TODAY IN MUSIC HISTORY: Peter Frampton Releases “Frampton Comes Alive” – Where Are They Now? History & Update
Released January 6, 1976. It’easily one of the best live albums ever going 8-times platinum so far. Only Garth Brooks, ‘Double Live’ (21X Platinum), ‘Springsteen Live 1975-85’ (13X Platinum), Eric Clapton ‘Unplugged’ (10X Platinum) has sold more.
Even though the stage is truly the place for exploding peacocks or finally giving the audience that unedited crescendo moment live albums are usually not the place to get discovered if you’re an unknown act. The show? yes – the album? Not so much. There have been a few breakthroughs however. It happened for Kiss and ‘Alive’ the year before and Cheap Trick ‘at Budokan,’ two years later. The latter became their biggest selling LP.
So in 1976, sure, the true music fans knew who Frampton was. He had early success as a member of The Herd and later in Humble Pie with Steve Marriott. His first 4 solo albums, however, really didn’t sell well and this one almost didn’t make it either.
‘Frampton Comes Alive’ debuted on the charts at #191. It took almost exactly 3 months for it to reach #1 on April 10, 1976 – staying there for 10 weeks. It was the biggest selling album that year with a take of 6 million copies and best LP according to the 1976 Rolling Stone readers poll.
The singles, ‘Show Me the Way’, ‘Baby, I Love Your Way’, and who could forget the talk-box guitar effects on the album especially on the hit ‘Do You Feel Like We Do.’
It was originally going to be a single album but they had so much good stuff in the can it just expanded.
Most of the project was recorded from June to November 1975 in four main spots but mostly Winterland in San Francisco and the Long Island Arena in Commack, New York. The bassist on Frampton Comes Alive, Stanley Sheldon, who has worked with Warren Zevon, Delbert McClinton, Tommy Bolin, Lou Gramm among others, didn’t even know they were recording for the San Francisco part of the album. Looking back he’s grateful he had no idea – Thinking he might have over thought things.
Sheldon who, along with Peter are the only two surviving members of the band, told his boss before recording the project, ‘We need to do another studio [project]. We need a studio hit.’ That was my advice.” The guy has chops, he was one of the first to use a frettless bass on Rock music.
He played on Frampton’s next two LP’s, ‘I’m in You’ from 1977 and 1979’s ‘Where I Should Be.’ He co-wrote a tune and appeared on Frampton’s Grammy winning instrumental album ‘Fingerprints’ project from 2007. He also still tours with Peter.
Frampton did not talk a lot on ‘Comes Alive,’ “There’s ‘Hello San Francisco,” “This one’s called Doobie Wah,” “This is an Oldie but a Goodie,” “How about some Rock and Roll,” and “Bob Mayo on the keyboards, Bob Mayo.” That Pianist and guitarist was a big part of ‘Frampton Comes Alive.’ Mayo was a New Yorker who took up classical piano at 5. He had plans on studying at Juilliard School in New York City but got into a car accident at 17. As well as ‘Alive’ Mayo was also on it’s follow up, ‘I’m In You’ and ‘Where I Should Be.’ He left Frampton in 1980. Those lush keyboards on Foreigner’s ‘Waiting for a Girl Like You’ is Mayo with Thomas Dolby. He also played with Joe Walsh, Dan Fogelberg, Hall and Oates, Robert Plant
Mayo was the only band member to come back in 1992 for ‘Frampton Comes Alive II’ and later the ‘Live in Detroit’ CD and DVD and 2003’s Peter Frampton ‘Now.’ He had a heart attack and died on February 23, 2004 while touring with Peter in Switzerland.
A few weeks before, on January 16, 2004, the drummer for ‘Frampton Comes Alive” John Siomos was found dead in his apartment. He had battled a drug problem in the past but no cause of death was named, but it was supposedly “natural causes.’ Of all the musicians on that Frampton stage Siomos, at that point, had been playing with him the longest – since his second solo album ‘Frampton’s Camel.’ from 1973. His last one with Frampton was the follow up to ‘Comes Alive’ ‘I’m In You.’ in 1977.
The drummer had a long career appearing on Carly Simon’s debut, Todd Rundgren’s 1972 classic ‘Something/Anything.’ He played drums on three tracks including on one of the hits from the project, ‘Hello It’s Me.’ Siomos also played with Rick Derringer and Terry Reid.
‘Comes Alive’ was the high point of Frampton’s career, a year and a half later, in 1977, his follow up was ‘I’m In You.’ The title track was his highest charting single ever and the album did go platinum but the high times were over for Frampton. Then in 1978 there was the Robert Stigwood/Bee Gees film ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.’ Frampton was paid $750,000, plus a percent of the gross. Unfortunately it cost $18 million to make and made only $20 Million in North America.
If ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ is a big part of your patchwork you really need to invest in his last few albums especially ‘Now’ from 2003, the aforementioned instrumental project ‘Fingerprints’ from 2007 and especially ‘Thank You Mr. Churchill’ which I thought was one of the best albums of 2010.
Frampton’s still got it. He doesn’t look the same but neither do we. Cheers to ‘Frampton Comes Alive.’ My Favorite live album of all time! – by John Beaudin
John Beaudin has been in major market radio (Edmonton, Vancouver & Calgary) for 33 years and a music journalist since 1989. He graduated from Broadcasting school as a news man so he would have the skills to write about the artists that inspired him since he bought his first album, “Madman Across The Water” by Elton John as a teen. In the 80’s Beaudin was the host of the syndicated radio show “The Cross Canada Report” which had two version (Rock and A/C). Beaudin was also asked to be a judge at the Juno Awards (Canada’s answer to the Grammys) Twice. He has anchored every position in radio including morning and afternoon drive and was a Program and Music Director for The Breeze and California 103 in Calgary. He currently hosts the popular Lovesongs at QM-FM in Vancouver.
Other channels featuring John Beaudin
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Rock History Book https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDKUUfqq_iuwk63pZEUOTIQ/videos
Rock History Music https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChUv5CZuAuh08DfHA8klNSA/videos