Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character reminds Patrick Fugit’s in the movie “Almost Famous” why music journalists who want to do a credible job can’t become friends with their subjects: “They make you feel cool. And, hey, I met you — you are not cool.”
Peter Frampton worked as a technical adviser on that film and can fully identify with the pitfalls of the allure of cool — even though he happens to be a world-famous and world-class guitarist.
After all, when his seminal live album “Frampton Comes Alive!” blew up in 1976 and stayed hot in ’77, he instantly went from moderately successful musician to supernova rock star, a not-altogether-unpleasant process but one that also frequently saw his music overshadowed by glamour-shot magazine covers featuring him shirtless, long blond hair flowing.
All things being equal, he told The Salt Lake Tribune ahead of his Thursday show at the Capitol Theatre, he actually preferred the understated experience of unexpectedly winning the Instrumental Pop Album Grammy in 2007 for “Fingerprints,” because at least then, the focus was where he felt it belonged.
“I’m honored that I got a Grammy for not singing! I mean that, I mean that,” Frampton said with a laugh. “… To get a Grammy for my guitar-playing, after all the image s--- I went through — haha! — was the best possible way to get a Grammy. Just for my guitar-playing.”
Furthermore, again completely conscious of not trying to come off as cooler than he thinks he really is, he conceded he’s not the type of musician to suggest awards are meaningless.
After all the ups and downs of his career, that Grammy certainly “did mean a lot to me.”
“I had started and got to where these great bands were, one of them being Humble Pie, because of my guitar-playing — not because of my singing, not because of my looks, but because of my playing,” Frampton added. “… And then the whole ‘Comes Alive’ situation happened and the guitar got forgotten — the face was on the front of every magazine, and I was called a ‘singer’ for some reason. And that’s the wrong title for me, you know? I’m an OK singer, but I’m a pretty good guitar player.”
Yeah, he’s pretty alright.
At least David Bowie thought so, anyway.
The late rock icon and Frampton were childhood friends and schoolmates. And so, with the latter’s career on the decline in the ’80s, Bowie offered his former Bromley Technical High School chum a pair of jobs that would re-establish his axman bona fides.
“I have to credit my friend Dave — David Bowie — for having me on the ‘Glass Spider Tour,’ and on that ‘Never Let Me Down’ record. He reintroduced me in ’87 as a guitar player, ’round the world. And everything sort of started from there, back again,” Frampton said. “It really invigorated me personally, and I think people’s idea about me changed back to the music, that I was a musician and not just this face or image.”
Serving as lead guitarist on an album and supporting tour for one of the world’s biggest stars will do that.
These days, despite the intermittent peaks and valleys Frampton has experienced in his career, he remains firmly woven into the fabric of pop culture.
For one thing, he’s pretty universally associated with the talkbox, despite being neither its creator nor hardly the first musician to use one — “If you go into Wikipedia and type in ‘talkbox,’ I think I come up!” he joked.
Furthermore, he made an ironic cameo in “Almost Famous” as the manager for Humble Pie, the supergroup he helped found; he was name-checked (as being decidedly uncool) in “High Fidelity,” yet another movie with a serious music bent; and he’s appeared as his animated self in episodes of “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.”
He particularly enjoyed the opportunity to lampoon himself.
“The casting director for ‘The Simpsons’ called me up and … I thought they’d got the wrong number, ’cause my career wasn’t doing too well at that point,” Frampton recalled. “And so I said, ‘Are you sure you want me?’ And she said yes, so I said, ‘Well, what’s the deal?’ and she said, ‘We’re doing an episode which is sort of like Lollapalooza, but it’s gonna be Homerpalooza, and you’ll be headlining.’ And I said, ‘But, I wouldn’t be headlining one of those shows,’ and there was silence … and then I went, ‘Got it!’ Haha!”
He is perfectly content, though, with what he has going on nowadays. While he’s set to hit the road with the Steve Miller Band in coming months, he’s starting off with 10 solo concerts, including in Salt Lake City. The “two-hours-minimum show” will cover everything from Humble Pie to “Comes Alive” to the instrumental “Fingerprints” to his latest effort, 2016’s “Acoustic Classics.”
Beyond that, he’s working on new material, eager to prove that, even if he remains uncool, he can at least still impress with his six-string skill.
“I just came up with something about two weeks ago that blew me away — which is always what I’m looking for when I’m starting a new project,” Frampton said. “… When I get goosebumps listening to what I’ve just written, then I know I’m onto something. Because it’s hitting a nerve with me. … Quality control is very high in the Frampton house! It’s gotta be different, it’s gotta be something that turns … me … on, that makes me feel good about what I just did.”
When • Thursday, April 5; 8 p.m.
Where • Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $37.50-$265.50; artsaltlake.org/production/peter-frampton/