In 1971, the concept of a hard-rock band achieving its big commercial breakthrough with a double live album was nothing new. But the experience had to be a particularly satisfying one for Humble Pie.
In a way, they were one of the era’s supergroups. Three of the band’s four members — guitarist Peter Frampton, singer-guitarist Steve Marriott and bassist Greg Ridley — had already tasted success with the Herd, Small Faces and Spooky Tooth, respectively. At a mere 17, Jerry Shirley was less well known but was gaining a reputation as a formidable power drummer in the John Bonham mold.
Still, in spite of their lineup and reputation for explosive live shows, Humble Pie weren’t able to duplicate their onstage energy in the studio. Their four studio albums aren’t bad, but they sold only moderately well.
On 1971’s ‘Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore,’ Humble Pie finally captured lightning in a bottle. Recorded over a four-show, two-night stand at the legendary Fillmore East — home to some of the most storied concert recordings ever made, from Aretha to the Allmans — the live double album showcased the band blowing the roof off the grand old joint. Marriott is a pint-sized powerhouse of a blues-rock singer, and his thunderous riffs perfectly complemented Frampton’s more fluid, precise approach. The rhythm section of Ridley and Shirley held the foundation up from the bottom, driving it home with all the nuance of a Molotov cocktail.
‘Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore’ became Humble Pie’s breakthrough hit, cracking the Top 25 and going gold. But the success was short-lived: Frampton left not long afterward, and repeated the formula a few years later by releasing a string of modestly successful solo albums before hitting the mother lode with the 1976 blockbuster ‘Frampton Comes Alive.’ Humble Pie scored a few more hits with replacement guitarist Clem Clempson on the albums ‘Smokin” and ‘Eat It,’ before finally petering out for good.
The four-disc box ‘Performance — Rockin’ The Fillmore: The Complete Recordings,’ collects all four of the band’s Fillmore concerts from May 28 and 29, 1971, in their entirety and in the correct sequence for the first time. In addition to the seven songs that made the original album, the set includes 15 additional, previously unreleased performances.
There’s little variation among the same five or six songs played at all four shows, with the only major difference being the single version of ‘Stone Cold Fever,’ which also made the original album. It’s also the only original song by the band in the entire set list, since they either reworked blues standards by Muddy Waters (‘Rollin’ Stone’) and Willie Dixon (‘I’m Ready’) or gave songs like Ashford & Simpson’s ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor’ their distinctive heavy stamp.
Despite the repetition of the box, purists and longtime fans will appreciate the little things — like Marriott changing his stage raps each night, particularly on ‘I’m Ready.’ Plus, you can hear Marriott’s influence on everyone from AC/DC‘s Bon Scott to the Black Crowes‘ Chris Robinson in his primal blues shouts and screams. The set’s sound is also remarkably crisp and sharp, never losing any of the frenetic immediacy of the original live recording.
Sadly, with the exception of ‘Thirty Days in the Hole’ and the live version of ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor’ included here, Humble Pie’s songs are often ignored by classic-rock radio. Fans who remember the original ‘Rockin’ the Fillmore’ as one of the era’s best live albums will no doubt appreciate the trip down memory lane. For those who missed it the first time, ‘The Complete Recordings’ is an explosive introduction.
1. “Four Day Creep” (Ida Cox) 3:46
2. “I’m Ready” (music by Peter Frampton, Steve Marriott, Greg Ridley, Jerry Shirley, words by Willie Dixon) 8:31
3. “Stone Cold Fever” (Peter Frampton, Steve Marriott, Greg Ridley, Jerry Shirley) 6:18
4. “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” (Dr John Creaux) 23:25
5. “Rollin’ Stone” (Muddy Waters, arranged by Peter Frampton, Steve Marriott, Greg Ridley, Jerry Shirley) 16:07
6. “Hallelujah I Love Her So” (Ray Charles) 5:10
7. “I Don’t Need No Doctor” (Nick Ashford, Valerie Simpson, Jo Armstead) 9:15
• Steve Marriott : guitar, vocals, harmonica
• Peter Frampton : guitar, vocals
• Greg Ridley : bass, vocals
• Jerry Shirley : drums
• Live Recording by Fedco Audio Labs
• Engineer : Eddie Kramer
• Assistant Engineer : David Palmer
• Re-mixed at Electric Lady Studios, New York
• Engineer : Eddie Kramer
• Ably assisted by John Jansen, Andy Edlen, Buzzy and Tom
• Produced by The Pie
A showcase for former Small Faces‘ frontman Steve Marriottand one-time Herd guitar virtuoso Peter Frampton, the hard rock outfit Humble Pie formed in Essex, England in 1969. Also featuring ex-Spooky Tooth bassist Greg Ridley along with drummer Jerry Shirley, the fledgling group spent the first several months of its existence locked away in Marriott‘s Essex cottage, maintaining a relentless practice schedule. Signed to the Immediate label, Humble Pie soon issued their debut single “Natural Born Boogie,” which hit the British Top Ten and paved the way for the group’s premiere LP, As Safe as Yesterday Is.
After touring the U.S. in support of 1969’s Town and Country,Humble Pie returned home only to discover that Immediate had declared bankruptcy. The band recruited a new manager, Dee Anthony, who helped land them a new deal with A&M; behind closed doors, Anthony encouragedMarriott to direct the group towards a harder-edged, grittier sound far removed from the acoustic melodies favored byFrampton. As Marriott‘s raw blues shouting began to dominate subsequent LPs like 1970’s eponymous effort and 1971’s Rock On, Frampton‘s role in the band he co-founded gradually diminished; finally, after a highly charged U.S. tour which yielded 1971’s commercial breakthrough Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore, Frampton exitedHumble Pie to embark on a solo career.
After enlisting former Colosseum guitarist Dave “Clem” Clempson to fill the void, Humble Pie grew even heavier for 1972’s Smokin’, their most successful album to date. However, while 1973’s ambitious double studio/live set Eat Itfell just shy of the Top Ten, its 1974 follow-up Thunderboxfailed to crack the Top 40. After 1975’s Street Rats reached only number 100 before disappearing from the charts,Humble Pie disbanded; while Shirley formed Natural Gaswith Badfinger alum Joey Molland, and Clempson andRidley teamed with Cozy Powell in Strange Brew, Marriottled Steve Marriott’s All-Stars before joining a reunitedSmall Faces in 1977.
In 1980, Marriott and Shirley re-formed Humble Pie with ex-Jeff Beck Group vocalist Bobby Tench and bassist Anthony Jones. After a pair of LPs, 1980’s On to Victory and the following year’s Go for the Throat, the group mounted a troubled tour of America: after one injury-related interruption brought on when Marriott mangled his hand in a hotel door, the schedule was again derailed when the frontman fell victim to an ulcer. Soon, Humble Pie again dissolved; whileShirley joined Fastway, Marriott went into seclusion. At the dawn of the 1990s, he and Frampton made tentative plans to begin working together once more, but on April 20, 1991,Marriott died in the fire which destroyed his 16th century Arkesden cottage. He was 44 years old.