Like I do? Early 1976 was a wasteland for rock and roll. After 15 years the revolution had gone silent, which was disappointing because I was just then old enough to enlist. From Led Zeppelin we got the lukewarm Presence, understandable given Robert Plant’s recent injuries in a car wreck, but disappointing nonetheless. The Rolling Stones went limp on Black and Blue. The only Beatle making music was Paul, but “Silly Love Songs” did not a teen anthem make. Dreamboat Annie could get you through the night, but the rest was a mixture of repackaged greatest hits, disco and embarrassing pop. What can you expect when you start the year with Bay City Rollers on top?
Which is why anyone with a decent eight-track had one tape that played over and over. And over, until you wore it out and bought another. Frampton Comes Alive debuted on January 6, 1976 and became the soundtrack to my high-school freshman year, all the way through summer. Actually, Frampton Comes Alive was also a greatest hits (double) album. The differences being the live recording and the fact that very few people knew who Peter Frampton was before he introduced us to the talking box. His hits were not hits until we heard the arena version. By the end of the summer, someone no one had heard of six months earlier owned the biggest selling album of all time. Forty years later and the record still holds up; Rolling Stone ranked it as the 41st best live album of all time, which I think is lower than it deserves.
Frampton had been something of a child prodigy; he attended high school with David Bowie, three years behind the glam rocker. Not many schools can claim to have had two of music’s biggest acts perform in the same talent show. By age 14 Frampton was leading a band under Bill Wyman’s management and production; the same Bill Wyman who managed the Stones. Frampton’s next outfit, Humble Pie, scored several UK hits. Peter became sort of the Leif Garrett of 1968. And then, long years of session work and relative anonymity as a solo act. Until, for some reason, our ears caught up to his talent.
Although Frampton Comes Alive had three hits and several other great tracks, it is still “Do You Feel Like We Do” that grabs my attention. Checking in at 14 minutes, 15 seconds, the song more than qualifies for anthem status. Part music, part effects keeps our interest throughout. Most of all, when Frampton fades from the talk box and roars back into the meat of the guitar solo, you are right there with him. I am not sure anyone has ever done a better job of conveying what it feels like to be at a concert. The crowd sounds almost as good as he does. The song passes my ultimate test. When it comes on the radio, I never, ever change the channel (or push the forward arrow on Pandora, Spotify, etc.). Instead, the volume goes up and my mind retreats to a size-32 waist, when my only care in the world was earning a little spending cash and working up the courage to talk to Evelyn Baird.
Do You Feel Like We Do? Hell, yes.