Rock ‘n’ roll never forgets. And neither do its fans, especially many of the 11 million or so who have a dusty vinyl copy of the two-LP “Frampton Comes Alive!” alongside, say, Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” and Foreigner’s “Double Vision.”
Pop hitmakers may come and go – heard any Bay City Rollers or Firefall lately? – but album-oriented rockers like Frampton remain the Energizer Bunnies of rock with airplay on “classic” rock radio stations.
So the 42-year-old Frampton comes alive again in concert at the Sangamon County Fair Saturday. Nearly a decade removed from his status as an arena headliner, Frampton has filled mid-sized theaters and outdoor venues since his “revival” tour began in February.
On the morning after a sold-out show at a 3,000-seat auditorium in Rhode Island, Frampton is elated.
“They went bananas last night,” he says, his English roots still obvious in his accent. “It’s a story that seems to be repeating itself every night . . . It’s a nice surprise, and it never ceases to amaze me. And this is happening without a record out.”
Whether Frampton concertgoers are interested in new material is questionable. However, there’s no doubting the fans’ enthusiasm for extended jams of “Do You Feel Like We Do,” “Show Me The Way” or “Baby, I Love Your Way.” “It’s been awhile since the (1975) album, `Frampton Comes Alive!’, that everyone thinks was my first,” he says, “and a lot of people probably think was my last record.”
In fact, Frampton’s career began in 1965, when he became a teen heartthrob with the European band The Herd. The talented young guitarist also found a mentor in Rolling Stones’ bassist Bill Wyman.
“I was 15 years old, and (Wyman) would call up my parents and say, `Can Pete come to London to one of the clubs?’ ” Frampton says. “One night, Jimi Hendrix came to our table.”
From 1968-1971, Frampton joined Humble Pie, a band whose influence has been cited the Black Crowes. By 1972, Frampton had formed his own group, which proceeded to release an album each year for four years and earned a small pocket of loyal fans.
Then came “Frampton Comes Alive!”, a live album with songs culled from the previous four LPs.
“We thought we’d sell 500,000 copies and that was the dream,” says Frampton, who still marvels at the album’s immediate success. “It seemed like we did that in the first few hours it went on sale.”
The album spent several months at the top of the charts, and Frampton became a worldwide superstar. “I felt like I was walking three feet above the ground,” he says.
Despite having a successful follow-up album, “I’m In You,” Frampton’s popularity and personal life started to slide. In 1978, he suffered serious injuries in a car accident. During the same year, he starred in the ill-fated film “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Consequent album sales slid with each release, and 1989’s “When All the Pieces Fit” disappeared without a whimper.
Two years ago, Frampton, living in Los Angeles, began work on an album with ex-Humble Pie bandmate Steve Marriott. The project ended when Marriott died in a fire.
Then last October, members of Lynyrd Skynyrd asked Frampton to join them onstage. The crowd’s response to Frampton’s appearance made him want to tour again.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” he says. “The first show I did was in Baltimore last February, and the applause was so loud I wondered if someone was on behind me.”
A two-CD set covering Frampton’s career will be out soon. The CDs will include two songs Frampton performed with Marriott.
In concert, Frampton sees two generations in the audience.
“I sign autographs afterward, and there will be a 16- or 17-year-old kid there. And I’ll say, `Look, you were 1 year old when (`Frampton Comes Alive’) came out. How do you know about me?’ They’ll say, `I heard you on the radio’ or, `My mom has your album.’ “