Rock 'n' roll albums don't get much bigger than "Frampton Comes Alive!"
The 1976 double-live set, recorded
at San Francisco's Winterland by an angelic-looking
British guitar player named Peter Frampton, sold
a record 10 million copies and defined smooth
pop-rock in the 1970s and beyond.
The son of an art school teacher
growing up in suburban Beckenham, England, Frampton
dreamed of a career as a sideman in the mold of
Hank Marvin of the Shadows or Keith Richards of
the Rolling Stones. But by age 16 he was fronting
his own band, The Herd, whose string of U.K. pop
hits won him the "Face of 1968" accolade by the
British press. The following year, he joined with
ex-Small Faces guitarist Steve Marriott to form
Humble Pie and was more than happy to yield center
stage to Marriott's vocal prowess.
Frampton went solo in 1971 and recorded
three well-received albums before conquering America,
and indeed the world, with "Alive," the largest-selling
live album in history at that time. The reluctant
arena god had initially turned in just one album;
it was his record company that asked for the second
that included the hits "Show Me the Way" and "Baby,
I Love Your Way."
Frampton's descent to earth was just as steep as his meteoric rise; after all, how do you follow up such a supernova? Despite a hugely successful tour, musical tastes were swinging away from arena rock toward punk and New Wave.
Exhausted from constant touring, Frampton retreated from the road, married and started a family. He and wife Tina still have one of four children at home with them in suburban Cincinnati, their 10-year-old daughter Mia.
In 1987 childhood friend David Jones,
better known as David Bowie, enlisted Frampton
for guitar duty on his Glass Spider tour. Comfortably
back in instrumental mode, the former star began
to reinvent himself as an accomplished guitarist,
occasionally recording and touring with Ringo
Starr and his All-Starr Band and others. He also
served as consultant on Cameron Crowe's hit rock
'n' roll film, "Almost Famous."
In 2006 Frampton completed his transformation
with the critically acclaimed album "Fingerprints,"
an all-instrumental homage to his guitar heroes
that won a Grammy as Best Pop Instrumental Album.
As he recently demonstrated on a "shred-off" on
"The Colbert Report," this former pop-rock
poster boy can still rip with the best in the
It's been a long, sustained rocket ride for Frampton, who looked back with Bankrate at the risks and rewards of 40 years in rock music.