Put on some tunes today because I saw it was someone’s 54th birthday. I listened to their music in the mid-70s, and wondered how it would sound 30 years later.
I turned 21 in 1974. My wife and I went to a couple of concerts that year … Dylan and the Band was one, Lou Reed at Winterland in his “Sally Can’t Dance” phase was another, and I think Eric Clapton was that year as well. It was a better year for music than I had remembered … nowadays I think of the early 70s as the crud before the punk storm, but 1974 saw good albums by the likes of Clapton, Randy Newman, Van Morrison, the New York Dolls, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Lou Reed, Dylan, there was a good Velvet Underground posthumous release (Live 1969), and there was Joni Mitchell and Bob Marley and Steely Dan and Big Star. We didn’t really have a “stereo” in those early days of our marriage … instead we had a record player, an old piece of shit that I think once belonged to my grandmother.
We didn’t have much money then … I was in film school, my wife was working odd jobs for the local newspaper … of course, we only paid $95/month for rent, so a little money went a long way. Suffice to say I didn’t buy many albums in those days. But for some reason, one of the albums I owned was the last album Peter Frampton made before Frampton Comes Alive. That’s what I listened to this morning.
It’s very tasty. I have no idea why I found it appealing. The idea that in the year of the New York Dolls’s Too Much Too Soon I owned Frampton but no Dolls is pretty much incomprehensible to me. I have an easier time understanding why I owned a Herman’s Hermits album when I was a kid.
I suppose now is the time to also mention that I saw Peter Frampton twice in concert. Despite our relative lack of funds, I went to a lot more shows in those days … I used to think that I would never ever tire of going to rock and roll shows, thought it would be a clear sign of impending dotage if I quit going to concerts. I’d go to stadium shows and club shows, I’d go with friends, I’d go alone, I’d go to local shows or shows in the City, I went to shows in Oregon and in Southern California. And then you realize you’re 50 years old and you’re not always up for the effort, so now I go see my very favorite musicians but don’t often go to other shows. But in my salad days, I’d go see just about anybody … I mean, we saw Pearl Harbor and the Explosions three times, same thing for the long-forgotten Readymades.
And those were the times of Day on the Greens, pseudo-festivals at the Oakland Coliseum that would last for one day. We went to lots of them, and I saw a lot of great bands: Fleetwood Mac, The Band, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Grateful Dead, Santana, Dave Mason, Robin Trower, Joe Walsh, Jesse Colin Young, it’s an endless list. One of the themes was “The British Are Coming,” and one year, it was probably around 1975, there was Fleetwood Mac just as they were beginning their monster Buckingham/Nicks run, and Peter Frampton was like the third-billed act … I think Robin Trower might have been the headliner, can’t remember. Frampton was a lot of fun, very unpretentious, it was basically the same kind of show that ended up on Frampton Comes Alive and made him a huge star. The next time the British were coming, the live album was out and Frampton was the headliner. He pretty much sucked, seemed way too full of himself. Everything I’ve read says the unpretentious Peter is the real Peter, so I prefer to remember the first of those two concerts.
But I have to say, listening to Frampton today, I won’t mind if I don’t hear it again for another 30 years.