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How I wrote Show Me The Way, by Peter Frampton

Peter Frampton
(Image credit: Ian Dickson/Getty Images)

"I loved playing in Humble Pie, but by 1971, after a couple of years touring America and seeing what audiences responded to best, the band were increasingly leaning towards heavier material. After recording our live album [Performance Rockin’ The Fillmore] I didn’t feel like there was going to be enough creative room anymore for the kind of songs I wanted to write. I wanted to experiment more.

"Taking charge of my own band was exciting. My third solo album, Somethin’s Happening, didn’t sell as well as the first two, and so I was getting a little worried, but with the Frampton album, everything came together.

"I started writing Show Me The Way in Nassau, in the Bahamas. [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!"

"I finished writing Show Me The Way back in England, and I came up with the famous talk box riff when we were experimenting with it. 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.

"We put out Show Me The Way as a single from the Frampton album, and it got some airplay, without setting the world on fire. But everyone thought that it and Baby, I Love Your Way should be hit records, and I believed them! So we put it out again when it came to promote Frampton Comes Alive! and it just took off. 

"It was a shock to see how life-changing a big-selling album could be. Suddenly I couldn’t go to record shops anymore, and even the elevator operators in hotels knew who I was. Be careful what you wish for, because there are parts of fame that are not so desirable.

"I’m not going to tell you what the song is about because it might spoil what you think it‘s about. I met Bono from U2 once, and I asked him if it was true that U2 used to play Show Me The Way when they formed at school, because a lot of people had told me that, particularly when I toured in Ireland. He said, 'Yes, I always thought it was prayer.' I was thrilled that he thought of it that way.

"I’m proud of the song, and still play it, obviously. It’s probably the first ‘hit’ that we play in the act each night, and it always gets the evening going."

Peter Frampton was speaking with Paul Brannigan. Frampton Forgets The Words by the Peter Frampton Band is out now