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Foreigner at 40: Mick Jones Talks New Compilation Album, Gear and Autobiography

Photo by: Bill Bernstein

Following the success of their self-titled 1977 debut album, Foreigner went on to record some of rock’s most enduring anthems, including “Hot Blooded,” “Juke Box Hero” and “Urgent,” not to mention the Number 1 hit, “I Want to Know What Love Is.”

Since then, they’ve become one of the best-selling bands of all time, with 10 multi-platinum albums and worldwide sales exceeding 75 million.

On May 19, Foreigner will celebrate their 40th anniversary with a new career-spanning compilation, 40, which features 40 hits from 40 years. The band also will embark on an extensive U.S. tour with Cheap Trick and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience.

These days, Foreigner is Mick Jones (lead guitar), Kelly Hansen (lead vocals), Jeff Pilson (bass), Tom Gimbel (rhythm guitar/flute/saxophone), Michael Bluestein (keyboards), Bruce Watson (lead guitar) and Chris Frazier (drums).

I recently spoke with Jones about the band’s 40th-anniversary plans, his upcoming autobiography, gear and more.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Foreigner. When you look back now—with so much perspective—what thoughts come to mind?

It’s a real gift and has basically been two-thirds of my life. It’s been a passion for me and I’ve stuck with it through thick or thin. I’m very grateful for having the opportunity to have an experience like this and to be doing something that I really love. It’s outlasted any expectations.

What does the band have planned to celebrate the occasion?

It’s the 40th anniversary, so we have the Foreigner 40 album that’s coming May 19. We’ve also got my book coming out, which is my first autobiography where you’ll find out a bit more about me. Then we’ve got a huge American tour where we’re bringing along Cheap Trick and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience. We have a couple of the guys coming out to play with the band, including Rick Wills and Dennis Elliot. There’s also plans for Lou Gramm to come out and do a few shows. We hope to make it a celebration.

Kelly Hansen has been with the band on lead vocals for more than a decade. What’s it like having him with the band?
Kelly was the reason I felt confident to go ahead with this in the first place. Obviously, those were big shoes to fill, but Kelly is a go-getting front man and performer who carries the songs incredibly well and gives 150 percent every night. But that’s really the thing about the whole band—everyone is totally dedicated to what we’re doing. It’s a rare thing to find something where everyone is on the same page. There’s good feeling all around.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Mick Jones by Clicking Here!

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Inside Information

The other day I finally got around to adding the $15 i-Tunes gift card I received for Christmas onto my i-Tunes account. I have to admit, although I do have a lot of songs in my playlist, most of which converted over from old CDs, I haven’t had much desire to purchase anything new as of late and hence my delay.

But with fifteen bucks beginning to burn a hole in my pocket I started perusing the list of what’s currently being classified as “hot” to see if anything struck my fancy. As expected, I began to become a bit discouraged.

Call me old (well, on second thought don’t) but I’m from an age where music and lyrics actually mean something. Having a robotic voice singing to a pre programmed beat and calling it music just doesn’t appeal to me.

And what’s with all these different versions of the same song? A song, and album for that matter, should always stand on it’s own. But yet I saw a listing of a current “hit” with no less than four different versions of the song to choose from: one done by the original artist, another a re-mix version with some rapper I never heard of, yet another version done for a Kidz Bop CD and finally one done by the cast of the TV show ‘Glee’… “This is Hot?” I asked myself. “More like cold. Cold as ice”.

Hmmm.

I typed “Foreigner’ into the search box and suddenly there she was again. The black and white album cover of the lady with one eye: Inside Information

I didn’t want to see the date it was released. I knew it was a long time ago. Ok, twenty-five years if you really must know. An album that sold 1.6 million copies worldwide and one that also has some history with me and suddenly I started to remember. This was just one example of an entire album that related to me.

It was a typical Friday night two dozen summers ago. High school was over and college had been delayed temporarily for me due a lack of funds. I was still living at home and spent most of my days working 9-5 for minimum wage in the receiving department of the local supermarket trying to save money and start my music education journey at community college.

Say you will. Say you won’t. Make up your mind tonight.


Once the whistle sounded that Friday night it was time to jump into my orange 1974 Ford Torino and meet my fellow musician buds Nathan and Ronnie for a night of debauchery. At least that’s what we called it. I suppose that in some countries ‘debauchery’ is still defined as hanging out at a miniature golf place making plans to become rock stars and then having cheese fries and coffee at the local diner. It worked for us.

 

I still don’t remember how the Inside Information cassette got into my possession. I figure it must have been one of the twelve cassettes I initially chose for a penny from Columbia House as part of my initial membership. A membership that I never completed. But that tape was the soundtrack to my life for months in the summer of 1988.

I don’t wanna live without you ~ live without your love.

The funny thing about cassettes is, it’s almost impossible to skip a song on one of them. Unless you have the patience and where withal to meticulously fast forward or rewind you were pretty much stuck having to listen to the entire album in order. Suffice to say, I had neither of those qualities so I got to know every track personally from “Heart Turns To Stone” all the way through to “A Night To Remember“.

With windows rolled down we drove up Northampton street (or “The Strip” as it was called) to the echoes of Lou Gramm singing about teen angst and young love blaring from my Kenwood stereo system. Passers by would glance at us strangely when we’d stop for traffic lights but that didn’t bother us. It was a magical time. This was freedom and we were Counting Every Minute of it that we had. And we weren’t just listening to your every day Richard Marx or Michael Bolton tune. On the contrary, this was raw, pure unfiltered rock at its finest. And the words that Lou sang defined what we had in store for the evening:

I feel mean tonight ~ One-eyed jacks and aces
Read ’em and weep tonight ~I’m gonna let all hell break loose.

For the next several hours me and my homies did just that: raised hell cruising the strip and visiting the V-7 miniature golf range. I was feeling particularly lucky that night and my play proved it. Much to Nathans chagrin I sank three hole-in-one shots that night, including one through the dreaded windmill. But during my hat trick run I noticed that Ronnie seemed to be a bit distant and I’d soon discover why.

It was on the drive to the diner that Ronnie began insisting on wanting to listen to “True” by Spandau Ballet to help heal his heart of a high school love gone wrong. Ronnie was the first of our trio to be in a serious relationship that had gone sour. Right now he wanted consolation but Nathan and I wanted nothing to do with it. A Spandau Ballet cassette would never be seen in my record collection let alone in my car. “Those days are over man and you screwed up”, I told him. How ironic it was that the words to “Heart Turns To Stone” began to play to remind Ronnie of the mistake he made:

When she was with you, all along ~ Behind you, right or wrong
She tried to hold on, hold on ~ But you went too far, and she’s gone

To this day I still have no idea what the hell it was he did that went too far and ruined the relationship. The song  just seemed to fit the moment and we all got a good laugh out of it.

Eventually we ended up in the diner counting pennies in our pockets to pay for coffee and french fries covered in cheese. Even though it was well after midnight just knowing that we had no where to go and nothing to do in the morning was comforting. We could easily have stayed there all night discussing women, music and songwriting and how all three were going to be a huge part of our lives as soon as we became rocks stars. But it soon became apparent that bed was calling.

Before getting back into the car for the final drive home Nathan decided to begin singing ‘Heartache Tonight’ by the Eagles right there in the parking lot:

“Somebody’s gonna hurt some one…. before the night is through.”

Which was soon accompanied by Ronnie and I in full three part-harmony: “Somebody’s gonna come undone… there’s nothing we can do”…

Perhaps it was a good thing it was midnight and no one was around for it might have been the most horrific version ever done. But late nights and copious amounts of caffeine and cheese have a tendency to throw you off key while singing A cappella. Yeah, that was my story and I’m sticking to it.

So, two dozen years after that night to remember, Inside Information was added to my i-Tunes playlist. An album I loved but had completely forgotten about. And although the V-7 has been closed for years to golfing I think one of these nights I’m going to give Ronnie and Nathan a call.

We’ll take a ride up The Strip in my 2010 Toyota Rav-4 blasting Foreigner again and seeing if the magic is still there.

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