Thirty Years Ago
During the summer of 1976 you couldn't enter a music store (or the bedroom of many a teenaged girl..or guy) without seeing a nearly life-sized image of Peter Frampton. Soulful-eyed, open-shirted, angelic-faced Peter Frampton. Armed with his guitar and a soft corona of golden curls he was like a Rock n' Roll Jesus and it was impossible for me ( I'm sure I'm not alone in this) to gaze upon his stunning face without a sharp intake of breath.
It was the summer before my senior year of high school. I was working at Six Flags and I wore the senior ring of my boyfriend of the moment. One of the gift shops where I worked played nonstop rock and the music from the "Frampton Comes Alive" double live album and, of the posters of rock stars which we sold by the hundreds, none sold as well as that displaying the beautiful visage of Peter Frampton.
For the uninitiated, Frampton, a former member of Humble Pie, set the world on fire with his "Comes Alive" contribution in January of 1976 and it ranked Number One for 10 weeks. The album stayed in the Top 10 for over a year and it was declared the BEST-SELLING LIVE ALBUM OF ALL TIME, a record it held comfortably for over 20 years. For you youngsters out there that means that, while you were unknowingly salivating over the newest offerings from musicians in 1996, Peter Frampton still held the title for Best Live Album...EVER. Many music analysts still consider it to be among the top ten live album releases ever produced...keeping good company with Joni Mitchell's "Miles of Aisles", War's "War Live", The Who's "Live at Leeds" and my personal favorite, The Allman Brothers' "Live At The Fillmore East".
None of this matters much in the total scheme of things, but I was sitting by the neighbor's pool today and thinking about what I was doing 30 years ago. I was a skinny teenager whose teeth had recently been released from the captivity of braces and "Baby I Love Your Way" was on every rock station. While thinking about that magical summer I remembered what Time magazine writer Richard Lacayo wrote about the death of George Harrison when comparing the passing of years to the face of a great clock: "Year after year we have looked at them--at the aging of those faces--at the mellowing of their lives--to see what time it is for all of us."
I think this is true of anyone whom we held in high regard in our youth. We get older...and so do they. Time, however, has been good to Peter Frampton. He continues to mentor and produce music. He had a part in Cameron Crowe's movie, "Almost Famous". He did the voiceover for his cartoon self in an episode of "The Simpsons". He's recorded a new cd. Sure... the long hair is gone, but the face is the same. I've learned that as long as you're doing what you've always done, it's never pathetic or desperate. That's not to say the one if forbidden to pursue new interests or skills, but to see a 56-year old man take up the guitar in the hopes of being a rockstar is uncomfortably sad. To see a 56-year old man doing what he's always done is an inspiration. Here's to you, Peter Frampton. Baby....I love your way.