Sunday Old School: Humble Pie
Of all the names that have appeared throughout the Sunday Old School columns, one of the few to be expected to grace the series would have to be, Peter Frampton. Yet the man who recorded, "Frampton Comes Alive," one of the biggest selling live albums of all time, which according to Mike Myers in Wayne’s World was issued to everyone in the suburbs, was an integral part in one of the first albums to be described as heavy metal. The album in question was called, "As Safe as Yesterday Is" and the band who recorded this effort was called, Humble Pie. Humble Pie was formed in the county of Essex in south England in 1969 by former Small Faces guitarist, Steve Marriott, along with Spooky Tooth bassist, Greg Ridley, Peter Frampton and drummer, Jerry Shirley. After deciding on their name, they soon signed to Immediate Records and released their first single, "Natural Born Bugie," only six months after forming, which was able to reach as high as number four in the British singles chart.
A month later, the band released, "As Safe as Yesterday Is," which, as mentioned before, was one of the first albums to be called heavy metal by Rolling Stone reviewer, Mike Saunders, who went on to form a popular band himself, named Angry Samoans. Perhaps fitting for this bit of trivia, the record opened with a cover of the song, "Desperation" by Canadian band, Steppenwolf, who themselves have at times been credited for the term "heavy metal" after including it in their classic song, "Born to be Wild." The music press weren’t entirely sure what to make of the album, but listeners seemed to enjoy what was on offer, with the record peaking at number sixteen on the British albums chart.
Only three months on from their debut, Humble Pie released their second full length album, "Town and Country," which was a considerably lighter output, featuring more acoustic numbers. The band promoted the album by performing both acoustic and electric sets on tour, before signing a new record deal with major label, A&M and releasing a self-titled album in the summer of 1970. The record contained a good chunk of hard rock material but also entered progressive rock territory, one of the first bands to do so. A single, "Big Black Dog," was also released around this time but failed to chart in Britain.
However, by this point Humble Pie had begun to find success in the United States as a live act and soon find themselves in the American charts more often following the release of their fourth album, "Rock On," which shed much of the progressive elements. Their first live, "Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore" was also released in 1971 and peaked at number twenty one on the American albums charts, with a single from the record, "I Don’t Need No Doctor" also becoming a popular song on American radio stations.
Despite the success the band had begun to garner overseas, Peter Frampton decided to leave the band to focus on his solo career and was replaced by Clem Clempson. Humble Pie decided to further harden their music and released a fifth album, "Smokin'" in 1972, which reached number six on the Billboard Albums Chart, along with the singles, "Hot n' Nasty" and "30 Days in the Hole," with the former also appearing on the American singles chart. They were then joined by backing singers, The Blackberries, who had previously performed with Ray Charles and Ike & Tina Turner under different monikers, and made their recording debut with Humble Pie on the 1973 double album, "Eat It." The album was a blend of hard rock, R&B, acoustic songs and live recordings and reached number thirteen on the American album charts.
After the release of, “Eat It,” commercial success dried up a little for the band, with 1974’s, "Thunderbox," which contained no less than seven covers on an album of twelve songs, only reaching the fifty two spot in the U.S.A. The next album, "Street Rats," released in 1975, faired no better, reaching only number one hundred in America. Neither album was particularly praiseworthy in the eyes of critics and so the band decided to call it a day soon after, with a "Goodbye tour" performed to put a full stop to their history.
Although they had called time on the band, Humble Pie were resurrected only four years later by Steve Marriott and released their ninth album, "On to Victory" in 1980, which received some lacklustre reviews but spawned a somewhat successful single in the shape of, "Fool for a Pretty Face," which reached number fifty two in the U.S.A. They promoted the album and reunion by heading out on tour supporting Aerosmith and Ted Nugent, before another album, “Go for the Throat” was released the next year to poor reviews. The band disbanded in 1982, though Marriott kept the name of Humble Pie alive for a short while, performing club shows under the name until 1983 when he decided to return to England.
Humble Pie returned in 1988 after Jerry Shirley acquired the legal rights to the band name, though tragically any chance of seeing the band with Marriott again came to an end in 1991, when the guitarist died in a house fire. Tributes poured in for the band’s founder, who was described by many as one of the finest singers of all time from a range of musicians such as Blondie and Ozzy Osbourne. Nevertheless, the third incarnation of Humble Pie soldiered on for twelve years without releasing an album, before another breakup occurred in the year 2000.
This hiatus was to be short lived however, as Shirley brought the group back once more in 2001, this time with original bassist, Greg Ridley, and recorded the first new Humble Pie album in twenty one years, "Back on Track," though the album failed to live up to reality and Humble Pie folded once more in 2002. Sadly, Ridley was also to pass away only a year later while in Spain and Humble Pie have not graced the stage in well over ten years, with a fifth attempt at a comeback seemingly unlikely. Such is the story of one of the first bands to be called, “heavy metal,” a tag they may not fit into anymore but were certainly a big part of its history, which as any school will tell you, is very important, something we certainly agree with. After all, there’s no school like the old school.
Humble Pie - "Natural Born Bugie"
Humble Pie - "As Safe As Yesterday Is"
Humble Pie - "One Eyed Trouser Snake Mumba"
Humble Pie - "Stone Cold Fever"
Humble Pie - "Thirty Days In the Hole"
Humble Pie - "Thunderbox"
Humble Pie - "Street Rat"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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