Which now-legendary rock band had a completely horrible debut album? How did they recover?

Written by on August 1, 2020


Leslie Noland
· Lifelong music fan, record collector, concert-goer, etc

Peter Frampton released a live album, Frampton Comes Alive in 1976 which in its day was the best-selling live album ever. It had several hit singles and was just a phenomenal success. Leading up to that, however, he had four studio albums which pretty much went nowhere (I think the fourth saw some success but nothing like Frampton Comes Alive). Frampton had been an original member of the group Humble Pie and though they had a successful career, Frampton’s solo career seemed to be going nowhere prior to that live album.

Personally, I can understand why.

When the live album came out, it was pretty much the first I had heard of Frampton and I loved the album. I was surprised by how consistently good it was. I enjoyed the entire album. It was also well-engineered — something which couldn’t be said for a lot of live albums in that era.

Since I liked the album so much, and being a bit of a completist at the time, I immediately bought the four preceding solo albums. As was my practice at the time, rather than put the albums on and listening to them, I first auditioned them — I put the album on the turntable and sampled a bit of each track to see which ones I would most look forward to listening to (think of it as watching movie trailers). I sampled the entire album and found it drab and lifeless: metronome rhythms; no dynamics; lacklustre performance and production values. I put it back in its sleeve and moved on. The second album produced similar results as did the third and the fourth. I never listened to any of the albums all the way through — I just sampled them, put them back in their sleeves and stuck them on the shelf. Until then I never realized the significance of the title Frampton Comes Alive.

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