Getty | Getty Here at Spinner we've got an informal agreement with the cosmos…
Peter Frampton Q&A: Recovering His Prized Guitar 30 Years After a Plane Crash and Almost Becoming a Rolling Stone
- Posted on Nov 21st 2012 1:30PM by Chris Epting
From 2011 to 2012 Frampton toured the world in honor of the 35th anniversary of his landmark, 17-million-copy selling live LP, and he recently released "FCA! 35 Tour: An Evening With Peter Frampton," a new live package of DVD, Blu-ray and CDs commemorating the trek.
Spinner spoke with Frampton about those heady days back in the '70s, his famous talk box, and the long-lost guitar featured on the famous album cover.
How did your life change in the wake of the remarkable success of Frampton Comes Alive?
How long do you have? [Laughs] That's a big question -- everything changed for me as far as the way I lived. I was one day anonymous, the next day on the front cover of every magazine around the world. A drastic change overnight. They say overnight success and I was actually a great example of that, yet I'd been working for 15 years before that and had been successful in other bands. But nothing like that -- it was completely different and a level I was not used to at all.
The song "Do You Feel Like We Do" is such a special tour de force. How has it evolved since '76?
The thing is, I think we all know the original, the one on Comes Alive! That was like the Eric Clapton album called Just One Night -- that's what the album was, that one night frozen in time. For me, Alive was like that, as was that song. Things always changed. The night before and after, "Do You Feel" was very different. It's all very extemporaneous, that song, it's all very ad lib. There are signposts along the way to the sections of course, but we can go off in all sorts of directions. Ninety-nine percent of the solos I do and that everybody play in the band are different from the night before. We don't work out solos. I don't think I could be on the road this long if that were the case. I actually go on the road to find something new in my playing. Some night it works and some nights it doesn't [laughs]. That's what it's all about, growing as a musician. I practice, but the way I grow the most is on stage. You can practice 'til your fingers are raw, but you get on stage and it's a completely different ballgame, a totally different energy.
You popularized the talk box with "Do You Feel" and "Show Me The Way."
The thing is, it's been around since the late '30s, early '40s, that gadget. Various people have used it, from Alvino Rey in the '40s, he was on of the first actually. There was a pedal steel guitar player named Pete Drake, just legendary, and I got to meet him at the All Things Must Pass sessions, George Harrison's project. Pete came over for the more country things like "If Not for You." When we had a slow moment in Abbey Road Studios, Pete gets out this little box, puts a pipe in his mouth and the pedal steel starts talking to me. Pretty freaky. I'd heard these computer-esque voices on the radio over the years and always wondered what the sound was. And now here it was right in front of me. Some trivia: That exact talk box he had, one he had actually made, he lent it to Joe Walsh for "Rocky Mountain Way." That very one. Apart from Stevie Wonder, who in 1970 used it on record, I think Jeff beck used it too, and Joe Walsh, it was still a pretty rare thing. Then I came out the next year with Frampton Comes Alive! and of course it was on there.
But you you used it in studio too, right – before the live versions?
Yes I did! You are right, actually, so the first time I used a talk box was on "Show Me the Way," the Frampton album, 1974.
Now how about the famous guitar you played back then, the one on the cover. It was lost in a plane crash years ago. And then ...
It's about 35 feet from me right now. It travels with me on the plane even if I have to buy a seat for it. When it goes in the truck, it goes in the passenger seat. I lost if for 32 years I'm not about to lose it again. In a nutshell, a surreal story. You go from an airplane crash where all is lost, including souls. Five or six people died, such a sobering thought, along with the equipment, vintage stuff and stage gear. My tech at the time went down a week later and surveyed the scene to see what was left. Unbeknownst to him, they think the guard put on to watch over the debris site and protect it from pilfering, pilfered. That's a story we heard at least.
- 1) Dave Carroll -- United Airlines (2008)
- 2) Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon -- American Airlines (2010)
- 3) Cold Specks -- Air Canada (2012)
- 4) Ed Sheeran -- Delta Airlines (2012)
- 5) Peter Frampton Reunites With Guitar 31 Years After Plane Crash (2012)
- 6) Dale Watson -- Tiger Airways (Australia, 2011)
- 7) Dave Davies -- Unknown Airline (1965)
- 8) Okkervil River -- American Airlines (2012)
- 9) Lewis Lipnick -- United Air Lines, Lufthansa (2010)
- 10) Australian Politician Tony Burke -- Qantas Airlines (2011)
The guitar ends up being sold a couple of times. It is actually played around town in Caracas in clubs and stuff. Then it went to someone that bought the guitar in Curacao, and it sat there for many years. Then this gentleman gave it to his son and he wanted to get it working again. He took it someone who mended guitars and also worked for immigration and customs at the airport and he knew the story of the plane. So when the guitar came in he thought it looked familiar. And he was right. He took it apart, next I know it's on the Internet and sent to my e-mail that I have online. I wake up and open my e-mail and there it is. It had been 30 years at that point, thinking it had gone up in a puff of smoke. For years, I've played a lovely replica, always bittersweet, and people always asked, "Is that one?" Now I can say it is. I unveiled it at the Beacon Theatre when we were filming the show for this wonderful new DVD and now the rest is history.
The Rolling Stones are gearing up again as we speak. Talk about how you were considered for a spot in the band back in 1975.
I'd been a friend of Bill Wyman's since I was 14. He produced the band I was in back then called the Preachers. He's been like my older brother -- we're very close friends. I know he and Charlie [Watts] put my name in the hat. I was living in Westchester, driving into Manhattan on the Saw Mill River Parkway. I had just gone through the toll booth and I was listening to WNEW and I hear my name mentioned with a list of other guys trying out for the Stones after Mick Taylor left. I pulled over, and thought "holy crap, I just heard my name!"
When I was at Electric Lady recording I'm in You a few years later and Mick Jagger was in the next studio mixing Love You Live, we were talking, hanging out, he sang on a track. I asked him, "Was it true? Was I on the list?" He said absolutely. But he said, "We could see where you were going. Look at what you've just done." That was great to find out I was on the list. But I think Ronnie Wood was way more of a Stones character and now I can hardly imagine the Stones without him. He was the perfect guy.