Peter Frampton recently reflected on his songwriting with Classic Rock, specifically how he wrote his talk box classic Show Me The Way. But the old adage of lightning never striking twice in the same place clearly doesn't apply to song inspiration – Frampton somehow ended up penning another hit on the same day.
"I started writing Show Me The Way in Nassau, in the Bahamas," remembers Frampton. "[Humble Pie frontman] Steve Marriott had a cottage on the beach there, and I moved in for three weeks, with an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar. Alvin Lee from Ten Years After happened to be on the island at the same time, so for the first two weeks, I didn’t get very much writing done!
"But the day after Alvin left, I picked up my acoustic guitar, and within about 20 minutes I came up with the opening chord sequence to Show Me The Way, and a verse and a chorus of lyrics. I liked how it was going, so I set it aside to work on later. Then that afternoon, as the sun was setting, I sat under a palm tree and wrote Baby, I Love Your Way. I’ve been trying to work out which side of the bed I got out on that day ever since!"
It sounds like we all need to spend more time around palm trees for songwriting. But the talk box part of the equation didn't arrive until Frampton returned to his home country of England to finish working on Show Me The Way.
"I came up with the famous talk box riff when we were experimenting with it," Frampton explains. "I’m glad I did! The talk box has a certain comedic potential, and people go nuts every time they hear it. We recorded the song in Clearwell Castle [in Gloucestershire], using Ronnie Lane’s Mobile Studio, basically because Led Zeppelin had recorded there. I was a huge Zeppelin fan, and I loved that open production that Jimmy Page got."
Although both songs would feature on Frampton's eponymous debut in 1976, it was the Frampton Comes Alive live record later that year that would launch them as huge hit songs.
"A year before Frampton Comes Alive! we had released the studio version of Show Me The Way as a single – it was on the Frampton album – and it totally tanked. Nothing," Frampton told us in 2011.
“It was pretty strange to put out the live version and watch it go through the roof. It exploded! I mean, I just couldn’t believe it. It was still the same song. What had changed?
“I should point out, though, that AOR [Album Oriented Rock] was the big radio format at the time," the musician continued. "Singles weren’t that important for rock acts. Led Zeppelin didn’t need a single – AOR stations played all of their songs, whole albums, in fact. And they were playing Frampton Comes Alive! like crazy. If you put on an AOR station - any station - you’d hear pretty much all the songs from that record
“Having a hit single didn’t hurt any. It definitely helped. A lot of people bought Show Me The Way and that made them buy the album. The whole thing became a speeding train that couldn’t be stopped.”