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At 45, Peter Frampton Is Still Groovin’ on Classic Rock Tunes : The guitarist’s 1976 hit recording is the biggest-selling live album and still gets plenty of airplay.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

“Frampton Comes Alive!” refuses to die--in fact, it’s not even sick. The planet’s biggest-selling live album came out in 1976, when “groovy” was still a recognizable world view, and it continues to live long and prosper on classic rock radio. Peter Frampton himself, now 45, will come alive tonight when he plays Ventura Theatre.

To many rock fans, the ‘70s were marred by disco, but Frampton defended the decade.

“No, I don’t think the ‘70s sucked,” Frampton said recently from his Scottsdale home, his English accent undamaged by the Arizona heat. “People tend to forget that disco came at the very end of the decade, and they forget how much great music there was before that.”

Even though a lot of people don’t know what they want to be when they, heaven forbid, grow up, Frampton was a kid with a plan. At 10, he formed his first band, the Trubeats.

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Successfully avoiding the dreaded day job by becoming a professional musician when he was 16, Frampton played in a succession of bands, becoming a teen idol in England in 1967 with the Herd hit “From the Underworld.” But Frampton’s greatest fame began a year later with Humble Pie, a band that toured incessantly.

“With Humble Pie, we were always on the road,” he said. “You name it and we probably played with them--Ten Years After, J. Geils Band, ZZ Top when they used to have cattle on the stage--we became the best support act around.”

Frampton, a man with not only fast fingers but also itchy feet, left Humble Pie in 1971 to embark on a solo career at a propitious time for young, handsome, long-haired guitar dudes. Four solo albums followed, along with more than 200 road shows a year. When “Frampton Comes Alive!” reached No. 1 in 1976, it changed everything, including Frampton’s tax bracket.

Frampton is “very proud of the fact that the album made history” and a lot of money, but even happier that fame didn’t slap him around too badly.

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“If I wanted to go somewhere [in public], I knew it would be a hassle,” he said. “I couldn’t just go hang out in a record store anonymously or just do normal stuff, but it wasn’t really that bad. I was very lucky because the tabloid press is not like it is today.”

And today he is relatively anonymous. “No one knows who I am anymore,” Frampton said. “I cut my hair and I don’t look like me anymore.”

Since classic radio shows no sign of cutting back the airplay for his classic, “Show Me the Way,” why should Frampton put a lid on the song?

“No, I don’t get tired of playing it, just rehearsing it,” he said. “The actual performing of it in front of an audience is great because they want to hear it, and it’s great to see their reaction. That’s the number that brought me to the fore. I guess I’m gonna always have to play it. I know when I go to a show, I don’t mind seeing half the new album, but I want to hear the old stuff, too.”

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Frampton is planning another live album with a collection of old songs and new material. His music is classic rock.

“I’m a guitar player, a songwriter and a singer,” he said. “I’ve always had a wide appreciation for different kinds of music. You spend a lot of time copying other people, then all of a sudden, your own style pops out. It’s not stealing from them, but learning from them.”

After all these years, isn’t Frampton tired of all the travel?

“I just get in a state of mind that accepts what I’m doing,” he said. “You have to put up with this to enjoy that. So you have to put up with travel, which is not that enjoyable, to be able to play two hours a night, five nights a week.”

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Details

* WHO: Peter Frampton.

* WHEN: 8 tonight.

* WHERE: Ventura Theatre, 26 Chestnut St., Ventura.

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* HOW MUCH: $25.

* CALL: 648-1888.


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