I was eight years old during the summer of ’76 when Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive! set was shattering sales records for a live album.
I have no doubt that I heard Show Me the Way and Baby, I Love Your Way blaring from the car stereos of older kids at the time and I do recall incessantly hearing the title track to I’m In You, the studio follow-up to his iconic breakthrough, the following summer on the bus rides to our swim team’s meets.
However, the hullabaloo over Frampton meant little to me and, as the ’70s became the ’80s and music became an important part of my life, the guitarist with the leonine tresses seemed to be an ancient artifact.
The tracks from Frampton Comes Alive! continued to be radio staples and – during my senior year of high school – Frampton even had a mini-comeback with the song Lying (which one of my friends loved).
But, Peter Frampton was never really a part of the musical landscape for me.
By the mid-’90s, I was the head buyer for a very large record store and our manager decided to add some pizzaz to the bins by adding comments – usually trivia-based – to the leader cards for the artists.
Stocking product one day, I headed to the Fs with an armful of titles.
As I mindlessly filed away CDs, I noted the plastic divider card for Peter Frampton on which, beneath the artist’s name, our manager had added some commentary…
Frampton Comes Alive! was one of the best-selling albums of the ’70s…yeah, we don’t get it, either.
Our location – in a city that was a major center for the music industry – meant that amongst our customers each day were some of the acts whose work was sitting in those racks and bins.
And, I knew that Peter Frampton not only lived in a suburb of the city but frequented a high-end eyeglass store across the street.
Months later, I was again on the main floor stocking product, when I headed toward the main counter to retrieve more CDs. As I approached the counter, I could see our administrative assistant talking to some well-dressed fellow who had his back to me.
In my friend’s hand was a leader card.
And, slowly, as I walked up to the pair, I realized that the person with whom my buddy was speaking was Peter Frampton, the leader card was his, and I was suddenly in the middle of the conversation.
During one of my first shifts at this store, I had to contend with some songwriter of little note who had come completely unhinged on me as we had not had a copy of the album containing their one claim to fame.
(the damned thing was out of print)
But Frampton was an absolute gentleman about the affair. He politely asked if we could simply replace the card with one that merely had his name on it.
(which I summarily did)
All of these years later, I wouldn’t describe myself as a fan of Peter Frampton’s music, but if my former manager had questions as to how or why Frampton Comes Alive! was one of the best-selling albums of the ’70s, I might just chalk it up to – if nothing else – good karma.
Here are four songs that I might have heard on the radio during this week of July in 1976 – had I been listening to the radio – as Peter Frampton was dominating the musical landscape…
Starland Vocal Band – Afternoon Delight
from Super Hits Of The ’70s: Have A Nice Day
If there is one song that I do remember from that summer, it is most certainly Afternoon Delight. Though I had no idea what the song was about at the time, I loved the song and found the wooshing sound effect to be magical.
JB over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ wrote at length about the song earlier this year. It’s a good read and it’s also why now (and forevermore), when I hear the song I will also think of his quite accurate assessment that Starland Vocal Band’s Bill Danoff outkicked his coverage.
Starbuck – Moonlight Feels Right
from Super Hits Of The ’70s: Have A Nice Day
Starbuck’s soft rock smash always puts a smile on Paloma’s face and the marimba-laden hit makes me think of hearing it at the pool, blaring from the radio that entire summer.
The Beatles – Got To Get You Into My Life
I had to do some quick research to find out why The Beatles were hitting the Top Ten in 1976 with a song from an album released ten years earlier and six years after the band had broken up.
Apparently Capitol Records felt that the band needed to be introduced to music fans that had come of age since the break-up and opted to issue the driving, upbeat Got To Get You Into My Life as a single from the compilation Rock ‘n’ Roll Music.
(and, then, two years later Earth, Wind & Fire hit the Top Ten with their take on the song)
Bobbie Gentry – Ode To Billie Joe
from 20 Original Country Greats
Like The Beatles, singer/songwriter Bobbie Gentry was on the charts in 1976 with a song from nearly a decade before with Ode To Billie Joe. In her case, the song had already been a hit, reaching #1 in 1967 and earning Gentry a couple of Grammy Awards the following year.
In 1976, the song – in a rerecorded version – reached the Hot 100 in conjunction with the release of a movie based on the track. I remember the film playing at our town’s theatre, but I’ve never seen it.
But I totally dig the song with its palpable sense of dread, mysterious vibe, and a narrative so strong that it’s easy to imagine that you’re actually sitting at that dinner table and listening to the conversation.