Foreigner booking

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While quite a few arena rock acts of the ’70s found the transformation into the ’80s quite difficult,
several acts continued to flourish and enjoyed some of their biggest commercial success: Journey,
Styx, REO Speedwagon, and especially Foreigner. Foreigner’s leader from the beginning has been
British guitarist Mick Jones, who first broke into the music biz as a “hired gun” of sorts, appearing on
recordings by George Harrison and Peter Frampton, and as part of a later-day version of hard rockers
Spooky Tooth. By the mid-’70s, Jones had relocated to New York City, where he was a brief member
of the Leslie West Band and served as an A&R man for a record company. But it wasn’t long before
Jones felt the urge to be part of another rock outfit as he sought to put together a band that would be
able to combine elements of rock, progressive, R&B, and pop into a single, cohesive style.
Jones soon assembled a group consisting of ex-King Crimson sax player Ian McDonald and ex-Ian
Hunter drummer Dennis Elliot (both of whom were British), along with New York musicians Al
Greenwood (keyboards), Ed Gagliardi (bass), and Lou Gramm (vocals), the latter of which was
previously a member of an obscure ’70s outfit called Black Sheep. Jones found immediate songwriting
chemistry with Gramm (one of the first songs they wrote together was the eventual hit “Cold As Ice”),
resulting in the newly formed band taking the name Foreigner and signing a recording contract with
Atlantic Records. Foreigner’s self-titled debut was issued in 1977 and became an immediate hit on the
strength of the hit singles “Feels Like the First Time,” “Long, Long Way From Home,” and the
aforementioned “Cold As Ice,” as the album would eventually go platinum five times over.
Foreigner avoided the dreaded sophomore slump with an even stronger follow-up release, 1978′s
Double Vision, which spawned such further hit singles as “Hot Blooded” and its title track, and the
album stayed in the Top Ten for a solid six months. As a result, the album’s success established the
sextet as an arena headliner and would go on to become Foreigner’s best-selling album of their career
(selling seven million copies in the U.S. alone by 2001). The group’s third release overall, Head
Games, followed in 1979 and marked the first of many subsequent lineup changes for the group, as
Gagliardi was replaced by ex-Peter Frampton and Roxy Music bassist Rick Wills. While the album was
another big seller and turned out to be their most straight-ahead musically, both Gramm and Jones felt
that the album failed to break any new ground, something that they sought to correct on their next
The band’s lineup was cut back to just a quartet consisting of Jones, Gramm, Elliot, and Wills as
super-producer Mutt Lange (fresh off late-’70s success with AC/DC) was enlisted to oversee the
proceedings. The ploy worked and the resulting 1981 release, 4, was another massive seller,
spawning such further hit singles as “Urgent” (which featured a blazing sax solo from Motown vet
Junior Walker), “Jukebox Hero,” and the power ballad “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” Although the latter
tune was a massive hit, it confused some of the band’s following as to whether Foreigner was a hard
rock band or balladeers. In 1982, a stopgap best-of set, Records, was released and featured ten of
band’s biggest hit singles, remaining a steady seller to this day (becoming Foreigner’s second album
to achieve sales of seven million by 2001).
It took Foreigner three years to complete a follow-up to 4 with Agent Provocateur being issued in
1984. The band made the transition to the MTV video age without a hitch with the over-the-top,
gospel-inflected ballad “I Want to Know What Love Is” (which featured the New Jersey Mass Choir)
becoming one of the biggest MTV and radio hits that year. But despite the single’s success, there was
a noticeable dip in sales for Agent Provocateur when compared to their earlier albums due to the fact
that the album wasn’t as focused and strong overall as their previous recordings. After a mammoth
nine-month tour wrapped up a year later, both Jones and Gramm focused on non-Foreigner projects
during 1986. Jones produced Bad Company’s Fame and Fortune and co-produced Van Halen’s hit
debut recording with Sammy Hagar, 5150, while Gramm worked on a solo debut. The release of both
Gramm’s solo album, Ready or Not, as well as Foreigner’s sixth studio album overall, Inside
Information, came in 1987. While both were successful and spawned Top Ten hits (Gramm with “Midnight Blue” and Foreigner with “Say You Will”), tension between Gramm and Jones came to a
head regarding the singer’s desire to focus on his solo career, which led to Gramm’s split from
Foreigner in 1989.
The same year as his split from Foreigner, Gramm issued his second solo album, Long Hard Look,
which proved to be not as successful as its predecessor, while Jones produced Billy Joel’s Storm
Front and issued a star-studded self-titled solo debut. Jones, Elliot, and Wills tried to keep Foreigner
afloat with a new singer, Johnny Edwards, issuing a largely ignored album in 1991, Unusual Heat,
while Gramm fared no better with a new outfit, Shadow King, issuing a forgotten self-titled debut the
same year. Seeing the error in their split, both Jones and Gramm listened to the advice of Atlantic
Records and reunited for the recording of three all-new tracks to be included on a more extensive
“hits” collection. Issued in 1992, the 17-track The Very Best…And Beyond was Foreigner’s most
commercially successful release in several years along with the band’s first live release, Classic Hits
Live, issued a year later.
The Gramm/Jones reunion soon turned permanent and new members Bruce Turgon (bass) and Jeff
Jacobs (keyboards) were welcomed on board. The latest version of Foreigner issued an all-new studio
recording in 1995, Mr. Moonlight, which failed to return the group to the top of the charts. Foreigner
remained a popular concert attraction, but the band’s future was thrust into doubt in 1997 when
Gramm was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Luckily, the tumor was non-cancerous and was removed
shortly thereafter. Gramm’s recovery was slow and painful, but by 1999, the singer was well enough
for Foreigner to team up with Journey for a summer tour. The early 21st century saw the release of
several archival collections courtesy of the Rhino label: a pair of additional collections, Jukebox
Heroes: The Foreigner Anthology and Complete Greatest Hits, as well as reissues of the group’s selftitled debut and 4, both of which included extra bonus tracks. Can’t Slow Down, a three-disc set that
included a new studio album, a disc of remixed versions of the band’s biggest hits, and a DVD
documentary, arrived in 2009.

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