Classic rock superstar Peter Frampton was one of the many performers on Joe Bonamassa’s 2019 Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea: Mediterranean cruise that took place Aug. 16-21 aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line ship Pearl. The floating music festival also featured Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Eric Gales, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Vintage Trouble and host Joe Bonamassa.
Frampton, who is in the middle of his farewell tour, performed twice during the cruise, treating fans to a set that included hits like “Show Me the Way,” “Do You Feel like We Do,” “Baby (Somethin’s Happening)” and “Baby I Love Your Way” along with several cuts from All Blues, his recently-released album of blues covers.
On the first day of the cruise, Frampton offered his fans a rare opportunity to quiz him on various subjects via questions that were submitted and selected prior to the cruise. AXS was along on the cruise and sat in on the Q&A session. Here's what we learned:
Q: How did you select the songs that appear on All Blues?
Peter Frampton: It was just a case of going through all my favorite blues artists and going 'Ooh, I like that one.” And with the band members, we all had our lists. We cut a lot more than what’s on the album. We’ve got another 25 tracks that will be coming out.
Q: Who is someone that you would really like to collaborate with?
PF: There’s one guitarist above all that I would have liked to have collaborated with, or just to have sat in the room with; (the late) Django Reinhardt. There are so many guitar players that I would just like to sit in a room with; “How’d you do that?” I’m a huge guitar fan of everybody but I think Django would’ve been the one. I don’t speak good French and he didn’t speak good English, so it would’ve been sign language I think!
Q: Can you tell us a little about going to school with David Bowie?
PF: My father was the head of the art department at our school and I had been to the school before I actually went there, on weekends and at fairs and events to raise money for new pencils for the kids, or whatever. One Saturday, there was this band the Konrads up on the steps of the school and I noticed this guy on the end with kind of a long crew cut and his hair going straight up, playing the sax. And when he wasn’t playing sax, he sang Elvis Presley numbers. So I asked my dad, “Dad, who is that?” and he said, “Oh, that’s Jones” (said with disdain.) “His name is David Jones” (Bowie’s real surname is Jones.) So I said, “Dad, I think I want to be him!” The next year I went to the school and I made a beeline for Dave; Dave and his lifelong friend George Underwood. And George did the Ziggy Stardust cover. He’s a great illustrator who was taught by my father! So George and I would sit there with acoustics and the three of us would sing; we had no idea of what was going to happen later. I was teaching them this song and they would teach me that song, and so on. They told me all about Buddy Holly.
Q: Do you have a David Bowie story from school that you rarely tell?
PF: (Looking upward and motioning to the sky) David, it’s the truth, so don’t sue me! This was probably the same year I saw the Konrads playing on the school steps. This is a Monday and I’m coming from my school to meet my dad, and he says, “I don’t know what’s wrong with that Jones. On Friday when I had roll call, he had eyebrows. Now he doesn’t have eyebrows on Monday!” He had shaved his eyebrows off over the weekend. That was the first sign that something was a little off with Dave. (Laughs) Or should we say, creative. Dave was like an older brother to me. More than a school chum. He was a lifelong friend.
Q: Could you share with us some of your experiences with George Harrison when he was recording All Things Must Pass? (Frampton’s work on the album is uncredited.)
PF: I played on all the album’s more country ones like “If Not for You.” I played acoustic on five or six songs. Then pedal steel player Pete Drake came in from Nashville, and at one point he got out a “talk box” and demonstrated it for me with the pedal steel. My jaw dropped to the floor! Where do I get one? So that was the first person that I saw with one. There’s an audio clip on YouTube somewhere where you can actually hear me and George talking with Pete Drake while he’s showing us the talk box.
George also took me into the studio one day, through a mutual friend, when he was producing the Doris Troy album for Apple Records. He gave me this red Les Paul with a lot of history behind it, and I played rhythm on this track, with Ringo on drums, Klaus Voormann on bass and Nicky Hopkins on piano, all the hoi polloi you know, and I’m bowing down to these people. So I played a very quiet rhythm, thinking, “Well, he is the lead guitarist with the Beatles, you know.” He stopped and he said (imitates Harrison’s style of speaking) “No, I want you to play lead.” So I had the lead on Doris’s first single. A couple of weeks later George called me back to play acoustic while he was at Abbey Road working on All Things Must Pass with Phil Spector producing. I remember him saying “Phil wants more acoustics!”
Q: You had a guitar that was stolen that survived an air crash, and you eventually recovered it. Did you bring it with you?
PF: Yes! I figured if it could survive an air crash that it could survive a cruise!
Q: What CD is in your CD player right now?
PF: My own!
Q: What do you remember about your early days playing with the Herd?
PF: I’m a space cadet unless I’m playing music. In the Herd days, I would leave stuff in hotels all over Europe, and I would never get it back. A shirt, or this, or that, a toothbrush, you know. So anyway this one time I had these old white shoes; they were cracking and I threw them away in the hotel in Germany. Ten days later they were mailed back to me! The only time I wanted to get rid of something! I’m pretty much the same now. I have to check rooms 14 times before I leave them.
Q: I think I saw you in the ’70s, but I was very stoned. Do you remember, was I there?
PF: You were there! You wore a red and blue striped shirt, I remember that. It had a bit of a stain.