Ironic, Peter Frampton had little input in conceiving and making an album of the title The art of control. Published on Aug. 3, 1982, Frampton’s eighth A&M Records album found him pushing for a more commercial, radio-friendly sound that couldn’t have been further from his blues-rock roots—not to mention his previous few albums.
The decade had not started on a good note for Frampton: a devastating cargo plane crash in 1980 not only killed all four crew members but also believed to have destroyed Frampton’s guitars – including the beloved black Les Paul featured on the cover of Frampton comes alive! Frampton’s first studio project of the new decade, the 1981s Breaks all the ruleshighlighted Toto members Steve Lukather and Jeff Porcaro, but did not do well on the charts.
Several years earlier, Frampton had learned the price of rushing into a new album while still riding high on the last one. His follow up on Frampton comes alive!The 1977s I’m in youhad skyrocketed to No. 2 in the US charts, but Frampton was unhappy with the content – not to mention the rather seedy album cover.
“The old rules, before the best-selling-album-in-the-world guy reigned, took advantage of this success, rushed out another one,” Frampton shared Howard Stern in 2016. “But the thing is, you’re only as good as your last release, so I wish we’d waited.”
He would have preferred to take the time to consider the songwriting more deeply I’m in you, but A&M and Frampton’s then-manager Dee Anthony pushed for something fast. “There was no time for input, it was all output,” Frampton later wrote in his 2020 memoir, Do you feel like I do? “People get greedy.”
That seemed to be the case with The art of control: Frampton reluctantly agreed to the idea as A&M pursued a more commercial sound.
The producer on the project was Eddie Kramerwho had worked with Frampton as an engineer in the 1973s Frampton’s Camel and Frampton comes alive! He had always seen Frampton’s strength as a musician and songwriter: “Peter was the golden boy,” Kramer said. Mix in 2006. “It seemed like fate or something that Peter was going to be a superstar. He was this really nice person and obviously very talented. He could sing, he played great guitar, and he had a lot of great songs.”
Their previous work together would be in stark contrast The art of controlwhich leaned heavily on relatively simple riffs and repetitive hooks.
Frampton co-wrote all the tracks with guitarist Mark Goldenberg, with whom he had previously worked Linda Ronstadt. John Regan, who was later a member of Ace Frehley‘s band Frehley’s Comet, played bass guitar. Harry Stinson provided drums and Ian Lloyd of New York rock band Stories sang backing vocals.
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Kramer took a more central role, even adding backing vocals to “Barbara’s Vacation,” the album’s final song. He handled the mix without consulting Frampton. “I would love to get the master tapes off The art of control so I could remix it because I had nothing to do with the mix at all,” he later wrote. “Eddie Kramer’s mixes were good, but it wasn’t the same as if I had been on it.”
Fans shared Frampton’s displeasure with the results. The art of control reached No. 174 on the Billboard 200 chart, but went no further. To add insult to injury, Frampton was dropped by A&M after his release. “It had gone from bad to worse,” Frampton wrote. “But I really didn’t care. It’s horrible to say [but] it was a period of ‘What do I do now and how do I get my mojo back?'”
Frampton played a handful of American concerts in the fall of 1982, plus shows in Brazil. He then signed with Atlantic in 1983, but took a break from touring and recording. He had little money and little idea of where to go next. Frampton said he “decided not to launch another album and I just wrote and spent time with the family. But it wasn’t a very enjoyable time because I had no idea what was going on.”
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His first album with Atlantic, Foreboding, arrived in 1986 with the rock hit “Lying.” More importantly, the LP attracted the attention of an old friend, David Bowie. “I love that you play on ForebodingI just listened to it,” Frampton recalled Bowie saying. “Do you want to come to Switzerland and play on my new record?” Frampton agreed and played guitar on the 1987 Never let me down then returned to the global stages as a member of Bowie’s band for Glass spider tour.
The closure with A&M Records finally happened decades later, when he resigned from the label in 2006. This time, label executives let Frampton guide the sessions. Fingerprintthe resulting instrumental album, featured guest appearances from Mick McCready, Warren Haynes and Charlie Watts, among other. The album also earned Frampton a Grammy Award in 2007.
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Was Peter Frampton’s ‘I’m In You’ doomed to fail?