Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Old Dreams Do Not Die

At no point in my life did infomercials play a big part.  In fact, infomercials exist largely as punch lines.  Yet here I sit, only half embarrassed, watching an infomercial.  And of course, sharing my shame with you.

It was about 1973 when I started playing the guitar.  I don't remember what made me pick it up; just that it felt meant to be.  I used to win Best Student awards from my guitar teacher.  This fun lasted for a few years until money and interest in lessons ran out.

In about 1974/5, Frampton Comes Alive rocketed to the top of the charts.  It was the number one album (no album jokes today, thank you) that year and in the top twenty the next year.  Peter Frampton is a Certified Guitar God<tm>, albeit an underappreciated one.  He became one of my heroes in middle school.  As it turned out, I had a black Les Paul (copy) and convinced my parents to get me a talkbox, so I could do `Show Me the Way' and `Do You Feel Like We Do'.  I even had the guitar routed for a third pickup, which set me off on a wiring and modifying spree that has not stopped to this day.

Depending on your age (and interests), you will remember Peter Frampton as a rock icon with long, flowing hair or a short, bald British dude.  Either Frampton is a treat for the ears.   Like Jeff Beck, he has only improved with age.  He's a consummate showman, still recording and touring.  Now you can see him up close, as opposed to humongous stadiums where you'll get deaf and sunburned.

In school I got to perform here and there.  Sometimes people would call me Peter to razz me.  No one had ever seen a talkbox before.  Of course they had other interesting names for me, but I shan't repeat them here.

But dammit, there was only one path for me:  rock stardom.

I still have my Frampton vinyl, as well as the results of an unhealthy obsession with Bachman Turner Overdrive.  Then it was off to Hendrix, who I chose to listen to for a very deep, spiritual reason: he was left-handed too.  Ok, plus people told me he was really great.

Thirty-some years later, I'm still listening to my favorites.  I have a decent job in network security, a wife, and a dog called Marshall, just like the name on the wall of white or black amps Frampton and most others still use.  Life has changed.

And I still wanna be a rock star.

Last weekend I played at a large neighborhood pig roast, with over three hundred fifty people in attendance.  At times I kinda felt rock star-ish.  Still working for the dream, even for three people in a stinky, dingy little bar.


Yeah, so what about that stupid infomercial?

I needed something from the universe today.  Things haven't been especially good lately but perhaps the universe threw me one.  I must have channel surfed in the wrong direction and found myself watching the end jam of Lynyrd Skynyrd doing Freebird.  And it was the very popular version of Skynyrd, placing this concert footage around 1977(!)

And faster than you can say DEBT LIMIT, the footage is over and the two alleged hosts are talking about the newly released footage from the Day on the Green 1977 Concert, featuring Lynyrd Skynyrd and Peter Frampton.  It came out of Wolfgang's Vault and was only being sold with a donation to public television.

Wolfgang's Vault was property of Bill Graham, legendary concert promoter.  Head on over to sample the endless catalog of music Bill collected over the years.

I saw that very tour when it stopped in Philthydelphia.  It was at the now extinct Veteran's Stadium, our incredibly large outdoor venue  [I truly admire Kurt Vonnegut and feel this would be a great spot for his time-hopping antics] .  Shortly after the tour stopped in Philly, Lynyrd Skynyrd stopped, period, in a tragic plane crash.  They went through guitarists like Spinal Tap went through drummers.

I saw Frampton on most tours during that era.  I even took my mom, who declared that Peter Frampton could sing for her any time he wanted.  I shall relate this to him, should we ever meet.

The near nostalgia caused by the clips I saw from this concert was wild.  I remember being in the extremely large sea of people, jogging my way toward the stage, still smelling of sun tan lotion (and sweat).

Frampton is a master showman.  The way he stood up in that stadium and Directed Traffic was a sight to behold.  It was apparent he was at the peak of stardom and really jazzed about it.  The interaction with the audience was stellar.  He jumped all over the place, changed lyrics to suit the situation, played drums for a bit (he does play drums), and used the talkbox to great effect (bad pun, lefty).  On keys was Bob Mayo, who went on to play with Robert Plant, among others, and died way too early.  ["Bob Mayo on keyboards, Bob Mayo"]

Looking out over the audience was also an experience.  I saw myself back in the audience, with all those wild 70's fashions.  And more importantly, women with bouncing boobies and halter tops.

And way down inside, I still see myself onstage, in front of tens of thousands of people.

I have heard it said that you only fail when you stop trying.


  1. GREAT quote at the end!! I too still have my "Frampton Comes Alive" album. I too dig B.T.O. and worship at Jimi's alter. I don't get the short, bald British dude reference???
    So it goes.... (C.V.)

  2. I used to want to be a Rock Star, but I have absolutely no musical talent. A cow bell is about all I could play; and even that not too well. I'd be better suited as a biker/bodyguard/roadie, I think. Nowadays, I just want 70s and 80s Rock Star $$$.