Checking in with Peter Frampton
Peter Frampton has never slowed down.
One of the standout live performers of the '70s, his album "Frampton Comes Alive" became the greatest selling album of all time when it was released.
Frampton performs with YES tonight at Pier Six Pavilion (get tickets here).
For his new album, "Thank You Mr. Churchill," Frampton mined his childhood memories, spinning yarns about his first guitar and growing up in post-war England. ...
On his inspiration
My brother and I had wonderful parents, but we outlived them, as we’re supposed to. Nevertheless, it’s a life changing moment when you suddenly realize one morning that you can’t make that Sunday phone call anymore. That was the thing that made me start realizing, I’m an orphan. It gave me a different outlook on my live, and I went back to take stock of where I’d come from and why I was doing why I was doing, and thankfully still enjoying it. It made me go back and start from the beginning. That’s where the lyrical idea for the album started, which is a thread throughout the album. Then it branches off on little pet peeves of mine. But generally, it’s a look back and a look forward at the same time.
The story behind the song "Vaudeville Nanna and the Banjolele"
There was another thing that happened when I was about 7 years old. My grandmother had given my father this banjolele, a banjo-shaped ukulele, a little tiny thing. She said, ‘You never know, stick it in the attic, you might want to bring it down one day and show him a couple of chords.’ As soon as I found that, that was it for me. I learned “Tom Dooley” and “Michael Row the Boat” and that was my repertoire for a couple months. As in the song, my father bought me for Christmas a guitar, a very cheap and nasty but treasured guitar. Just an acoustic. I couldn’t tune the bottom two strings, and I woke him up at 3 o’clock in the morning, that really was that Christmas morning, 1958 was when I started this musical journey. I had to write about it.
Looking back on his upbringing
Whoever dealt me cards from the deck, I got good cards. I didn’t become an artist out of horrible parents or a terrible upbringing. It was very English middle class, grew up parents with great values. Not rich, not poor, pretty average for that time period after the war. So for me, it was joyous to go back, because I had a great childhood. I was not dissuaded very much by my parents, especially when they knew what I was going to do. They never pushed me.
My dad was a teacher, so nothing was going to affect school. But by the time I got to the first opportunity where I could – you would call it dropping out, I would call it that I just got a job -- you either went on to the sixth form or went on to college. I got the offer with a professional band, the Herd, and they knew there was no real point in saying ‘You can’t do this.’ That’s what I’d been doing for the past 10 years. I was 16 and I’d been in three different bands already, before I was 15, touring Europe. My dad made sure that when I joined the Herd there was a stipulation that I got a minimum wage. Unfortunately they couldn’t always afford to pay themselves the minimum wage. The first few gigs we did where they could afford to pay them more than me, guess who didn’t get any more than his minimum wage? For a while it was the best deal, and then I had to renegotiate.
What his setlists look like
They have the staples from the past that people would lynch me if I didn’t do them. I’m not the sort of artist that refuses to do the ones that put me where I initially came into the light of the general public. I’m not going to stop doing those. I don’t do all of them but I do the ones I still really enjoy playing and I really enjoy the reaction to those. I get off on seeing how much the audience enjoys them. “Show me the way, “baby I love your way,” “Do you feel” are always there. Sometimes “Money,” all from the early solo records but also from Frampton Comes Alive. I’ve never sat on my laurels. I’m not an oldies act. I play my hits. I could never not come out on tour each year without something new. Lucky for me, “Fingerprints” surprised the heck out of everybody, mostly me and was a critical success and I got my first Grammy for it.
Working with his son
My son Julian is with me, which unfortunately he won’t be for a few weeks now, because he’s back in Los Angeles. The deal is, he works, I pay for college, I’m not buying his cigarettes, you know what I mean? He and I have this wonderful relationship, finally. You go through stages with your kids where you think, ‘Oh god this is not going to work.’ We just have this great relationship, and we wrote a couple of songs. One of them was so good.
I have to give him credit. He’s turned into this great songwriter/singer. It was not my choice. I wanted him on the record but I wasn’t the one who said oh what's this. My co-producer heard it and said ‘Who’s singing?’ I said ‘That’s my son.’ He said ‘That’s Julian? We’ve got to do that one.’ That was the best moment in our relationship when I got to call my son, because I knew what it meant to Julian to come and record with me and Mat Cameron and have a track on the new record. I’ll never forget the phone call. And then, of course, the session. He rose to the occasion. He really hit it out of the park on that one. I’m obviously a proud Papa.