Staying Alive: Peter Frampton Details a Desperate Race Against Time
At a press conference during the Montreal Jazz Festival, the legendary British guitarist reveals a desire to maximize his time before it’s too late
It was a poignant moment when Peter Frampton took his seat at a press conference preceding his appearance at the Montreal Jazz Festival and then proceeded to discuss what might very well be his final farewell. By now it was clear that the disease with which he had been afflicted, Inclusion-Body Myotis or, as it’s known by its initials, IBM, appears to have put a termination date on his 50 plus year career.
Unless the disease were to recede, Frampton’s acknowledged that this tour, which would bring him to the Salle Wilfred-Pelletier theater in Montreal’s magnificent Place des Arts the following evening, likely marks the end of his live performing career. Unlike the retirement announcement offered by the festival’s founders Alain Simard and Andre Menard, both of whom would be celebrated for 40 years as the event’s organizers, Frampton admitted he has little choice in the matter.
“It’s not up to me when I stop playing,” he admitted in his opening statement to the two dozen journalists gathered for the speaking session. “IBM is a slow moving degenerative disease which fluctuates its speed as it affects the muscles. There are periods when the effects are more pronounced than they are at other times. I never want to stop playing. I love being onstage. But I have to be realistic too. So I can’t tell you when I’ll have to hang it up. Things keep changing, changing, changing.”
One immediate effect of this dire disease was the forced cancellation of Frampton’s scheduled summer tour with Alice Cooper.
Nevertheless, it was clear that if this run was to mark Frampton’s finale, he was determined to do everything he could to effectively encapsulate his career.
“We’re mixing the material up every night,” he said. “I had back and listened to my early solo stuff. We’re doing songs off my first album Wind of Change that we’ve never done before, songs that still sound great onstage. We went through everything and certain songs just seemed to stand out. Naturally, we’ll also be doing or three from the new album, All Blues.
It’s the latter album that Frampton is especially intent on touting. A collection of classic blues songs faithfully covered by Frampton, his band and several special guests — Larry Carlton, Sonny Landreth, Steve Morse and Kim Wilson — it was, according to Frampton, a collaborative effort that allowed for input from all the players involved.
“We all put some song titles in a hat and from that we made the choices,” Frampton explained. “I had always wanted to do ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’ since I heard the Stones cover it years ago. I wanted to add a Peter Frampton Band touch to it. I also had my Instagram followers suggest some titles, and of course, once you go viral, you’re well on your way. ‘Georgia On My Mind’ and ‘Same Old Blues’ are two of my favorite songs in the set, but naturally I wasn’t going to compete with Ray Charles’ vocal. He was also a tremendous inspiration on Steve Winwood who cut “Georgia” as well. I would’t want to compete with his version either.”
Of course, Frampton’s familiarity with the blues can be traced to his tenure in Humble Pie. “Steve (Marriott) was listening to the blues when we started the band,” Frampton recalled. “We had a great combination, with my lyrical style of playing and his gutsier approach to guitar. I was always into Django Reinhardt who I found very inspiring simply because I knew I’d never be better than he was.” Frampton also makes a point of mentioning that early on he was oriented towards jazz, and he cites Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass and the Shadows as among his archival influences.
Frampton said he has the same admiration for the other guitarists who appear on the new album. “We’re all friends and we share this mutual respect,” he said. “I look up to them because I can’t do what they do, and vice versa.”
In that respect, Frampton also has fond memories of the time he spent accompanying David Bowie on the latter’s Glass Spider tour, which gave him an opportunity to play purely in support and not as the star in the spotlight.
“David and I grew up together,” Frampton remembered, “So when David called me up and said it’s time to do something together, the two of us, it was the most most wonderful moment for me. I looked up to him like an older brother. The two of us went to dinner in Switzerland and it was there and then that he asked me to do the tour with him. Naturally, I said yes in a nano second. For 18 months, I didn’t have to play at being a pop star. David gave me the gift of being able to go around the world and perform in arenas and stadiums while reintroducing myself as a guitar player.”
Inevitably, that brings up the subject of what is arguably Frampton’s greatest achievement of all, at least in commercial tunes, that being the ever invincible Frampton Comes Alive. The album that made Frampton a super star was, according to its maker, a specific plan based on precedent.
“It was a carbon copy of the strategy we had taken with Humble Pie,” Frampton suggested. “Our fourth album was Rock On and that kind of brought us to the brink of wider recognition. It was followed by Rockin’ the Fillmore, the album that broke us in the States. So the strategy we took with my solo career was a carbon copy of that. My fourth album Frampton brought with it some public awareness, so we did the same thing as we had done before and released a live album as the follow-up. The strategy worked the same way.”
As for the future, Frampton noted that he had upcoming several albums in the works. He said that 33 tracks were recorded in all for All Blues and that 23 were deemed suitable. Of those, an additional eleven will likely be used for a vinyl version. In addition, he’s planning an all instrumental album and another collection of original material which he said he’s already begun recording.
Clearly, Frampton isn’t taking any chances, given the fact that his disease is wholly dictating the future course of his career. “I am,” he admitted, “up against a ticking clock.”
VIDEO: Frampton interview at the Montreal Jazz Festival 2019
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