Magazine article The New Yorker

Life after Life

Magazine article The New Yorker

Life after Life

Article excerpt


"I'm one big goose bump!" Peter Frampton said the other day, on visiting Electric Lady Studios, the music studio on Eighth Street, for the first time in decades. He found the control room where "Frampton Comes Alive!" was mixed, a little more than forty years ago. He remembered how Jerry Moss, a founder of A&M Records, sat at the console to listen to the mix of what was then a single disk. When it finished playing, Moss looked over the mixing board and said, "Where's the rest?"

"So we said, 'You mean, you want a double album?' " Frampton recalled. "He said, 'Yes, of course'!"

Before "Comes Alive!," Frampton had been an established British session musician (he had played guitar on George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass"), a member of the band Humble Pie, and a moderately successful singer-songwriter. With the enormous success of "Comes Alive!" (it's sold more than eight million copies, and was, for a period, the best-selling live album of all time), he became a star: a shirtless, golden-haired British angel with a talking guitar.

"The pop stuff made sense," Frampton said, fingering his reading glasses, which were hanging around his neck. The golden hair is gone now, leaving a gleaming pate edged in gray stubble. "You've got this guy with a huge record, and he looks good. But what happened was, as soon as the album came out, the guys went to the back of the room and the chicks came to the front." He paused and added ruefully, "I've learned this--it's my little bit of wisdom: a pop star's career lasts about eighteen months. Your fans grow into you, and then they grow out of you and they're on to something else. But a musician's career is a lifetime."

Frampton cemented his pop-star status with the album cover of "I'm in You," the follow-up to "Comes Alive!" For it, he posed bare-chested for Irving Penn. "Which was stupid," he said, shaking his head. "I should have been in jeans and a T-shirt." On the other hand, he added, "A lot of other rock acts took their shirts off! Robert Plant hardly wore one!"

The coup de grace for Frampton's reputation as a serious musician was his appearance in the 1978 film "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," produced by Robert Stigwood. …

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