It was Peter Frampton who put the talk box on the map, modifying the tone of his signature black custom guitar with a tube connecting his mouth to the instrument. The unmistakable sound featured on hits such as Do You Feel Like We Do and Show Me The Way and helped Frampton become a global rock star.

His live album, Frampton Comes Alive! remains a rock milestone, summoning how an LP could help define the cultural landscape in the 1970s. Just three years after The Beatles had shifted the perception of a long-playing record to a piece of art due to overall concept, time spent in the studio and sleeve design, Peter Frampton found himself in Abbey Road Studios with two members of the fab four.

He was introduced to the talk box while recording with George Harrison on his 1970 triple album All Things Must Pass. The session also featured Ringo Starr and steel pedal guitarist Peter Drake. Frampton recalls: “We were working on Bob Dylan’s If Not For You and during a slow moment Peter, who had performed on every great 60s and 70s country hit you can think of [including Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man] asked if we wanted to see something freaky. He got out this little box and put it on the end of the steel pedal while plugging all these wires in. There was a clear pipe in the gadget and he stuck the other end of it in his mouth.”

In 1975, Aerosmith’s use of the talk box on Sweet Emotion provided them with breakthrough hit Sweet Emotion but it was Frampton who put his stamp on it. “When I saw Peter Drake talk and say words through it, that appealed to me more than the sound that various people use it for on riffs such as Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer. I loved what Joe Walsh did with it on Rocky Mountain Way.

“When I started using it live on Do You Feel the place would go nuts – it went down a storm. The effect was so instant because it’s a funny sound. I’ve always had that dry, self-depreciating English humour.” It was a humour he shared with life-long friend David Bowie since their days at Bromley Technical School.

“My dad was head of the art department” says Frampton. “One Saturday there was a school fete and on the stage I noticed this guy playing saxophone with The Konrads. I was immediately drawn to him. I wasn’t at the school yet as I was a few years younger, so I said to my dad: ‘Who is that? He replied: ‘Oh, that’s Jones’ [Bowie’s surname]. I said, ‘I want to be him.’ The next year I went to the school and made a B-line for Dave on my first lunch break. After that I would jam with David and George Underwood. Underwood was Bowie’s life-long friend who damaged his eye in a fight over a girl and he also would provide Bowie with artwork for various projects.”

After scoring a string of US radio hits, such as Baby I Love Your Way, and Frampton Comes Alive! becoming the biggest-selling US album of 1976, the Englishman admits he got “very scared”, saying: “I’m very proud of it but the record had an up and down effect on me. It was six years of work culminating in that album and it had huge effect on my career – it was a blessing and a curse. It not only went to No.1 and stayed there but it became the biggest record of the year in America.” A decade earlier Frampton cut his teeth with The Herd as singer-guitarist, scoring three top 20 hit singles in the UK. At 18 he joined forces with former Small Faces frontman Steve Marriott to form Humble Pie.

Frampton says: “His voice, playing and energy level were off the chart. Steve and I hit it off and I’d been a fan since seeing Small Faces perform Whatcha Gonna Do About It? on Ready Steady Go. It was like seeing Dave perform at school a few years before.

“The night we formed Humble Pie I was sitting with Glyn Johns who had just engineered the first Led Zeppelin album – nobody had heard it yet and my jaw hit the floor. The phone rings and Glyn says, ‘It’s Steve for you’. He hands me the phone and Steve tells me he has just left the Small Faces and wants to know if he can join my band. Within 48 hours we were called Humble Pie.

“I had the most amazing amount of respect for Steve and it seems he had the same for me. We had some great times together and that was the most enjoyable band I have ever been in.”

During a high-energy US tour, fellow guitarist Mark Mariana noticed Frampton was struggling with his instrument. “I was having some trouble because we played so loud. He asked if I would like to try out his guitar. I wasn’t too thrilled with Les Paul but I gave it a try and my feet never touched the ground, the sound, the feel; everything about it was phenomenal.”

When Frampton tentatively asked if he could buy the heavily modified 1954 black Les Paul Custom Mariana declined, offering it instead as a saying he wanted to offer it as a gift. The Les Paul would become synonymous with Frampton and helped define his sound and image. After the runaway success of Frampton Comes Alive! he was marketed as a teen idol, appearing bare chested on the follow-up I’m In You. “In hindsight I should not have recorded for another three years,” he says now. “I should’ve worked with every great writer known to man to come up with some great material. I thought I could do it myself and I couldn’t get out of my own way. It was detrimental. I don’t know how you follow up a live album that’s a huge best-selling hit. You can’t do another live album and any studio album is going to be a very different sound from this very successful record.

“Not that I wish to make excuses but my choices led to mistakes. It had a devastating effect on me both good and bad. It was the best of times and the worst as I knew I couldn’t follow it up. The 1980s was a very difficult period for me and – I’m allowed to say it – my career petered out.”

He was offered a lifeline when the call came in from his childhood friend David Bowie inviting Frampton to appear on his album Never Let Me Down (1987). “That was great. I had never played on one of Dave’s records even though we’d known each other so long and went to school together. He called me up and said: ‘I like what you did on your last record [Premonition]. Would you come and play on my next one? Dave reinvented himself every five seconds and so I wasn’t questioning what direction he was going in, I just listened to what he had to say it needed from me as a player. It was very enjoyable period.

“He took me out to dinner one night and said, I’m doing a big tour for the album, which was Glass Spider. He showed me pictures of the stage and asked if I would join him as one of the players. I said, ‘Let me think about that… Yes!’

“We had a great couple of years between the studio and on stage every night of the tour. I can’t thank David enough because I didn’t realise what he was offering me. By taking me round the world again he was reintroducing me as the guitar player. That was when we said goodbye to me as the pop star and that was the end of that phase – and thank goodness. From that moment on I started to reinvent myself. I started playing clubs again. It took a long time but I managed to work my way back up and thank you Dave for that.”

A forthcoming memoir will share more of his storied career and the mysterious disappearance of the Les Paul, which he was delighted to recover. Frampton’s latest album, All Blues, features his guitar on the cover and he says its return was something of a “fairytale”. It was thought to have been destroyed in plane crash in which everyone on board was killed in Venezuela in 1980. “Thirty years later I get an email from someone who had forensic pictures of the guitar and I screamed, ‘There it is!’ – and I know it’s mine. It took another two years to get it back. A musician in Caracas had been playing it for 15 years and it was getting too hot. He sold it to someone who lived on an island off Caracas, his son got to an age where he wanted to play it and took it to a luthier, who knew exactly what it was as soon as he opened the case.”

The guitar, nicked named “Phenix” eventually exchanged hands for around $5,000 and was presented to Frampton in Nashville by the luthier and a member of the tourist board. “It was presented to me in this horrible guitar bag. I pulled it out the bag, put it on my lap and said, ‘That’s mine’”.

Do You Feel Like I Do? A Memoir by Peter Frampton with Alan Light, published by Hachette, £22.99