David Bowie’s Glass Spider tour helps Frampton come alive again

UNITED STATES - MARCH 18: Photo of Peter FRAMPTON and David BOWIE; with Peter Frampton, performing live onstage at the Cat Club (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)


By Steve Newton

Old rockers never die, they just play guitar for David Bowie.

At least, that’s what Peter Frampton was doing at B.C. Place last Saturday.

But Frampton and Bowie actually go back a long way–all the way back to the art school they used to attend in Bromley, 12 miles south of London

“When I was 11 or 12 we used to bring acoustics to school and jam on the art block stairs during lunchtime,” says Peter. “There was a nice echo there, ya see.”

In an interview at the Four Seasons Hotel before last Saturday’s show, Frampton told the Georgia Straight that Bowie called him up last summer about playing on his latest album, Never Let Me Down. Frampton was in Chicago, touring to promote his Premonition album on a bill with Stevie Nicks.

“David said he’d heard the Premonition album and liked my playing very much, and asked if I would think about playing some  of that on one of his. So I said, ‘Absolutely!’ ”

Frampton travelled to Switzerland to lay down the LP’s lead guitar tracks, which he did in only ten days.

“I’ve done quite a few sessions over the years, and the most frustrating thing about doing sessions for other people is when they don’t know what they want. And David is the first person that I’ve worked with who has a picture of exactly the way he wants it to go. If I was slightly off the direction that he wanted to go he’d just get his demos out one more time and play them for me.”

While in Switzerland, Bowie and Frampton went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant, and that’s when Bowie invited Frampton on his massive Glass Spider tour. Peter wasn’t about to let an opportunity like that pass by, so he put his own solo career on hold to play with his old buddy. He says the transition from frontman to sideman was a pretty easy one.

“The end result is that I get to play guitar all the time–which is great. ‘Cause if I was only allowed to do one thing–to play guitar, or write songs, or sing–then I’d prefer to play guitar.”

“And also it’s Dave, which is fantastic. I’ve always wanted to be on the same stage at the same time, and play together–so that’s one dream that has come true. And it’s a great band.”

A lot of people were surprised to learn that Peter Frampton would be touring as Bowie’s guitarist–especially since Bowie has the power to choose just about any player he wants (he snagged Stevie Ray Vaughan for his previous Serious Moonlight tour). Since Frampton has been pretty much out of the limelight in recent years, has the Bowie gig rescued his career somewhat?

“I wouldn’t say he rescued my career–I wouldn’t quite put it like that. But it as a very nice move on his part to ask me. I can’t say that it hasn’t put me in front of a lot of people, way more than I could attract on my own. But I rescued my own career last year by bringing Premonition out. which I’m very proud of.”

At the age of 37, Peter Frampton has seen a lot of ups and downs during his career. He first came on the scene as the guitarist for Humble Pie, trading nasty licks with Steve Marriot. Then he skyrocketed to fame in the mid-’70s with Frampton Comes Alive!, which sold 12 million copies and became the most successful live album of all tme. Then, just as fast as his popuarlity had risen, it dwindled. Looking back, Peter has his own explanation for the turns his career has taken.

Frampton Comes Alive! brought me a lot of happiness, but also made it very easy for me to make mistakes. The album was a phenomenon, and therefore there were no rules–just gut feelings about what one should do.

“My gut feelings were that we should hold back, and not flog this face to death, which is in fact what happened. When something is hot it’s hot and the media will use it in every form–radio, TV, print, everything. I was on the front of every magazine worldwide. And people get bored–did you know that?

“I don’t hold any grudges, and I’m very happy with the way things are right now, but if I could just go back and visit that time again, I would take four or five years off after Frampton Comes Alive! before I even thought about releasing anything else. But the idea back then was: ‘Let’s take advantage of this situation and release something as quickly as possible.” And I only had six months in which to write and record the following album, I’m In You, which is my least favourite record. I think it sort of says it right there–rushing into something where the quality’s just not there.

“Now, if you look at Michael Jackson, his followup to Thriller is just coming out now–and do you know how long Thriller‘s been out? So I think a lot of people have learned from my mistakes.”

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