Sunday, March 7, 2010

April 1976

I was in 8th grade in Knoxville, Tennessee, and at the height of my musical-junkie-ness. It was April, 1976 and it was late - like 11:00, and it was a school night. I had just discovered WWWE - a 50,ooo watt radio station out of Cleveland, Ohio, and had begun to listen to the Cleveland Cavalier and Cleveland Indian games, and they had become my new favorite sports teams. Even in Knoxville, you could really pick this radio station up, especially on clear nights. WWWE even boasted that they covered "38 states and half of Canada." ANYWAY...i was laying in bed, listening to the station after the Indians game, and I don't even recall them ever playing music on that station before or since, but on this night they played a song...some guy in concert...never heard the voice before, but I really, really liked it. It ended up being "Show Me the Way" by a guy named Peter Frampton. Up 'til then, he was as complete a nobody as you could hope to find, at least in terms of popular music. He had released 3 or 4 unheralded albums on A&M Records, and had been a member of a semi, semi-popular band, Humble Pie, and so I was truly shocked to hear his name after the song was over. I thought he was some weird metal guy. Now kids....if you are under, say 40 years old or so...this was truly "back in the day." This was before MTV, even before cable TV, and so over-saturation of your favorite band was a non-issue. Besides the album covers themselves that you bought and the accompanying inner sleeve art work, the ONLY real chance you had of seeing your favorite musical acts was either on American Bandstand on Saturday afternoon, or the Midnight Special TV show which came on on Friday nights at, you guessed it, midnight. So it was extremely rare for me to stay up and watch that show. You were really left to your imagination...and myth...and image... and to what your musical heroes were like or not like. And for a guy like Peter Frampton, who, with his good looks, would have been a star in the hey-day of MTV, the only chance he had was to hope and pray for a hit or 2. Otherwise - no exposure, no concert crowds, no following - outside of your geographical locale.
Ok - here's the deal, April 1976 concerning Peter Frampton: HERE'S a guy who has released 4 albums - all of them flops. NO singles. I'm sure his label was getting very antsy and impatient. So, what does Peter Frampton do for his next career move - a move that might very well be his last chance? HE FREAKING RELEASES A LIVE DOUBLE ALBUM!!!! No one, and I mean NO ONE at my school had ever heard of this guy. And no one - NO ONE released live albums unless they were very established and popular. What a gutsy, gutsy, even FOOLISH move really - all the more so when you consider that "live" albums almost never had singles released. Ever. I still can't believe he did it.
And this brings us back to April, 1976 there in my basement room in Knoxville. Not long after that night, my local pop station started playing "Show Me the Way." It had become a hit! Un-be-lievable ! And, to make a long story short, by the time the 1976 was over, "Frampton Comes Alive" had become one of the biggest selling albums of all time, and was #1 for 10 weeks. It also was awarded 1976 album of the year. Frampton fever had swept America in a true rags-to-riches story. I saw him in concert with a girl named Candy Reynolds in July 1976 at Knoxville Civic Auditorium. Festival seating (standing), and a TON of pot! I'm telling you - when the lights went out, it was like an atomic mushroom cloud at every concert I attended in the 70's. I passed many a joint along the line as a 13 and 14 year old! When I saw Fleetwood Mac in 2003, I was very bitter that there was no haze to be seen; no contact high to be had. Alas. So - that's the way it was in April, 1976 - the same month that "Afternoon Delight" was released. React to that as you wish!

1 comment:

  1. woke up this morning with a wine glass in my hand.....

    Your late night radio memories are eerily similar to mine.