Do You Feel Like I Do?: A Memoir By Peter Frampton with Alan Light
352 pp., $28, Hachette Books
If rock star careers were measured in terms of their level of roller coaster-ness, then Peter Frampton’s would be a ride on (shout out to Astroworld) the Texas Cyclone, Greezed Lightnin’, and X-LR8 combined for sheer combined highs and lows, twist and turns.
He started out as a young guitar prodigy with the Herd, becoming a teen idol as “The Face of ’68.” His next group was the well-regarded power boogie rock behemoth Humble Pie…but he quit the group on the cusp of their commercial fame. A few solo albums failed to gain traction, but then came 1976’s double LP Frampton Comes Alive! It sold millions of copies and made him one of the biggest and most recognizable rock stars on the planet. Cue the procession of girls, substances, money, private planes, limos, and creative challenges.
Then a couple of unfortunate photo shoots involving shirtless and satin pants combos, a tepid follow up album (I’m in You) and the co-starring with the Bee Gees in the flop Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie laid him low. Meanwhile, his Mafia-connected manager, Dee Anthony, was busily stealing what his client estimates was about $30 million in 2020 dollars from the kitty. Refreshingly, Frampton takes full responsibility for the part he played in his own career/financial downturns.
But wait, there’s more! Bankruptcy, bad relationships, alcoholism, a horrible car wreck, and divorces. Then came wilderness years of an occasional album that only his diehard fans bought. But his guitar cred skyrocketed as a sideman-for-hire gigs on record and on tour with Ringo Starr and good friend/former classmate David Bowie. Frampton credits the latter with literally saving his life and career.
And slowly, over the course of the past two decades, Peter Frampton rebuilt his live audience, who gladly looked past the ‘70s image to focus on the great songs, the good vibes, and Frampton’s still-formidable singing and guitar playing. He won a Grammy (for the all-instrumental Fingerprints), was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame, voiced himself on the Simpsons and Family Guy, and had a small role and served as a ‘70s rock and roll technical advisor in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous.
And when things were looking really, really great…Peter Frampton was diagnosed with IBM a few years back, a degenerative and irreversible muscular disease that will eventually rob him of the ability to play guitar. So he reluctantly embarked on a Farewell Tour (which played Houston in September of last year). A few final overseas dates were…cancelled by coronavirus.
In Do You Feel Like I Do?, Frampton (along with noted music journo and SiriusXM host Alan Light) tells his tale with a good deal of humor and aplomb. He comes across as a decent, genuine guy, the reader goes on the roller coaster with him. He also sprinkles in anecdotes about fellow musicians like Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Steve Miller, Steve Marriott, Alice Cooper, members of the Who, and more.
The book is filled with a lot of nuggets. Readers learn he picked up his first guitar at 3:30 am on Christmas Day when he was eight years old. That as a young teen, he lost his virginity to a young lady with the help of Rolling Stone Bill Wyman, his musical mentor who facilitated the encounter (leaving him with a case of the crabs and his mother to exclaim “Oh, that Bill Wyman!”).
He also discusses how his signature Talk Box effect originated with he became enamored of one used by Nashville-based steel guitarist Pete Drake. And how a tempestuous relationship with Penny McCall (who left her husband, Frampton’s friend, for him) inspired many of his biggest songs including “Baby, I Love Your Way,” “Show Me the Way,” “Baby (Somethin’s Happening)”, and “I’m in You.”
Interspersed in the book are chapters telling the story of Frampton’s fabled 1954 black Gibson Les Paul guitar – his favorite and the one on the cover of Frampton Comes Alive! Thought destroyed in a 1980 plane crash on a Venezuelan runway that also killed crew members, it resurfaced decades later. It was “liberated” from the crash site and sold to a local musician, who played it for years before throwing in a closest.
In a turns worthy of a spy novel, the musician’s son brings it into a repair shop for repair – the sharp owner recognizes it for what it is – and contacts Frampton. But before any negotiations could be made, the teen runs off with it and is not heard from for years. Eventually, the guitar makes its way back to Frampton via a government courier and the shop owner, it is meticulously repaired, and called back into duty for the Frampton Comes Alive! 35th anniversary tour, the instrument now dubbed “The Phenix.”
That Peter Frampton is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame makes this writer’s #1 slot on List of Snubs, and Frampton himself is one of the nicest musicians I’ve interviewed in 30+ years of music journalism. Perhaps the Finale Tour, a reevaluation of his music, and this book will push things along to an appearance on the ballot (co-author Light is on the Nominating Committee).
But regardless, Do You Feel Like I Do? Is an honest (often brutally honest) book that flows exceedingly well, has enough to interest both the diehard fan as well as those who only own Frampton Comes Alive!, and is sure to be a top classic rock bio/autobio of 2020.
This review originally appeared at HoustonPress.com