This album was a stab in the dark. I chose Rock On by Humble Pie for three reasons. 1) My father owned two copies on vinyl and copy on CD. 2) This record was released in 1971, the same time my father was stationed in Germany while serving in the army (draft, not volunteer) and 3) Humble Pie features the lead guitar and vocal styling of one Peter Frampton, who left the band a year after Rock On was released to pursue a much more lucrative solo career (i.e. play guitar with the annoying “talk-box” and write songs like “Oo, Baby I Love Your Way) Needless to say once I heard about Frampton’s involvement I began to have second thoughts, maybe I’d turn to something with a little more meaning behind it, something we shared, something we both liked…but no. That’s not why I got into this. At the least, I needed to listen, to try and find out why my father had so many copies of this album (and why he had so many other Humble Pie records.)
Steve Marriott was the leader of the band and it is apparent on this album that he took artistic control. “79th and Sunset” features lyrics that would pink the cheeks of most mid-seventies Frampton fans. Most of the songs have a deep Zepplin-esque blues-metal feel to them, while they lacked the thunderous drumming of John Bonham they were able to deliver a powerful sound because of the two guitarists, one who switched to keys intermediately. Sure, they were a good band who would tour in the 70’s with the heavy hitters people of Generation Y still idolize, but you’d be hard pressed to find a trace of them in today’s popular culture. I can understand why Humble Pie didn’t quite stand the test of time; they fit in, but didn’t stand out.
Why does this album have such a large presence in my Father’s collection? I think it has a lot to do with where he was at that moment in time. It was 1971, he was drafted into the army and spent a lot of time hanging out with the various other recruits who had the unfortunate luck to have their numbers drawn. They weren’t army material and they spent the majority of their time listening to records, altering their minds, and trying to avoid the shell shocked and mildly insane Vietnam transfers. I can tell which records he took overseas with him and which ones he bought there by the initials on the inside of the sleeve (GWC written in marker) or by the language in the liner notes (German). These records were different then what he usually listened to. My father preferred Blues, Funk, Indie Rock and Soul, but through his army years he had Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, Steppenwolf, a lot of heavy music. While most of us have music that defines a period of our lives, in this I feel that my father had a time in his life that defined the music he enjoyed.
Two side notes.
1) Humble Pie is mentioned as a touring band alongside Stillwater, Bad Company and Led Zepplin in the movie Almost Famous.
2) Peter Frampton wrote the 2 most radio friendly, pop-oriented songs on this album. Although it pains me to say this; he is actually a damn good rock guitarist.