Humble Pie Rocks The Fillmore Again
What could be better than a serving of vintage Humble Pie?
Why, four servings, of course.
1971’s Performance: Rockin’ The Fillmore caught the original Humble Pie lineup—drummer Jerry Shirley, bassist/vocalist Greg Ridley, guitarist/vocalist
Peter Frampton, and Steve Marriott on vocals, guitar and harp—in full flight at the legendary Fillmore East in May of that year. The album has long been considered an example of classic blues/rock at its sweat-soaked finest, with the quartet sounding powerful and confident.
The fact of the matter is there were four shows in that Fillmore run—two each on Friday, May 28 and Saturday, May 29—and Omnivore Recordings has gathered all of them into the new Performance: Rockin’ The Fillmore – The Complete Recordings box set.
The 4-CD collection features freshly mixed audio, but there wasn’t any editing or re-sequencing, according to Frampton, who co-produced the new Performance collection with Shirley. (The two are the only surviving members of the original Humble Pie: Ridley passed away due to pneumonia complications in 2003 and Marriott died in a tragic house fire in 1991.)
“It was amazing to hear the new mixes of these shows after all these years,” says Frampton. “This really was that version of Humble Pie at the peak of its powers—playing in a venue with a wonderful vibe.”
You can hear the excitement in Marriott’s voice when the band hits the stage for the first Friday show. “I’ve got a new axe!” he yells to the wildly applauding crowd. “It’s too much—it’s gonna make me rock on, man!”
“That would’ve been Steve’s Epiphone Coronet,” says Frampton, who explains that the guitar was “a double-cutaway with a single P-90 pickup.” Part of the power of the Performance shows is the combination of the Coronet and Frampton’s triple-pickup Les Paul Custom—the same guitar that he used on 1976’s eight-times-over platinum-selling album Frampton Comes Alive! (The black Gibson subsequently went missing for 30 years until Frampton was
reunited with it in 2012, but that’s a story for another day.)
Another factor was the band’s “volume wars,” Frampton admits. “We started with Steve having a Marshall Plexi 50-watt amp and I had a 100-watt…with
4x12 speaker cabinets. Then, Steve got a 100-watt Marshall, so I added his old 50 to my setup. Then, he added another 50 to his 100,” says Frampton, cracking up at the memory.
Surprisingly, the abundance of amps and speaker cabinets enabled the Pie to balance their sound onstage. “We mixed and matched,” explains Frampton. “One of my cabinets would be on my side and the other one on Steve’s—and the same for his. We crisscrossed the guitars, plus Greg had bass cabinets on either side of Jerry’s drums. It worked really well for us.”
There’s much more to Humble Pie’s performances at the Fillmore than sheer volume, however—from the amazing gutter gospel workout of “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” to the blistering rock/jazz jam of “Stone Cold Fever” during the first show on May 29. “Yes, we went full-tilt at times,” says Frampton, “but we had a lot of dynamics as well. We’d slam you against the wall, but then, we’d bring it right down and you could hear a pin drop. The dynamics played a huge role in things—and I have to credit Steve with that.
“I learned a lot from Steve,” Frampton continues. “Let’s face it, he was brilliant. And he was an endearing soul onstage. He said exactly what was on his mind at any given time—sometimes it was embarrassing, sometimes it was hilarious. And the audience just lapped him up.”
One of the things that was on Steve Marriott’s mind at the Fillmore was the “blue flashes” that he was getting from his mic stand. “You can hear [that] he’s getting shocks,” explains Frampton. “There was a grounding problem—probably because of the extra gear where we were recording the shows.”
Marriott’s reactions are the sort of element that make the new Performance collection so good, according to Frampton. “I love to hear Steve. I love that
all his communication to the audience and to us is captured here,” he says.
“You have to remember: I had not heard a lot of this stuff until now. At the time of the original album, we knew which show we wanted to mix and that’s what we concentrated on.
“Listening to all the music from the Fillmore run and the conversations between tracks now is just amazing. I got chills hearing Steve’s banter—I really did.”