PETER FRAMPTON: “I Am Itching To Get On The Stage And Nothing Would Please Me More Than If We Hear The All Clear Sirens”

Peter Frampton

52 years after he released his debut record with The Herd, guitarist Peter Frampton has written his first book looking back at his life and career that has encompassed Humble Pie with Steve Marriott as well, a successful solo career which included the multi-million seller Frampton Comes Alive and working with David Bowie and members of The Beatles. Mick Burgess called him up to talk about his new book, Do You Feel Like I Do?, a look back on his career as well as a candid talk about his illness that has brought him to his Farewell Tour and the prospects of finishing the tour once Covid is defeated.

We’re living in rather strange times at the moment. How has COVID-19 impacted on you?

The most unfortunate thing is for those people who have been really affected by COVID in terms of losing loved ones and ill-health and I don’t mean to belittle anyone with how it has impacted on me. On that basis it was upsetting that we had to postpone/cancel, well cancel really as we don’t have a date for the all clear to be able to play in Europe so that was the most upsetting part of it for me. I realise that there is a reason for that as a lot of people have died and we have to stay safe. The problem with postponing for me was that this was going to be my farewell tour of The States, Europe, South America and Australia and I was going to keep going to get to as many of my fans around the world as possible. I’m dealing with a clock that is ticking with my IBM (Inclusion Body Myositis) and although it’s a slow moving disease, I’m losing power in my muscles that means that the longer the plague goes on the less chance I have of being able to tour again so that’s the most disappointing thing for me.

Your new book, Do You Feel Like I Do, came out a few days ago. Has the current situation given you the time to finally get your book finished or was it already done when all of this broke out?

Yes, I think it has. I didn’t realise how much work and how much time was going to be needed. I don’t know if I’d have finished the book if I’d toured Europe. So, it did give me time to finish the book and also to read the audio book that I really enjoyed doing.

Are you pleased with the reaction your book has received so far?

It’s been great. I’m a little surprised but very pleased that it’s been so well received. I had no idea. The night before it came out, I had no idea what to do with myself, I was just so nervous. It’s like giving birth to a baby but it’s very personal and everybody gets to see and read everything. It was definitely a crazy moment as we got close to the publication date.

When did you first decide to write your biography?

The idea for the book preceded my Farewell Tour. It all came from my diagnosis of IBM which meant that I’d have to slow down soon but I wasn’t sure when. This was about 4 years before I actually did the last tour. Within that four years I started really thinking about the book. Me and my manager Ken Levitan were in New York looking for a deal for the book last year. I’d told him that I’d had a bad fall on vacation with my daughter in Maui in Hawaii at the end of the last tour and I said that we had to be careful what we booked in terms of live shows as things were progressing a little more. That’s when he said that we should make the next tour in 2019 and 2020 tour my Farewell Tour and it can go on as long as I can get to all the different countries that I want to say goodbye to and hopefully I can get it all in before my muscles start really giving me a problem. So, we were in New York to get a book deal and we made the decision on the Farewell Tour too so it all happened at once.

Have you ever attempted anything like this in the past or is the last time you’ve written a long piece or a project back in your school days?

No, I’ve never tried to do anything like this before. I’m more of a visual learner or audio learner rather than a reader. I do read books but I’m not what you’d call an avid reader so it was all a bit daunting to me. I was very pleased to have someone as experienced and great as Alan Light to guide me through the process, which was a lot more than I thought.

How do you prepare for something like this and how did you pull all of the material together?

I have a very good memory for back then but what I had for breakfast today, I couldn’t tell you. It was basically many weekends sitting with Alan and him asking me what happened and we just chatted and taped everything for weeks. Then it was put into a manuscript and I’d go though it to see which bits I’d forgotten, then I’d make some phone calls to remember names, places and dates but not many. Then it was edited into a form where it didn’t sound like I was sitting on the couch rambling. It was made easy by all of the stories coming pretty quickly. It was a lot of hard work but if you’re going to do a book, you’ve got to work hard. Being a newbie, I had no idea of the process involved but I found it very interesting and somethings I’d do a lot differently next time, if there were a book. I like to know what I’m doing but unfortunately you don’t know what you’re doing until you’ve done the first book.

How did you feel when you held it in your hand for the first time?

I was proud that I’d done it. I had already read the book when I was doing the audio book version because I was reading from a PDF. When I got my first copy of the hardback book itself, I was blown away and thought “I’m an author”. It was a great day when I first undid the box and there it was.

How different was the creative process behind writing a book compared to creating an album?

It’s completely different. With an album, unless you’re writing Tommy, you’re writing on different subjects about different things and different pieces of music and you’re writing something new. It’s brand new. Whereas with a book, you’re recounting what has already happened and writing a true account of your life. One is remembering and the other is creating. You do create the book but it’s all down to memory and how you put it on the page.

How did that feeling compare to recording your first album, Paradise Lost by The Herd back in 1968?

I remember that we were thrilled that it was done. I’m not saying we were 100% thrilled with it but it was a great achievement. This book has been much more under my control and I think I have a much greater feeling of accomplishment with my book than I did with The Herd’s album.

The book is very easy to read and is written in a style where you can almost imagine that you’re sitting in a chair in the corner of a room telling these stories.

I’ve always been something of a storyteller especially with my band when we’re on tour. They were always asking me about things, what was this like, what happened there, what was it like meeting him? So, I’ve been telling these stories over the years so they’re pretty fresh in my mind. The band have always said that I should write them down as they’re funny, sad, a story of accomplishment, resilience and whatever. In the end I did. I felt very comfortable telling the stories. It’s my side of the story and I’m sure I haven’t remembered everything to the exact detail as there’s always my side, your side and the truth. It’s as close to dammit that I could make it.

They say a good book, like a good concert, should grab you right from the start. You certainly follow that advice in your opening pages where you are under the pain of death if you don’t perform in Panama for the local promoter after your equipment got destroyed in an accident but you all manage to escape in an exercise of military precision. It sounds like a nightmare situation. Did you genuinely fear for your life at that moment?

I didn’t actually. I had to keep a stiff upper lip and remember I was British. Everyone came to my room. Rodney Eckerman the tour manager told everybody to go to my suite so if we had to run out of there, we were all together. We had the window open and we were watching this promoter talking to Rodney. He said that if we didn’t play he’d kill Rodney then he’d kill me. We all shut the window quickly and started snickering. It was bizarre. It was the same night as the results were coming in when Reagan was elected as President.

Did you ever return there to play?

Oh no. I never went back. I don’t think we’re allowed back to Panama. I think we’d get arrested if we went back there but it might be different there now.

You got an interest in music at an early age. Can you remember that feeling when you first discovered your grandmother’s banjolele?

The thing that I remembered about it, was that as soon as I remembered the three songs that she taught me, “Tom Dooley”, “She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain” and “Michael Row The Boat” with my little fingers on the tiny neck of the banjolele, I played them to my grandma and grandad and I got applause. That was it for me. I thought, I liked this. You sing as song and you get applause. I remember feeling elated that they liked what I was doing.

How long did it take you to move onto the guitar?

Within a year of playing the banjolele, I got a guitar that Santa brought me at Christmas. As soon as I got the acoustic, I wanted to electrify it. I got a pick up and my Dad got me hooked up to the house radio as an amplifier.

Hank Marvin was one of those guitarists that inspired you in those early days. What was it about his playing that impressed you so much?

It was the music. The sound of that Stratocaster freaked me out. I’d never heard anything like it. I heard The Shadows before I heard Buddy Holly so I had to go and listen to Buddy Holly after that. The whole thing with The Shadows, their first singles and the first album and all I wanted to do was get a red Stratocaster but my father wouldn’t let me have one as he thought they were just a lump of wood, there were no holes in it. That’s why I was allowed to get a Hofner Club 60 then I got a Guild Starfire guitar. He just didn’t think the Stratocaster was a proper instrument but he changed his mind eventually though.

You were in bands at school and you befriended David Bowie who was a few years older. Did you connect instantly over music?

Yes, we did. I’d seen him on the school entrance steps before I even went to that school and I looked up at Dad and asked who he was because he was mesmerising, right from the off. The next year I went to the school and my Dad was Dave’s art teacher for three years and they became close because of Dave’s passion for art as well as music. The main reason I made a bee-line for Dave was that he was a great musician and played sax. George Underwood, who was Dave’s friend for life, me and Dave were the Three Amigo’s and my Dad would store our guitars in his office and we’d get them out at lunch time and play.

You cut your first album in 1968 with The Herd. How long had you been a professional at this point?

I left school at 16 so it was 2 years at that point.

You were only 18 years old when you joined Humble Pie with Steve Marriott of the Small Faces. He was a big name at the time. How did you connect with him?

First of all, he joined my band. What happened was, I had left The Herd. Steve and Ronnie Laine of the Small Faces called us and said that they’d heard we were having some financial problems with management and they’d been through all that. They asked if I’d like to go down and see them for some advice. Andrew Brown and myself went down to Steve and Ronnie’s cottage for the evening then left, except that I didn’t really leave. I went down the next weekend and the weekend after that and kept going back. Steve and I really hit it off. He was looking for someone to share the limelight with in the Small Faces but they weren’t looking for that. When it got to the point of Johnny Hallyday asking Glyn Johns if the Small Faces could write some songs for him then go to Paris and be the backing band for his next album that’s when Steve suggested to Glyn that I should come and play guitar on the sessions. It was Steve’s way of trying me out in the Small Faces and it worked phenomenally well. I was a huge Small Faces fan and had been since I saw “What You Going To Do About It” on Ready Steady Go and wanted to play guitar in that band so badly.

What happened after you did those sessions with the Small Faces?

Once we did the sessions and came back to England, Steve realised the other guys wouldn’t want me to join the Small Faces and that’s when he called me up and told me he was leaving and asked if he could join my band, which he was helping me put together at that point. He found Jerry Shirley for me, the drummer. When he called to ask to join my band, I said yes. He then said he had Greg Ridley from Spooky Tooth ready to leave and come and join us. I thought what a great line-up that was. That was it. From advising The Herd to me leaving The Herd and looking for a new band then all of a sudden Steve leaves and joins up with us. Of course, Ronnie Laine calls me the next day and asks if I’d ever consider joining the Small Faces. I said I thought that was going to happen and we could all be in the same band together but I’d already given Steve my word and has already joined my band. I’d loved to have done both as I loved the Small Faces.

What was the idea behind Humble Pie when you were originally talking about creating new music together?

We wanted to do more heavier stuff. We still wrote acoustic stuff and we knew we’d do that as well but our first album, As Safe As Yesterday Is has a lot of Rock ‘n’ Roll on it. One of the American reviews said that it sounded like Heavy Metal. That was the first time I’d ever heard that phrase. I don’t think Humble Pie were Heavy Metal but there you go.

Performance Rockin’ The Fillmore is one of THE great live albums. Do you feel that the album captured you at your peak?

Yes, I do. Rock On, the album we did just before The Fillmore live record, was the best of the original foursome, it was our best by far and then when we made the live record and listened to it, we realised that we had something pretty special there.

Why did you decide to perform so many covers on that tour rather than include more of your own songs?

I think those were the songs that made most sense live at the time. There were no rules and we just did what we thought sounded the best. We were big fans of Blues and R&B as well and Steve was phenomenal at the Blues with his incredible vocals, guitar and harmonica playing so “I’m Ready” and “Rollin’ Stone” were so natural for us to do. “Gilded Splinters” by Dr John, where we did our never-ending version of that, was great to play live and always went down really well.

You left just before the album was released. Were you involved in the production side of the album before you went?

Yes, I was. Most of it was mixed by myself and Eddie Kramer in Electric Lady Studios in Manhattan. I’d come back in mid-week from wherever Humble Pie were playing and we’d continue mixing and then go back out and play some more shows and that continued for a while until the mixing was finished by the two of us.

You decided to go solo from this point. Was that quite a daunting prospect for you to be the whole focus of attention without the back-up of a band around you?

I was ready to go out by myself. I realised at that point I was feeling a little restricted musically. I loved everything we were doing. Everybody thought that I wrote the acoustic stuff and Steve wrote the heavy stuff. That’s not true at all. I was involved in bringing really heavy riffs like “Stone Cold Fever”, “I Don’t Need No Doctor”, which although it was a cover, it was my riff and also “One Eyed Trouser Snake Rumba” There were a lot of tracks that I brought in that were heavier that we all jammed on and made it a band composition. I loved what we were doing but it was just right for me to try my own thing at that point.

You also decided to sing lead vocals too. Was that a challenge for you after being in a band with one of the all-time great Rock singers?

I never really wanted to be the singer but I knew if I was going to go solo I wasn’t going to get a front man in and that I’d do my own material and be the singer. I had a lot of learning to do. I’m an OK singer but I’m not the best singer, guitar playing is my forte but I learned what voice I had and how to use it. I’m pretty proud of a lot of my singing. I enjoy it immensely but it was a daunting thing to think about.

If it’s not enough for you to have released one classic live album, Humble Pie’s Performance Rockin’ The Fillmore, you went and topped it with your own Frampton Comes Alive. Why did you decide to record a live album at that point and did you have any idea how successful it would become?

I had no idea that Frampton Comes Alive would take off like it did. The reason I did a live album then was that I was with the exact same team, record label, management, everything as Humble Pie. When I left Humble Pie, I went down a few rungs of the ladder as a solo artist so had to start again but not quite at the very bottom as I had fans from Humble Pie and The Herd. I did four studio albums and the fourth one was the Frampton album and I felt that I was at the same point as Humble Pie when we did the Fillmore live album. I could feel that I was not opening any more. I was in the middle spot and sometimes headlining and we all looked at each other as a team and just nodded and nobody actually said anything but we just thought we’d follow the Humble Pie template. I was hoping that it’d be my first Gold record which it was for Humble Pie. No one had a brain wave. We just followed the footprints that I’d followed with Humble Pie and it paid off. No one ever expected it to become that big.

Just a quick random question to round off. You were part of David Bowie’s band on the Glass Spider tour in 1987. Do you remember when you were at Roker Park in Sunderland where David famously said “Hello Newcastle” Did you notice that he’d said that?

Ha!!, I had absolutely no idea he called the Sunderland crowd, Newcastle. Oh, dear that’s almost like “Hello Cleveland”. That was a great production and probably the biggest tour I’d ever been on. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was totally out of the ordinary for me. When you have a crew of over 200 people it’s quite extraordinary. That was a big tour.

COVID-19 wrecked your Farewell Tour plans. Do you hope to still do those dates before retiring?

I certainly hope that I will be able to still come over and play those shows but will I be able to? Nobody knows. I am itching to get on the stage and nothing would please me more than if we hear the all clear sirens and if I’m still able to play a few licks, then I’ll be over. It’s just something of a waiting game at the moment.

Peter Frampton’s book, Do You Feel Like I Do? A Memoir is out now.

For more on Peter Frampton visit:

Interview By Mick Burgess


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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