Peter Frampton and David Bowie were the Bromley boys who shared a brotherly like kinship, the two South Londoners going on to conquer the world with Frampton later admitting that he not only owed his career to Bowie, but his life too.
It’s somewhat incredible to think that these two stars, who were both schoolmates at the Bromley Technical High School with Bowie even being taught in 1953 by Art teacher Owen Frampton, Peter’s father, would go on to achieve the creative successes that they did. Bowie was three years older than Frampton but the way that he carried himself made him Peter’s idol years before Hunky Dory.
An excerpt shared by Design Week from Owen Frampton’s unpublished Autobiography, Our Way: The Autobiography of a Teacher of Art & Design, offered an early viewpoint of Bowie’s growing creative character: “David was quite unpredictable,” he writes. “He was completely misunderstood by most of my teaching colleagues, but in those days, cults were unfashionable and David, by the age of 14, was already a cult figure.”
When young Frampton started school he was nervous and asked his father whether anyone there liked music, to which he replied: “There’s this Jones chap…he’s a good artist but he seems to be very much into the music”—and so he was. When Frampton arrived at the school his first meeting with Bowie would see him playing the saxophone with his then band The Konrads.
Frampton would later discuss how the presence of Bowie and his then-best friend George Underwood influenced him to start listening to American music, which he instantly fell in love with. It would have a lasting effect and see Frampton go on to start his own band named Humble Pie, that very same band would even go on to support Bowie in 1969 following the success of his breakout hit ‘Space Oddity’ affording him his own headlining tour.
That, however, would see the end of the decade and the end of the pair’s musical connection as they spent the seventies in two very different states of flux. While Bowie would eventually go on to find the huge acclaim that Frampton’s father had predicted almost 20 years previously, Peter struggled to become the same level of a household name. Frampton would finally find some success in 1976, his fifth album, Frampton Comes Alive! which would be a top-selling album of the year but he still wasn’t an enigma like Bowie.
The eighties would follow suit for Frampton as his career began to wane and fall into a bit of a rut. A rut in which he would lull for some years until Bowie grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and handed him a lifeline by almost instructing him to play on Never Let Me Down. This moment would not only revive his career but Bowie would also save his life during a near-fatal disaster which occurred on the Glass Spider tour.
“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.”
This is a testament to Bowie and his selflessness that he not only saw a friend struggling professionally who he handed out a lifeline to which thoroughly revived his career but the plane incident also speaks volumes about the kind of man David Jones was, off stage — a true gentleman.