Peculiar covers of Peter Frampton hits
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Since his early start in the ’60s, Peter Frampton has had a long, storied career. By the time he joined Humble Pie at the age of 18, Frampton had already spent the better part of his teen years as a member of The Herd, scoring several hit records in his native Britain. After going solo in ’71, he released a string of popular albums while trying to outrun the “teen idol” tag, since—on top of his successful songwriting skills and guitar-god status—Frampton was forced to struggle with his boyish good looks. (Must have been hell.) His 1976 live album, Frampton Comes Alive!, thus became a blessing and a curse. Though it provided Frampton with the most monstrously successful hit of his career, its cover of his bare chest and flowing locks only made things worse, stealing the hearts of young girls (including your mom) everywhere.
Although that record’s wild success became Frampton’s impossibly high, multi-platinum benchmark, the musician’s career continued onward, achieving respectable results along the way. These days, younger folks are likely to recognize Frampton from his appearances on The Simpsons and in car insurance ads, as well as his songs continuously spinning on classic-rock radio.
To celebrate tonight’s show at the Pabst Theater, we look back at some peculiar covers of Frampton’s songs, something Frampton himself is accustomed to, if his appearance in the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band film or this version of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” is any indication:
Marie De Salle (Lisa Bonet)—“Baby, I Love Your Way”
While walking into a club and hearing echoes of music, John Cusack’s Rob Gordon asks disdainfully, “Is that Peter fucking Frampton?” Though the character’s clearly not a fan, he’ll turn around soon enough. Early in High Fidelity, the film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s hit novel, a recently dumped record store clerk is dragged to a local bar by two of his music-nerd coworkers. Rob and his friends are soon mesmerized by a sultry singer, played by Lisa Bonet, who croons an acoustic version of one of Frampton’s most famous songs, “Baby, I Love Your Way.” “I always hated that song,” Rob explains. “Now I kinda like it.” Though there have been many covers of the tune, most famously by reggae artist Big Mountain (which served as the basis for Bill Nye The Science Guy’s edu-taining parody “Baby, I Love Your Wave”), none of them are as soulful, nor do they feature Denise Huxtable.
Dinosaur Jr.—“Show Me The Way”
J. Mascis has always pushed his unique voice to its edge, occasionally cracking or falling out of key, but nowhere near the amount as it does on Dinosaur Jr.’s version of “Show Me The Way.” Though, in this goofy cover (which Frampton might describe as “taking a piss”), J. seems to be doing it on purpose. The track first appearing on the B-side to 1987’s “Furry Little Things” single. On it, the band’s shattering rhythm section and Mascis’ feedback-battling wah pedal shows how truly great Dinosaur Jr. was in its prime. The cover is so much fun that it’s hard to tell whether the trio’s version is an homage or a mockery (though it’s probably a mix of both).
Bob James—“I’m In You”
Frampton’s follow-up to his smash live album was I’m In You, whose hit title track featured the refrain, “I’m in you, you’re in me.” It made the pop star’s young-girl fans go crazy, and it also opened up Frampton for parody, as Frank Zappa showed with “I Have Been In You.” On his 1977 album, Heads, jazz keyboardist Bob James disregards the lyrics entirely, turning Frampton’s soft ballad into a bouncy, instrumental funkfest. James was a popular musician among jazz groups, but his solo work in the ’70s is his most known, which led to James becoming one of the most widely sampled artists in hip-hop history.
Local H—“Do You Feel Like We Do”
The closing song on side No. 4 of Frampton Comes Alive! sealed its fate as Frampton’s most famous moment. The nearly 15-minute epic “Do You Feel Like We Do” features an extended jam in the middle, as Frampton talks to the raging crowd and solos using a talk box, an effects pedal that uses a tube one can sing or speak into, giving it a unique sound. Though Frampton wasn’t the first guitar player to use the device, he is undoubtedly its most famous, causing stoned kids everywhere (including Jimbo in his Simpsons cameo) to remark, “Man, that guy’s guitar is talking!” Plenty of bands have covered the song, but Local H’s version is the most fun. The underrated two-piece, known primarily for its smash “Bound For The Floor,” delivers a faithful interpretation of the tune, complete with talk box—though not without adding some energetic thrashiness.
Ratos De Porão - “Breaking All The Rules”
Though not one of the most famous covers, this one proves how far reaching Peter Frampton’s influence really is. On their 1995 album, Just Another Crime In Massacreland, Brazilian hardcore band Ratos De Porão (or RxDxPx) take their abrasive sound to Frampton’s 1981 hit “Breaking All The Rules.” Although they usually sing in their native tongue of Portuguese, the group’s front man João Gordo sings this particular album in an interesting mix of broken English. (If for some reason, you need more international Frampton covers, there’s Filipino group Powerpuff Corn’s take on “Baby, I Love Your Way”.)