One More Time

‘Cause nobody knows how I’m feeling

I discovered Peter Frampton the last week of May 1971.  That’s when I purchased Humble Pie’s "Rock On", in preparation for seeing the band open for Lee Michaels at the Fillmore East.  This was regular procedure.  I bought Fairport Convention’s "Full House" the year before, when they opened for Traffic at the same venue.  I didn’t want to show up unfamiliar with the material, I wanted to enjoy the experience.

I’d like to tell you I loved "Rock On", that I played it incessantly after seeing the band and hold the disc close to my heart, but this would be untrue.  "Rock On" begins with a killer cut, and then fades thereafter.  But that opening track…

"Shine On" burst opens with a flourish, and a patina of distortion akin to the Small Faces’ "Itchycoo Park".  But this was not a Steve Marriott number.  "Shine On" may have featured the backup chicks who graced the Frampton-less follow-up, "Smokin’", but "Shine On" didn’t feature the bluster that Humble Pie became known for, rather "Shine On" was the kind of rock that made nerdy white boys feel powerful.

Not that I went to that gig alone.  But we’re all self-conscious at heart, that’s what draws us geeks to the music, it completes us.

And the following fall, when I was on a college road trip to Boston, I saw a double album on the floor of a music store in Kenmore Square and bought it.  That album was "Rockin’ The Fillmore", a document of the shows from the spring before, that I attended.

Humble Pie broke through, they became a giant band.  But without Peter Frampton.  Peter Frampton had already decided to leave Humble Pie before the band hit the Fillmore East, it was well-publicized, and kind of hilarious… What musician leaves an act on the verge of its breakthrough, after paying all those dues?

And I never found another soul who owned "Wind Of Change", Frampton’s solo debut from 1972, until years later. But I bought it instantly, and loved it.  The opening has got the feel of a placid lake just before sunset.  But "Fig Tree Bay" does not equal the opener on the other side, "All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)".

"All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)" starts off as a peek into a studio.  Listening, you get that feeling of being a fly on the wall.  This is music made for the musicians, not the audience.  This six and a half minute epic has got too many twists and turns to ever be played on AM radio.  As for FM?  Playlists were becoming consolidated under the guidance of Lee Abrams, and there was no room for this unheralded guitar player.

And that was the added bonus.  Sure, Peter Frampton was pretty, but this was long before little girls knew who he was, he was dancing on the fretboard in "All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)" the same way Mick Taylor added that dollop of intensity atop the Stones classics of the same era.

But from there the albums got worse.  "Frampton’s Camel" from the following year was serviceable, but not phenomenal.  1974’s album, "Somethin’s Happening" verged on unlistenable, I gave up.

And I figured Frampton and A&M would too.  Everything was going in the wrong direction.  But then came "Frampton Comes Alive!"

But something came first, an eponymous fourth solo album, which I never bought, because I felt ripped off.  It wasn’t as good as the solo debut, but "Frampton" was a return to form.  It laid the groundwork for the ultimate live album. Yes, "Frampton" contains not only "Show Me The Way", but "Baby, I Love Your Way".

I’m confused.  Sure, it’s the financial crisis.  But the change of centuries has pulled the wool over our eyes.  With no name for this decade, we’ve been unaware of the passage of time.  1990 was almost TWENTY YEARS AGO!

Let me make this clearer.  When I discovered "Frampton", it was in a friend’s apartment on Dorothy Street, in 1975, in Brentwood.  Down the building lived a hot single mother with no visible means of support and her high school student daughter.  That little girl is gonna be 51 this year.  Not that I’ve seen her in decades, but I remember.  We all remember.  The accumulation of mental detritus slows us down.  The baggage prevents us from being early adopters, we can’t square Twitter with getting our own phone in our parents’ house.  Texting?  Most of us never learned to type.

And then there was that reader who came to visit me in the early nineties.  When she first made contact, she was a nineteen year old college student.  Today she’s a thirty six year old mother of two.  The Brat Pack is approaching fifty!

I know none of this is new.  But our math got screwed up.  If it were still the last century, say 1999, and something had happened in 1980, we’d see that as a long time ago.  But it’s like the clock got reset at midnight January 1st, 2000, and time has marched on unnoticed ever since.

There’s gonna be a day of reckoning.  When we finally hit the next decade, and people refer to it as the "teens".  Then we’ll realize how much time has passed.

Napster was ten years ago.  "Thriller" twenty five.  The boy band peak was a decade ago.  And it seems like we’re just beginning, but no, this era of chaos has been our lives for a long time.

And I’m overwhelmed.  There’s too much music to listen to.  Almost none of it sealed with the imprimatur of someone trusted.  Do I listen to it all, do I try to appear hip, or do I listen to what I already know?

When I’m at loose ends, I dial up the old stuff.

And this morning, I got an inkling to hear Peter Frampton.  Not the latter-day lost period, after his manager Dee Anthony told him to play to the little girls, but before that, when he was playing to us, the musos.

I thought of "Wind Of Change", but it seemed too downbeat and depressing.  I felt "Frampton" would be a bit more upbeat.

And it was.

"Day’s Dawning" had that 10 a.m. groove, when you finally realize you’ve got to get in gear and face the day.

I can tolerate the original "Show Me The Way", without the screaming meemees, with the fuzzbox part of the song as opposed to the dominant factor.

But then came "One More Time".

"All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)" made it to the live album.  Albeit in an acoustic, castrated, yet satisfying version. But "One More Time" didn’t get recut.  It wasn’t overplayed, it wasn’t the song of choice of newly nubile girls.

When an artist does something great, he knows.  He doesn’t have to hype it, he doesn’t have to set it up, he just needs to play it.  And he’ll watch conversation stop, he’ll see people’s heads lift towards the sky, when the song is over, someone will ask to hear it again.

We know great.  Because we so rarely hear it.

By time "One More Time" came over the Sonos system this morning, I’d already tuned out, the music was background.  But suddenly, I had to stop typing, stop surfing, I could only listen.

The intro is like mid-period Beatles, but played through a seventies filter.  The verses are informal, Frampton is not trying to convince us, he’s not working hard.  But then comes the change…

And nobody knows how I’m feeling
Just not healing_
We’ll do it again one more time

That’s the conundrum, the human condition.  We’re surrounded by other human beings, but quite alone.  Nobody knows how we’re feeling, they can’t read through our uniforms, through societal preconceptions.  One cannot see the guy covered in tattoos wearing engineer boots loves to cook.  One cannot perceive the woman with prim and proper attire loves metal music.  We’re looking to connect.  But it’s almost impossible.

But there’s a halfway house.  And that’s music.  The music seems to understand us and give us the power to bond with others.  That’s what going to the rock show in the seventies was about.  Bonding with the others in attendance. The music broke down the barriers.

We’ll do it again one more time

That’s what I yearn for.  That one more time.  Just like it used to be.  When acts didn’t shrug their shoulders and say they had no choice but to tie in with corporations.  When tickets were cheap enough that you could go to the show on a regular basis.  When music was the most powerful art form.  When journeymen could play for years, and when they seemed completely lost in the wilderness, suddenly break through to almost everyone.  Based not on a marketing plan, but the intimacy, the sheer joy of their music.

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