45 Years Ago: Humble Pie Break Through on the Live ‘Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore’
The popularity and proliferation of live albums was a distinct phenomenon of '70s rock 'n' roll. The format became so popular that some of the era's top acts wound up delivering their definitive career works not from a studio, but from the concert stage. And so what if many of these records were discreetly (and occasionally, not so discreetly) tidied up in the studio?
Kiss' Alive, Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous, Cheap Trick's At Budokan, Foghat's Live and Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive! all helped shape their respective artists' careers. But the live album that helped set the stage for all of these was Humble Pie's Performance Rockin' the Fillmore, released in November 1971.
Frampton played on this live album too (in fact, he launched his solo career shortly after its release), but the driving force behind Humble Pie's first four studio albums was Steve Marriott, who came from the Small Faces.
But since none of these studio records had captured the quartet's onstage power effectively, A&M Records agreed to record the band's two-night, four-show stand at Bill Graham's Fillmore East in late May 1971 -- just one month before the celebrated venue's closing.
All four nights would be released in 2013 as The Complete Recordings, at which point drummer Jerry Shirley told the Vinyl District, "The Fillmore had a unique sound, it was brilliant for audience interaction, and the actual ambient sound in the room, if you knew how to capture it — if you stepped back and used the ambient mics as well as opposed to just the sound coming off the amps — that’s what made the Fillmore sound so good."
Indeed it did, and the venue's special qualities apparently encouraged Humble Pie to extend many of their songs well beyond their studio restrictions, following the relatively concise "Four Day Creep" with a audience-inclusive cover of Willie Dixon's "I'm Ready," and then a six-minute romp through the original "Stone Cold Fever."
Performance's second side was entirely taken over by an epic 23-minute jam on Dr. John's "I Walk on Gilded Splinters," and its third by a 16-minute deconstruction and reconstruction of Muddy Waters' "Rollin' Stone."
And Marriott and company arguably left the best for last, following a swinging take on Ray Charles' "Hallelujah I Love Her So" with a heavy metal reworking of Ashford & Simpson's "I Don't Need No Doctor," so definitive that Humble Pie's reworking has been covered more often than the original arrangement.
Back then, Humble Pie's decision to release a live album was promptly justified: Performance became the group's first gold-certified LP, dragging the recently released Rock On along with it. Even though they would release several more well-received LPs, the band's career would gradually decline in years to come, as Marriott's disenchantment with the music industry deepened.
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