Sunday, September 26, 2010


Well over 30 years since he shot to global fame with his iconic album, “Frampton Comes Alive!”, the U.K. rock guitarist and singer Peter Frampton is still writing about the 1970s. But don’t expect tales of rock’n’roll excess: Mr. Frampton has dedicated two tracks on his latest album to Megumi Yokota, a Japanese woman abducted as a girl by North Korean agents over 30 years ago and still unaccounted for.

The album, “Thank You Mr. Churchill,” contains the tracks “Asleep at the Wheel,” an extended lament for Ms. Yokota’s plight, and the instrumental, “Suite Liberte,” the first part of which is titled “Megumi”.

Ms. Yokota was kidnapped from the northern coastal city of Niigata in 1977 at age 13 by North Korean agents so she could help train North Korean spies. She reportedly married and had a child in Pyongyang. In 1997, North Korea admitted to the abduction, but said she committed suicide in 1994. Tests of DNA remains handed over to the Japanese authorities were inconclusive, and her parents and their supporters believe she is still alive.

In an e-mailed response to queries through his publicist, Mr. Frampton said he began thinking about Ms. Yokota after seeing a documentary about her on a PBS program called “Independent Lens”. “I taped the show and watched it over and over as I couldn’t believe it,” said the 60-year-old rocker and father of three. “The documentary made me think what if it was my child one day on the way to school that never came home? That could be me. That’s why it hit me so hard. It struck a deep emotional nerve.”

In “Asleep at the Wheel,” Mr. Frampton sings:

“So hard to imagine, when taken by strangers against your will,

you swallow in silence with petrified tears, bound and so still,

God knows what you’re thinking ’cause life as you knew it has just disappeared.”

At about the same time Ms. Yokota was abducted, Mr. Frampton was reaching the pinnacle of his fame. “Frampton Comes Alive!” was released in 1976 and was the best-selling album in the U.S. that year. It went on to become one of the best-selling live albums of all time.

While Mr. Frampton said he would “love” to visit Japan, he doesn’t have any plans to do so soon. If he does come, he said he would “love to meet Megumi’s parents”, especially if it would help raise awareness of the issue.