To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of Peter Frampton’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Of course, it may have to do with the fact that the Grammy Award-winning artist embarked on a 2019 string of dates dubbed Peter Frampton Finale—The Farewell Tour, a decision based on the fact that he had been diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM), a progressive muscle disorder characterized by muscle inflammation, weakness and atrophy.
And while he embarked on a 50-date run to put a neat bow on the live performance aspect of his career, the pandemic came along and put a screeching halt to that particular tour. Two-and-a-half years later, Frampton was obligated to play in London and a conversation he had with a random medical professional had him re-thinking the idea of premature retirement.
“I had the Royal Albert Hall gig in front of me and I didn’t think I could do it,” he recalled. “My hands were changing and then there was a stranger I met who is a doctor and I told him I wasn’t sure I could do this European thing and he said to do it. He said people wanted to see me. I’d not thought of it like that. I just thought of it from my own perspective that I had said before the Finale Tour that I didn’t want to ever go out unless I was at the top of my game. Well. I lied,” he said with a laugh before adding. “You get to a certain position where I was really enjoying my playing. While I couldn’t do this bit anymore, as the old jazzers used to say, ‘We just adapt as we get into our sixties and seventies.’ I’m adapting and that was the reason that I decided to do the European tour last November. Then we came back and did one show for an invited audience—Sky Arts UK. They wanted a show and we did that.”
According to the guitarist’s 2020 autobiography, Do You Feel Like I Do?: A Memoir, Frampton first started noticing IBM symptoms as early as 2013. What started out as him constantly falling on his knees while trying to play Frisbee backstage with his crew and band during that year’s summer tour found him getting diagnosed by a neurologist in 2015. A regimen of physical therapy and regular medical visits have found him learning to navigate this new reality.
“I’m feeling very good and am very lucky. In as much as a lot of diseases go, this one can be rapid progression or any speed of progression,” he said. “I am very lucky to be one of the people that has a very, very slow progression. Is it affecting me? It’s definitely affecting my legs and arms. But it’s just starting to affect my hands and my fingers. Is it affecting my playing? I won’t lie—it is,” Frampton admitted before saying with a laugh. “But my fans say they can’t notice the difference, which worries me.”
With the extended break the pandemic created, Frampton had plenty of time to reflect about his past and future. He released 2021’s Frampton Forgets the Words, an all-instrumental outing that found him dipping into the canons of artists ranging from Sly & the Family Stone and Radiohead to David Bowie, Roxy Music and George Harrison. But for him, the idea of time slipping away, particularly given his health, gave the former child prodigy plenty to chew on during a time he likened to “…being on the road and waiting for the tour manager to come get you for sound check, but never having it happen—for two-and-a-half years.”
“For me, [the lockdown] was frustrating,” he said. “We all have a life clock that we live by. We don’t know how long that is. I have my IBM clock, which is going faster than my life clock. So therefore, I just got incredibly worried that I wouldn’t be able to play and continue. Everyone said it was going to be over in six months and I was the first one to say two years in my circle. It was two-and-a-half years. I pretty well called that one. It was frustrating. But on the other hand, being alone and locked down, I’m lucky inasmuch as I have so much to keep me occupied with my music.”
With this unexpected gift of being able to play more live dates, Frampton is delighting in being able to dust off material he released after leaving Humble Pie.
“Being this is the bonus tour—one that I never thought was going to happen, let alone my crew, we’re delving back into some early tracks off my early solo records, which have just been re-released on vinyl,” he said. “I’m pulling some songs from those albums. Obviously, the crowds will get what they want to see. But they’ll also get some tracks that I’ve never done, or haven’t done in eons. We will mix it up and hopefully will be changing it up from show to show.”
And while the 73-year-old rocker has his hands full with this bonus tour, he’s readying a sequel to 2019’s return-to-roots All Blues project. This forthcoming collection will find him featuring more acoustic blues. And there is also a project featuring brand-new material of which he’s polished off nine of a projected 14 cuts that he’s working on with a number of songwriting collaborators that he deigned not to name. With such a flurry of creativity going on as his IBM clock ticks down, Frampton is keeping with his own personal philosophy of not looking too far down the road.
“I live in the moment,” he said. “Rightly or wrongly, that’s how I’ve gotten through life. I never think too far ahead. For me personally, and not for everybody, when people went over the edge during COVID-19, I didn’t mind it so much as far as being locked down. I always stay in the moment and that’s it for me. [No sense] in thinking too far ahead. I’ve got enough to think about right now.”
Peter Frampton will be appearing on July 26 at The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington. For more information, visit www.theparamountny.com or call 631-673-7300.