David Bowie and Peter Frampton are both alumni of the Bromley Technical High School. Even though they were some years apart in age, their musical talents brought them together later in life when they would conquer the world.
Bowie was a few years above Frampton, but long before he’d even invented the persona, ‘David Bowie’, Frampton still looked up to David Jones as a kind of hero figure, who he wanted to imitate. Even though he was just a student, it was clear that Jones was destined to be a superstar, and he was in total awe of his fellow Bromley boy.
Frampton grew up secretly wanting to be like Bowie and even later admitted that he was the reason why the guitarist began listening to American music, which would have an immeasurable impact on his life. After being in several bands throughout his teenage years, Frampton formed Humble Pie in 1968, and a year later, they went on to support his adolescent idol as the two South Londoners endured their first taste of fame.
The large part of the next decade would be two different tales as Bowie went on to cast everybody on the planet under his wondrous spell, while Frampton’s career took a little longer to thrive. In the mid-’70s, Frampton became a superstar in the States, despite only being relatively unknown back in his home country.
Sadly, his time at the top was short-lived in comparison to his former schoolmate. In the blink of an eye, the buzz around him had been obliterated as he entered another fallow period of commercial misfortune. After years in the proverbial abyss, Bowie handed his old friend a lifeline and allowed him to play on his 1987 album, Never Let Me Down, as well as joining his band for the iconic Glass Spider Tour.
This tour helped Frampton find his feet again as an artist but almost cost him his life. The incident made him thankful to just be alive, and that near-death experience was life-changing.
Touring with Bowie was full of the glitz and glamour; long gone were the days of travelling in a cramped van. Instead, it was private jets that took them from stadium to stadium on the globetrotting tour, but disaster struck one night when the plane filled with smoke and Bowie rushed to save Frampton rather than putting himself first in a truly selfless act.
“On that tour, we had private planes, and on one flight smoke started coming out of the vents,” Frampton recalled to the Mirror. “Dave stands up and goes, ‘Smoke! Smoke!’ So the pilot stops and the flight attendant pulls the back stairway down. I’m in my seat and Dave literally lifts me out of my seat and carries me down the chute.
“I’ll never forget that. He could have run out, but he wanted to make sure I was okay. That was the kind of guy he was with me, and, in general. He was a lovely man.”
Following Bowie’s death in 2016, Frampton eulogised: “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,” he said. “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,” Frampton added.
Bowie didn’t just give Frampton’s career a much-needed lifeline, but once he handed him the lifeboat in a metaphorical sense — the Starman then literally saved his life, too. The two men remained close for 50 years, and their shared background provided them with an authentic kinship amid a cesspit of faux’s who’d throw you away to the wayside at the first opportunity.