Foreigner is a British-American rock band, originally formed in 1976 by veteran English musician Mick Jones and fellow Briton and ex-King Crimson member Ian McDonald along with American vocalist Lou Gramm. Foreigner are one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time with worldwide sales of nearly 80 million albums, including 37.5 million albums in the United States alone.
Beginnings and peak
Since its inception, Foreigner has been led by English musician Mick Jones (former member of Nero and the Gladiators, Spooky Tooth and The Leslie West Band) who, in early 1976, met with ex-King Crimson member Ian McDonald and formed Foreigner with Lou Gramm (ex-Black Sheep), Dennis Elliott, Al Greenwood and Ed Gagliardi as a sextet. Jones came up with the name from the fact that no matter what country they were in, three would be foreigners, because he, McDonald and Elliott were English, while Gramm, Greenwood and Gagliardi were Americans.
The band's debut album, Foreigner, was released in March 1977 and sold more than four million copies in the United States, staying in the Top 20 for a year with such hits as "Feels Like the First Time", "Cold as Ice" and "Long, Long Way from Home".
Their second album, Double Vision (released in June 1978), topped their previous, selling five million records and spawned "Hot Blooded", the title track "Double Vision" and "Blue Morning, Blue Day".
Album number three, Head Games (September 1979), which was referred to by Gramm as their "grainiest" album, was also successful because of the thunderous "Dirty White Boy" and another title track hit "Head Games". For Head Games, bassist Ed Gagliardi was replaced by Englishman Rick Wills.
In September 1980 keyboardist Al Greenwood and co-founder Ian McDonald were sacked as Jones wished to have more control over the band and write most of the music (along with Gramm). The band was now stripped down to a quartet, with session players brought in as needed to record or tour (see below for complete list of members). Greenwood soon joined Gagliardi to form the AOR band Spys, with John Blanco, Billy Milne, and John DiGaudio. The band released two albums, a self-titled debut, and the follow-up Behind Enemy Lines.
In the meantime, Foreigner's next album, 4 (released in July 1981), contained "Urgent" (which includes a Junior Walker sax solo), "Waiting for a Girl Like You", "Juke Box Hero" and "Break it Up". Before releasing albums of his own, Thomas Dolby played synthesizers on 4 (he contributed the signature synth sound on "Urgent" and played the intro to "Waiting for a Girl Like You").
For their 1981-82 tour in support of 4, the group added Peter Reilich (keyboards, synthesizers, who'd played with Gary Wright), former Peter Frampton band member Bob Mayo (keyboards, synthesizers, guitar, backing vocals) and Mark Rivera (sax, flute, keyboards, synthesizers, guitar, backing vocals). Mayo and Rivera had also appeared on the sessions for 4. Reilich was dropped in May 1982 but Mayo and Rivera continued with the band through 1988.
Their next album, Agent Provocateur. was released successfully in December 1984, and gave them their first and only No. 1 hit in 1985 (in U.S., UK, Australia, Norway, Sweden, etc.), "I Want to Know What Love Is", written by Mick Jones, a gospel-inspired ballad backed by the New Jersey Mass Choir. The song was their biggest US hit. "That Was Yesterday" was the next single from the album in early 1985 and proved to be another sizable hit.
In December 1987, Foreigner released Inside Information, spawning hits such as "Say You Will" and "I Don't Want to Live Without You".
On May 14, 1988 the band headlined Atlantic Records' 40th anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden, culminating with "I Want to Know What Love Is", in which the likes of Phil Collins, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Roberta Flack and other Atlantic artists joined in, singing in the choir. Later that year, the band went back on the road. But the touring for Inside Information was limited to Europe, Japan and Australia. For this tour, Mark Rivera and Bob Mayo were not available, so Larry Oakes (guitar, keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals) and Lou Cortelezzi (sax) augmented the quartet of Gramm, Jones, Elliott and Wills.
Lou Gramm's departure
In the late 1980s, Jones and Gramm each put out solo efforts on Atlantic. Gramm released Ready or Not in February 1987 and Jones had Mick Jones in August 1989. Gramm followed with his second solo release, Long Hard Look (October 1989), and decided to leave the group in May 1990, while preparing to tour behind Long Hard Look.
In June 1990 Mick Jones brought in a new lead vocalist, Johnny Edwards (formerly of the bands Buster Brown, Montrose, King Kobra, Northrup and Wild Horses). Edwards made his first live appearance with Foreigner at the Long Island club Stephen Talkhouse, where he, Mick Jones, Dennis Elliott and Rick Wills appeared, joined by special guests Terry Thomas (on guitar, who produced their next album) and Eddie Mack on harmonica. This edition of Foreigner released the album Unusual Heat in June 1991. This was at the time their worst selling album and only climbed as high as No. 117 on the Billboard 200, although "Lowdown and Dirty" was a minor mainstream rock hit, reaching No. 4 on that chart.
In July 1991 the new lineup of Foreigner played some European dates then made its official US debut on August 9 performing on the second night of a Billy Joel benefit concert at Deep Hollow Ranch in Montauk, NY to raise funds for the preservation of Montauk Point Lighthouse. For their 1991 tour, Jeff Jacobs, who'd played in Billy Joel's band, was brought in as the new keyboardist and Mark Rivera returned. But during the fall leg of this tour, Elliott decided to leave the group. Larry Aberman was then recruited as a temporary replacement. Since 1992 several other drummers have come & gone, including Mark Schulman (1992–1995, 2000–2002, 2011–2012), Ron Wikso (1995–1998), Brian Tichy (1998–2000, 2007, 2008–2010, 2011, 2012), Denny Carmassi (2002–2003), Jason Bonham (2004–07, 2007–08), Bryan Head (2008), Jason Sutter (2010–2011) and Chris Frazier (2012-present). Scott Gilman (guitar, sax, flute) joined the touring band in 1992 and Thom Gimbel took over from Gilman and Mark Rivera in late 1992 after they departed. When Gimbel went to Aerosmith in 1993, Gilman returned to handle the guitar/sax/flute duties until Gimbel came back permanently in the spring of 1995.
During the Los Angeles riots in late April 1992, inside the confines of the Sunset Marquis hotel in downtown LA, where Mick Jones had gone to meet with Lou Gramm, they both ended up sequestered due to a city curfew. They decided to use their time together putting a two year feud to rest and resurrecting their partnership. "I flew to Los Angeles, during the riots," says Gramm. "We got flown to John Wayne Airport instead of LAX because they were shooting at the planes. Mick and I were holed up in the Sunset Marquis in LA, with armed security guards walking around on the roof. It was a little weird, to say the least."
Gramm ended up rejoining Foreigner (bringing along his Shadow King bandmate bassist Bruce Turgon) and produced the band's second greatest hits album, The Very Best of ... and Beyond (September 1992), which included three new songs.
In November 1994 Foreigner released what was supposed to be a comeback album, Mr. Moonlight, in Japan. This album was not released in the US until February 1995 but fared even worse than Unusual Heat, although the ballad "Until the End of Time" was a minor hit, reaching No. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1997 Gramm underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor. The medications he was prescribed caused considerable weight gain and affected his singing voice.
In 2001 the Warner Music Group selected Foreigner and 4 to be among the first group of albums from their catalog to be remastered, enhanced and released in the new DVD Audio format. In 2002 the 25th Anniversary Year brought affirmation of the enduring respect for Foreigner recordings with Rhino Entertainment re-issuing the 1977-1981 multi-platinum albums in special enhanced formats. Foreigner, Double Vision, Head Games and 4 received the attention of Rhino's staff with new photos, liner notes and bonus tracks of previously unreleased material. New greatest hits albums were also produced in the U.S. and in Europe. The U.S. version reached No. 80 on the Billboard 200 Album chart.
In late October/early November 2002 Foreigner played in Belgium and the Netherlands at the annual Night of the Proms festival. It was the last time that Gramm and Jones played together until June 2013. Gramm would leave the group in early 2003. Jones stated that he and Gramm split, because they weren't communicating: "I think we really tried hard to save it, but it got to the point when we both realized that to go on would be detrimental for both of us."
New front man
Jones, the founder and only remaining original member of Foreigner, decided to take some time off before looking to form a new lineup in 2004. On July 25, 2004, in Santa Barbara, California at Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort, Jones appeared at a benefit show for Muscular Dystrophy with a brand new version of Foreigner that included: Jeff Jacobs, Thom Gimbel, former Dokken bass player Jeff Pilson, current Black Country Communion drummer Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, who had also played with the brief Led Zeppelin reunions and his own band Bonham) and Bonham singer Chaz West. West was front man for that show only and was eventually replaced by former Hurricane singer Kelly Hansen, who'd sent the band an audition tape and was invited aboard in March 2005, making his debut with the group on March 11 at Boulder Station in Las Vegas. During their 2005 spring tour, Chaz West briefly continued with the band as a special guest, playing rhythm guitar.
Foreigner joined Def Leppard along with Styx on tour in 2007. They also toured extensively in their own right in 2007 - the thirtieth anniversary of the release of their debut.
Their 2005 BMG album, Extended Versions, featured the new line-up playing all their classic hits live in concert in one of the most "studio like, clean sounding" live album recordings produced.
In September 2007 it was announced that Foreigner would join Pete Townshend, Bill Wyman and the Rhythm Kings, and Paolo Nutini as openers for the one-night-only Led Zeppelin reunion show in memory of Atlantic Records' Ahmet Ertegun. The show took place on December 10, 2007 in London, England, having been postponed by 2 weeks because Jimmy Page fractured a finger.
In late 2007 keyboardist Jeff Jacobs left Foreigner after a 16 year tenure and was replaced, first by Paul Mirkovich then by Michael Bluestein (in 2008).
The band released a greatest hits anthology on July 15, 2008 titled No End in Sight: The Very Best of Foreigner. The anthology included all of their greatest hits plus some new live recordings and a new studio track, "Too Late", which was their first new song release since 1994's Mr. Moonlight album, and the first recorded output of the new lineup. "Too Late" was released as a single on June 17, 2008. In 2008, Bonham parted ways with Foreigner. Bryan Head was then brought in to fill the drum chair. But his tenure was short and he also departed to be replaced by the returning Brian Tichy.
Foreigner released a new album on October 2, 2009 titled Can't Slow Down. It was one of several recent classic rock releases (AC/DC, The Eagles, Journey, and Kiss being four others) to be released exclusively through the Wal-Mart stores chain in the US while in Europe the album has been released by earMUSIC (a label part of the Edel group), charting top 20 in Germany (16) and Top 30 in Switzerland.
In early 2010 Foreigner teamed up with Styx and Kansas for the United in Rock Tour.
On May 4, 2010 it was announced that Brian Tichy's replacement as drummer would be Jason Sutter.
On May 22, 2010 Foreigner played a show at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Whitesnake guitar player Doug Aldrich subbed for Mick Jones for this show leaving the band with no original members for this date.
Jason Sutter's tenure with the band was short as he left by 2011. Mark Schulman then returned to Foreigner for his third go-round as drummer.
On February 20, 2011 the band played for the first time in Bangalore city in India along with sitar player Niladri Kumar.
In June 2011 Foreigner (again along with Styx) supported Journey on their UK tour. After this, they joined up with Journey and Night Ranger on a triple bill summer/fall tour of the US.
From August 19, 2011 through September 10, 2011, Night Ranger guitarist Joel Hoekstra did double duty playing for NR as well as subbing for Mick Jones, who had taken ill. Right after this, guitarist Bruce Watson (ex-Rod Stewart) was brought in as Mick's stand-in for the tour's remaining dates and continued to tour with the group, when they hit the road again in February 2012 after Mick underwent aortoiliac bypass surgery in Miami.
In May 2012, after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, Bluestein was forced to take a leave of absence from the band. His stand in on keyboards was Ollie Marland. Bluestein was able to return to the group in August 2012 and Brian Tichy once again rejoined in the interim until his schedule with Whitesnake called him away. In September 2012 the man Tichy replaced in Whitesnake, Chris Frazier, became Foreigner's new percussionist.
On August 31, 2012, after over a year away, Mick Jones made his triumphant return to the concert stage at Atlanta's Chastain Park. Guitarist Watson, in the meantime, stayed on, until Jones was able to return to full health. At this very same show, keyboardist Derek Hilland (ex-Iron Butterfly, Whitesnake and Rick Springfield) came on board to sub for Bluestein for the group's late summer/fall tour dates and again during the winter/spring of 2013 until Bluestein was able to return.
On January 9, 2013 the band's original drummer, Dennis Elliott, joined Foreigner on stage at the Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood, Florida to play on "Hot Blooded".
In addition to touring small clubs and venues, the band frequently is engaged for private parties and conventions. For example, recently playing at SeaWorld in Orlando for an IBM Rational Conference (June 6, 2012), at the Gaylord convention center in Washington DC for the Teradata Partners 2012 conference (October 25, 2012) and at SAP's Field Kickoff Meeting in Las Vegas (January 23, 2013).
On June 13, 2013, at the 44th Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Award Ceremony, Mick Jones and Lou Gramm were officially inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Billy Joel was on hand to induct Mick and Lou, singing snippets of Foreigner's hits in his introduction speech. Mick said he was proud as the honor makes his work "Legit." The duo then took stage one more time and, along with Tom Gimbel and the house band, performed "Juke Box Hero" and "I Want to Know What Love Is" with Anthony Morgan's Inspirational Choir of Harlem – a performance that brought the entire audience to its feet.
On November 26, 2013 Foreigner was the focus of the first episode of the Tim Ferriss Experiment, where Tim learned to play the drums for "Hot Blooded" in a week, without ever having played any musical instruments before.
- Mick Jones – lead guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, bass, vocals (1976–present)
- Thom Gimbel – rhythm guitar, saxophone, flute, keyboards, backing vocals (1992-1993, 1995–present)
- Jeff Pilson – bass guitar, backing vocals (2004–present)
- Kelly Hansen – lead vocals, percussion (2005–present)
- Michael Bluestein – keyboards, synthesizer, backing vocals (2008–present)
- Chris Frazier – drums, percussion (September 2012–present)
- Touring musicians
- Bruce Watson – lead guitar (August 2011–present)
- Foreigner (1977)
- Double Vision (1978)
- Head Games (1979)
- 4 (1981)
- Agent Provocateur (1984)
- Inside Information (1987)
- Unusual Heat (1991)
- Mr. Moonlight (1994)
- Can't Slow Down (2009)
- List of best-selling music artists
- List of number-one hits (United States)
- List of number-one albums (United States)
- List of best-selling albums in the United States
- List of artists who reached number one on the Hot 100 (U.S.)
- List of artists who reached number one on the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart
- Foreigner's official website
- Lou Gramm's official website
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Image from Discogs