Peter Frampton was succinct but in reacting to news of David Bowie‘s death when it was reported early Monday, issuing a statement that “I am in shock hearing this news about David. He was a dear friend and mentor to me. He gave me help when I most needed it. My thoughts are with his wife and children on this very sad day.”
That’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg for a relationship that dates back more than 50 years, to when Frampton and Bowie grew up in the Bromley suburb of London and struck up a strong friendship despite a nearly four-year age difference.
Both men attended Bromley Technical High School where Frampton`s father, Owen, was Bowie’s art master and where a fledgling Frampton was often invited to sit in on jam sessions with Bowie and other budding musicians. “He really introduced me, along with George Underwood (who painted the cover for Bowie’s Hunky Dory album), to Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, people I wasn’t aware of at that age,” Frampton told me while touring as the featured guitarist in Bowie’s 1987 Glass Spider Tour.
Bowie and Frampton (who will launch a North American tour on March 9 in Tucson, Ariz., and is expected to announce details of a new album soon) frequently crossed paths in subsequent years; in fact, Bowie often opened for Frampton’s band Humble Pie. “It was always very friendly, always supportive of each other,” Frampton added. “When you share a background and roots like that with somebody, it doesn’t matter if he’s Ziggy Stardust or I was the Frampton Comes Alive! guy; we were just Dave and Peter to each other.”
The Glass Spider Tour came along at a crucial time for Frampton. After his fame fizzled he took a much-needed break in 1982, emerging four years later with his Premonition album. It was while touring in support of Premonition that he received a call from Bowie asking Frampton to play on his 1987 album Never Let Me Down. “He called me up after the Premonition record — a dear friend for many years, we went to school together — and he said, ‘I love what you’re playing. Would you come and do some of that on my album?'” Frampton told Billboard recently.
“And then I went to Switzerland, and we went to dinner, he said, ‘Wanna come on tour?’ I said, ‘Yep.’ So that was it. That was the most re-invigorating thing I could have done. He gave me a gift on a silver platter. He reintroduced me in an arena that I couldn’t fill throughout the world anymore,” recalled Frampton. “He reintroduced me as the musician, the guitar player. And I can never, ever — I’m getting chills right now — I can never, ever thank him enough, my dear friend.”