Synopsis of Pop Music
"He's a juke box hero, got stars in his eyes..."
Foreigner first hit the music scene in 1977, right at the apex of punk. The timing of their arrival kept music critics from taking too kindly to them, but audiences certainly did. The guitar riffs were certainly macho, but the band didn’t let their testosterone get in the way of heartfelt lyrics and the use of choirs and gospel vocals in their ballads. Tough and sensitive, these rockin' Renaissance Men appealed to both genders and a wide age range. If they happened to walk in while you were blasting the right song, in other words, your parents might not even ask you to turn them down.
Having done his time in groups like Nero and the Gladiators and Wonderwheel and Spooky Tooth, Mick Jones formed Foreigner in 1976—maybe because he just wanted to close the chapter on whimsical band names. The new moniker, quite simply, was chosen because Lou Gramm (formerly of the Black Sheep) and two more of the original six members were from the States, while Jones and the other two bandmates were from the U.K.
The band's self-titled debut album was released in 1977, after a year of rehearsal and a signing with Atlantic. It was a huge, rather unexpected overnight success, and its singles “Feels Like the First Time” and “Cold as Ice” were smashes. In 1979, Rick Wills, who had played with King Crimson and Peter Frampton, replaced Edward Gagliardi on bass. The band’s next album was Head Games, but this record stirred almost as much controversy with its creepy cover design (a little girl in a men’s restroom) as it did album sales.
Wonder-producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange was brought in for their next effort, and the chart-topping 4 was released in 1981. There were appearances from synthesizer gurus Larry Fast and Thomas Dolby, and saxophone god Junior Walker added a scorching solo to “Urgent.” They had their first U.K. Top-10 hit with their unlikely ballad “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” and then tried to catch ballad lightning in a bottle one more time in 1985. With the Jones-penned, Gramm-crooned, and choir-accompanied “I Want to Know What Love Is” from their Agent Provocateur record, they did just that, achieving their greatest commercial success ever.
All the foreigners worked on solo projects at this point, then came together in 1987 for Inside Information, which was produced solely by Jones. Gramm and Jones had started to see things not so eye-to-eye, and Gramm left officially in 1990 to form a new band, Shadow King. Jones produced Billy Joel’s Storm Front album in the meantime, and all things Foreigner-related were put on hold.
But after holing up together in an L.A. hotel during the infamous 1992 riots, Gramm and Jones knew they could play together again. A greatest hits release, a live album, and a brand new studio album called Mr. Moonlight materialized. Just before the band was scheduled to leave for a Japan tour in 1997, Lou Gramm was diagnosed with a brain tumor, but it was successfully removed. With over thirty million records sold, a still avid fan base and the two band leaders talking again, new records and new tours don’t seem out of the question. After all, juke box heroes are known to strike again and again.
Artist Release History1977 – Foreigner
1978 – Double Vision
1979 – Head Games
1981 – 4
1982 – Records
1984 – Agent Provocateur
1987 – Inside Information
1991 – Unusual Heat
1995 – Mr. Moonlight
1999 - The Platinum Collection
2000 - The Foreigner Anthology
Pop Sub Categoriesrock
Essential Music Albums4 (Atlantic)
Band MembersLou Gramm (1976-90, 1992-) lead vocals
Mick Jones guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Ed Gagliardi (1976-79) bass
Ian McDonald (1976-80) keyboards, horns
Al Greenwood (1976-80) keyboards
Dennis Elliott (1976-92) drums
Rick Wills (1979-94) bass
Johnny Edwards (1991-92) vocals
Mark Schulman (1992-) drums
Bruce Turgon (1994-) bass
Jeff Jacobs (1994-) keyboards, backing vocals
Scott Gillman (1994-?) saxophone