Foreigner’s Lou Gramm reminisces about classic band

Published on November 5th, 2018

By Jim Dail

Photo by Karsten Staiger

When Foreigner burst onto the scene in 1977 with the “Foreigner” album, the sky seemed to be the limit. They had three big hits from the album, “Feels like the First Time,” “Cold as Ice” and “Long, Long Way from Home.” To this day, those are among the tunes that regularly find time on rock radio.

“Everybody was knocked out with the first album, from the record company to promoters to booking agents,” said original lead singer Lou Gramm. “They all warned us though about the ‘sophomore jinx.’ We were determined not to let that happened, and we worked long and hard on that album with Keith Olson.”

The result was the “Double Vision” album, which spanned the massive hits “Hot Blooded” and “Double Vision.” The band is celebrating the 40th anniversary of that record, “Double Vision: Then and Now,” with several special shows featuring both the current line-up of the band and all the original members, including November 10 at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino.

“We were just finishing the album and we were asked by Bill Graham, the promoter, to play Cal Jam II and so we went on and played every one of our songs from the first album,” he said. “Then our time was up, and we were leaving stage and the audience was screaming for one more song. Bill told us to go out and do one more. We looked at each other and wondered what we were going to do.”

They had been working on “Hot Blooded.”

“We didn’t have anything else to play, and so we played ‘Hot Blooded,’ which no one had ever heard before,” he said. “I didn’t even have the last verse done, so I sang the first verse and repeated it, and when it was over we brought the house down. That’s how we decided that it would be the first single!”

And he is thrilled to play with everyone again.

“I think because it was the 40th anniversary, Mick and Foreigner’s management thought it would do something that would mark that year and that release and celebrate the band,” Gramm said. “The current version of Foreigner performs first and does cuts from a number of different albums. Then we come out and do 45 minutes from ‘Double Vision’ and we go off and both bands come back together. We do a couple of acoustic things as well.”

Having two lead singers around the stage is a benefit.

“It’s a lot of fun and when he’s singing, I’ll come out and sing background, and when I am singing he will sing background,” he said. “And there are a couple of songs, such as ‘I Want to Know What Love Is,’ where he does part of the lead then I do part of it and we both do the chorus.”

The amazing thing about Foreigner is the absolute number of classic rock gems and ballads, as well as the fact that despite the number of hits, there’s only been one song hit Number One.

“It’s almost a trivia question to ask people how many Number One songs we’ve had,” he said. “People start rattling off ‘Jukebox Hero,’ ‘Urgent,’ ‘Waiting for a Girl like You’ and ‘Hot Blooded.’”

The truth is, only “I Want to Know What Love Is” topped the charts. Granted, “Waiting for a Girl like You” lived at the Number 2 position for weeks.

“[Olivia Newton John] camped out at the Number One spot [with ‘Physical’] and wouldn’t let go,” he laughed. “Then she fell out of the spot and we dropped to the third position!”

He credits much of the success of the music to the connection he and Jones had.

“I think the chemistry between Mick and myself, especially as we were writing the songs, egged each other on and things would get very creative,” he said. “We would take it to the limit and we know we were right during the process.”

Of course, during these special shows, Gramm is seeing all of the originals, many of who left Foreigner after the “Head Games” album.

“It had been probably been over 20 years since I had seen Ian [McDonald],” he said. “Dennis [Elliott] and his wife and I would run into each other every so often, but definitely Rick [Willis] and Ian and Al [Greenwood] it had been 20 years. It felt a little strange at first to be on stage with them, but then to look over and see those guys and see the familiarity and the memory of it all came back was pretty special.”

Of course, when reminiscing about the past, Gramm does have many very interesting tidbits that some may not know about.

“You know we got banned in a pretty large part of the Midwest when we released ‘Head Games,’” he said.

The album cover featured a girl in a men’s room sitting on a urinal.

“Because they thought the cover was excessively suggestive and then the first single was ‘Dirty White Boy’ and then problems with segregation, there were places in the Bible Belt starting bonfires and burning our records,” he said. “You know, as innocent as we are portrayed, it is a certain type of person who sees it in a bad light.”

The next album, “4,” would be a massive success working with famed producer Mutt Lange.

“Mick and I and Mutt would be alone, and I’d get on the drums, Mick on guitar and him on bass and we’d jam the songs and find out a slightly cooler arrangement and the next day the band would come in and we’d lay the song down,” he said. “He had a lot of good ideas, but the problem was I have a good range and he wanted to put that Bon Scott [AC/DC] rasp on everything. I could put a little rasp on it, but he was trying to get me to sound like Bon. I’d already established my sound and own technique.”

And that lead to an incredible band and success.

Even the aforementioned “Hot Blooded” had a few tricks since the single is a bit different from the album version.

“At that point, hit radio stations really wouldn’t play a song if it was over 3 minutes and 15 seconds or so, so we had to do a few precise edits and literal cuts to a single time and still make it concise,” he said. “We actually have about four or five different versions. The extra session and right after the solo it goes into the out chorus because the way we did it twice around the chorus.”

It was a big hit for the band, and Gramm is certainly a proud “father,” so to speak.

“I do consider myself very fortunate,” he said. “And I’d love for this to be a semi-regular thing.”

 

IF YOU GO

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10

Where: Agua Caliente Casino, 32-250 Bob Hope Drive Rancho Mirage

Admission: Sold out

Information: https://www.hotwatercasino.com/foreigner

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