’s Happening” explode, re-arranged for a huge stage presentation (as were most of the tracks). “All I Want To Be Is By Your Side” and “Winds of Change” were even stronger and rocked harder. Even “Baby I Love Your Way” milked an irresistable hook and an island flavor. “Penny For Your Thoughts” is a spirited acoustic instrumental workout. And yes, even though it’s hard to listen to for the one millionth time, when that talk box punctuated “Do You Feel Like We Do”, you turned the damned thing up as loud as I did.

So with this album he gave it all to you – the early Humble Pie folkiness, the latter-Pie rawk, the introspective stuff from his solo albums and tunes so instantly ear-candy you hate them more for being overplayed than you do for the songs themselves. You knew he was a great guitar player and a good singer, but he trumped that by capturing the electricity of a live show on vinyl.

And then you turned on him. You hated that stupid talk-box guitar effect. You hated that ludicrous cover photo (and limp title track) on I’m In You. You really hated Frampton for participating in Sgt. Pepper. I get it.

But it’s time to let go, people. I’m not saying I want to pull out Frampton Comes Alive at a party in 2010. In fact, were I to pull out some Frampton albums, I’d probably grab those first four solo records rather than this arena-friendly presentation. But to continue to trivialize FCA today is like making fun of your old monochrome XT computer. It was meant for 1976, and in 1976 it delivered in spades.

It set the bar for what live albums would become for a long, long time. It re-legitimized the fact that a live record could be a hit and warrant airplay. And it also taught future musicians a very valuable lesson about how fickle the audience can be, especially when you stop listening to your muse and start trying to create what you think the audience wants.

Go back and give it another spin. And check out those first four albums, one per year, that planted the seeds that suddenly morphed into the mighty oak that defined the year in rock, 1976.

By the way, Frampton is still kicking ass at sixty years young.

Listen to the original version

Listen to the expanded edition.

Frampton’s webpage and Wiki.

FCA at AllMusic.com

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Blast From The Past: Humble Pie

Road Warriors of Rock'n'Roll

Road Warriors of Rock'n'Roll

I remember playing cuts from Rock On and Rockin’ The Fillmore as a college radio DJ, and the several Humble Pie shows I was blessed to witness are seared into my brain. And witness is an operative verb here; while the early shows were piledriver blues/boogie rock’n’roll, in his later years Steve Marriott was part rocker, part white soul singer, part rock evangelist. At the time it was probably the closest thing to having a gospel preached at me and to me since the I stumbled into a Baptist church.

But back in the early Pie days, when Peter Frampton played and sang alongside Steve, they were a bit more straight-ahead. Determined to break and break big, they toured incessantly in the States and lit arena after arena on fire. For a couple of years in the early 70s, it was far more likely you’d hear Humble Pie blasting out of dorm windows than the latest Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin cut. America loves their meat and potatoes, and Humble Pie was meaty.

Looking back at BBC tracks from famous 70s bands is always fascinating and Humble Pie is no exception. While not a purely focused disc – leave it to Fuel 2000 to license rather than create – there is some great music within. Here’s what I wrote about Natural Born Boogie release for PopMatters back in 2000:

Steve Marriott Boy Howdy

Like the blues players he idolized, Steve Marriott may finally be getting his due after he’s no longer here to reap the rewards. Bands like The Black Crowes openly admit his influence, while a waft of inferior vocalists trying to emulate him prove that his talents are sorely missed. Marriott had the fortune to shine in two majestic bands early in his career, and both The Small Faces and Humble Pie are enjoying a new wave of popularity as classic radio vaults open wider.

Although Rockin’ The Fillmore will stand as their definitive concert recording, Humble Pie did cut several solid sessions for BBC One between 1969 and 1971. “Natural Born Boogie“, the band’s Chuck Berry-flavored hit, finds Marriott in great vocal tone, while “The Ballad Of Shakey Jake” boasts some guitar noodling that would bring a smile to the face of any Deadhead. Fluid and creative, Peter Frampton, still years away from his megastar status, is the perfect axe partner for Marriott’s more bar-blues approach. Ex-Spooky Tooth bassist Greg Ridley and (then) teenage drum whiz Jerry Shirley flow from folk to rock as easily as their more famous counterparts. Consider their take on the Buddy Holly chestnut “Heartbeat”; heavier and blusier than the original, but not so cool that they couldn’t slap some handclaps in there too. And in “Desperation” we see the worm turning as Mod Steve starts to establish his soul roots with the band.

The later sessions (1970-71) are probably closer to the Humble Pie most people are familiar with. “Big Black Dog” is as close to “Walkin’ The Dog” in structure as it is in name, and “Four Day Creep” (perhaps the highlight here) is close to the album cut. “Rolling Stone” is an abbreviated version of the one on Rockin’ The Fillmore (thankfully), while “The Light” lets Frampton get a parting shot in before leaving. The final two tracks are from the Old Gray Whistle Test, and while “Black Coffee” (complete with The Blackberries on vocals) sounds great, “I Don’t Need No Doctor” is horrible.

In fairness, the CD cover contains a disclaimer that the sound quality on the tenth cut is very poor, but even with those expectations it sounds like a fifteenth generation bootleg tape. Recorded underwater. Left on the dashboard in the summer with the windows rolled up tight. Chewed on by the dog. Am I making this clear enough? Sure, the band smokes the tune, but are you telling me there was no other version, or other cut — of ANYTHING — available? Considering that “Doctor” was the cornerstone of Rockin’ The Fillmore, there is no reason under the sun that this should have been included here. Did the songwriters really need the royalties that badly?

And sure, the liner notes could have been more expansive, and some proofreader should have known the difference between Brian Jones and Mick Jones, but you can’t have everything. Since Steve isn’t around to thrill us with new music, having treasures like these get cleaned up and sent our way is something we should be thankful about. Well, nine out of ten times, anyway.

Humble Pie old

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