Born in Beckenham, Kent, in 1950, Frampton was an old mate of David Bowie (Frampton’s father, Ossie, taught Bowie art at Beckenham Technical School).
The first time he played the guitar in public was at a Boy Scout variety show when he was eight years old.
During his time in The Herd, Frampton was called “The Face of 1968” in British pop magazines and became the new idol of throngs of screaming, eager girls.
He then moved to Humble Pie – alongside former Small Faces vocalist Steve Marriott. Finally, he struck out on his own, first as a successful session studio musician, and ultimately as a solo performing artist.
His first solo album, Wind Of Change, was released in 1972 and Frampton began four years of extensive touring, during which he played up to 200 gigs a year.
He slogged it out as a little-known solo performer, opening for anyone, anywhere, and going off the road each year for three months to write and record an album. But his records did not sell well.
Frampton was in debt and reduced to accepting gigs for $500 a night – until one night in San Francisco when he recorded a live album on the first night he had headlined as a solo act.
Frampton Comes Alive! was released in March 1976. It stayed at the top of the charts all that summer, remaining at #1 for an unprecedented 17 weeks.
The resulting publicity and multi-million dollar grossing tour – he played up to seven shows a week, some nights playing to 100,000 people – made Frampton an international superstar and launched three singles (Do You Feel Like I Do?, Baby I Love Your Way and Show Me The Way ).
Those three tracks exemplify the best of 70s rock and remain radio play fixtures to this day.
When it came time to record a new album, there were three million advance orders before Frampton had even written a single song. His hopes hinged on a cassette he had made of all the musical ideas he had had since the live album’s release. He went to Mexico for a brief vacation – and lost the tape.
Throughout the sessions for the new LP he was late, he was morose, he was drinking, and – being one of the biggest stars on the planet – obtaining cocaine was not exactly impossible.
When I’m In You was released, he knew it wasn’t right. The critics knew it too, and so did the record-buying public and Frampton disappeared as quickly as he had arrived.
After an ill-fated appearance as Billy Shears alongside The Bee Gees in the critically slagged Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band movie (1978), he was involved in a car accident in the Bahamas leaving him with six broken ribs, a broken hand, a broken foot and a compound fracture of his right arm (the kiss of death to a guitar player).
Although his albums generally met with little commercial success, Frampton continued to record throughout the 1980s.
He also reunited with old friend David Bowie, playing on Bowie’s 1987 album Never Let Me Down and the accompanying ‘Glass Spider Tour’. Frampton would later credit his participation in the tour for helping revive his career.
In the mid-90s, Frampton joined Ringo’s All-Starr Band, touring alongside friends like Jack Bruce and Joe Walsh. In 1998, he released Frampton Comes Alive II and in 2007, his rock guitar rave-up record Fingerprints won him his first-ever Grammy Award, for Best Pop Instrumental Album.
In 2017, after falling twice on stage, Frampton was diagnosed with Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM), a painless but progressive degenerative disorder that weakens the legs, arms, wrists and fingers. He announced his condition before embarking on a farewell tour in 2019, which the COVID pandemic then interrupted halfway through and the rest of the shows were postponed.
On FM Radio all over the world, his talk-box lives on.