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‘Foreigner: Then and Now’ – Still ‘Feels Like The First Time’ to Gramm

Foreigner – Double Vision: Then and Now

Perfectly timed for the gift-giving holidays, arena rock heavyweights Foreigner have released Foreigner – Double Vision: Then and Now.

A grandiose, multi-platform celebration of the band’s legacy, past and present, the package includes the first ever reunion of the entire original lineup of the English-American outfit (minus the late Ed Gagliardi), sharing the stage with the group’s current incarnation, resulting in an epic amalgamation of one of the world’s best-selling musical acts of all time.

Commemorating the 40th anniversary of the band’s multi-platinum seminal masterpiece, Double Vision, the concert features the album’s most well-known numbers, such as “Blue Morning, Blue Day,” “Hot Blooded,” and, of course, the scorching title track, as well as iconic selections from their illustrious career, including “Urgent,” “Cold as Ice,” “I Want to Know What Love Is,” and many more.   

Filmed in 2017 at Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Central Michigan over the course of two sold out performances, Foreigner anchor and lead guitarist Mick Jones stated, “This was a show that I will always remember! Sharing the stage with the guys that shaped Foreigner in the beginning and the stellar musicians that carry the flag in the new millennium, was a truly emotional moment.

Lou Gramm (Photo: Rick Diamond)

The collection is quite extensive and available in several different formats, namely CD + DVD, CD + Blu-ray, and Limited 2 LP + Blu-ray, in addition to a digital download. But no matter which option you prefer, it’s sure to be a popular item among fans of classic rock.

Royal Flush had the pleasure of speaking with Foreigner co-founder and original lead vocalist Lou Gramm on the eagerly anticipated release, as well as a variety of other topics, including his recent health scare, his one-time rift with Jones stemming from differing visions for the band’s direction, and his decision to switch from drumming to singing.   

Royal Flush: Recently, you had to pull out of some live dates with Foreigner due to health issues, including a respiratory infection and dehydration. How is your health now and how are you feeling?

Lou Gramm: It’s very good. Yeah, I had a respiratory infection and believe me, I would’ve been no good on stage, trying to hit those notes if I couldn’t breathe. So, I spent almost two days in the hospital getting it cleared up and my physicians told me they didn’t want me doing anything along the lines of performing for at least a month to six weeks. I missed all the shows after that but I’m hoping there are going to be more next year.

RF: Well, we’re happy to hear you’re doing better.

LG: Yes, thank you.

RF: You’ve frequently performed with Mick Jones over the years, even though you’re no longer a permanent member of the band. But how did it feel to perform with all of the other original members (Al Greenwood, Dennis Elliott, Ian McDonald, and Rick Wills) as part of the reunion shows? Was it like old times?

LG: It was! Honestly, I was concerned, because I’ve continued to play over the years but a number of the guys in the original band basically put their instruments away and I was concerned that there would be a rust factor. But they had been rehearsing together and on their own for a few months before the shows. And when we hit the stage, it was like old times. The band sounded great, the tempos were steady and right on the money, and the harmonies were good. It was so invigorating and it was a ton of fun.

RF: Between Foreigner’s self-titled debut, Double Vision, Head Games, and even 4, you have a lot of 40-year anniversaries to potentially celebrate so it seems like the band has to pick and choose. When you were making these albums in the 70s and 80s, did you ever imagine you would be talking about them 40 years later and still singing the songs on them as well?

LG: (laughs) I had nothing to base it on. There really weren’t many, if any, bands that had 40 years under their belts when we started, to be celebrating anything. I can’t say I even thought about that when we started. It’s amazing to me in a very thrilling way to have that much time into this music and still be able to perform it and still know that there’s an audience who appreciates it, you know?

RF: Absolutely. Not many bands have the longevity that Foreigner has. Is there a song in Foreigner’s catalogue that you have to push yourself a little harder to sing than others because of the range it requires? “Juke Box Hero” is one that particularly comes to mind. You did an amazing job, vocally, on that song and you still do today.  

Mick Jones (Photo: Larry Marano)

LG: (laughs) Oh, thank you! Let me just give you a little synopsis. When Mick and I would write the songs and we’d work on the melody and such, I’d start fooling around with some ad libs and high notes and stuff. Mick would actually change the key of the song to the next key up to make those high notes more difficult and he did it to the point where I was at the very top of my range and I could sing it that way once or twice and that’s the version we’d record. (laughs) So when we were on the road and were doing like five or six shows per week, after around the third show, I couldn’t hit the very top notes. My voice was fatigued. So, I’d either have to sing around the notes or really kill myself to hit them. The way we would construct those songs was insane. So, they would sound incredibly difficult on the album and people would say “Man, did you hear that note he hit!?” And I’d be thinking, “Why in God’s name did Mick do that to me?” (laughs)

RF: He really pushed you, huh?

LG: Oh yeah, he really did. But I have to tell you, those were the most fun times. They really were.

RF: Before you became a singer, you played the drums. Obviously, being a singer and a front man requires somewhat of an extroverted or outgoing personality. Was there ever a time when you wished that you had stuck to drumming and didn’t have to constantly be the “face” of the band?

LG: (laughs) Joe, I can’t tell you how many times! What a funny, perfect question! Yeah, I would. There were times, especially when I was trying to hit notes that were just outrageous, that I’d be thinking, “Man, I really should’ve stuck with drumming! Then I wouldn’t be in this fix.” (laughs) You know, during the first tour, we had two sets of drums on stage and during “Starrider,” which Mick would sing, he’d do a 10-minute solo. So instead of hanging around, shaking a tambourine, I’d run over and jump on the other side of the drums and Dennis Elliot and I would be playing double drums. We were trying a lot of funny things in those days. There’s footage of it from London on the Live at the Rainbow ‘78 Blu-ray that came out this year. It was very cool. Believe me, I love being up front and I love singing but sometimes it was incredibly challenging.

RF: That’s not surprising, especially considering the amount of shows you were doing.

LG: Another time, we were doing four shows in five days and the fourth show was broadcast on the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show. It was recorded live and heard around the world. I couldn’t even talk, let alone sing. I begged management to postpone it until I was feeling better but they said, “Sorry, it’s all set up. You’ll be fine, Lou. You’ll do a great job.” Well you couldn’t even hear my vocals on most of it! I was singing but nothing was coming out of my mouth. It was that bad. Yet they went on with it anyway. I didn’t understand the reasoning. Most of the time, when a performer is ill, a show is postponed until the performer can make a reasonable showing for himself. It sounded like one long instrumental. You hear me singing a bit but most of it is just squeaks. (laughs)

RF: If you had to pick only one, which album of yours would you call the definitive Foreigner record – the high point for the band?

LG: 4. I think both the songs and the production on that one were the best. I think we were at our peak in terms of popularity and playing live.

RF:Waiting For A Girl Like You” and “I Want To Know What Love Is” were two huge ballads for the band and the latter is Foreigner’s biggest hit of all time. It’s well documented that you preferred the harder-edged songs that the band was known for, while Mick was experimenting more with synthesizers and love songs. Looking back at those songs all these years later, have your feelings about them changed at all and how do you think they rank in the Foreigner canon?

LG: I think they’re fantastic songs. It wasn’t the songs specifically that I had a beef with. It was that they came out back-to-back. And the critics would write that we’d gone soft. It should’ve been “Waiting For a Girl,” then a couple of tough rockers, then “I Want To Know.” But that didn’t happen and our rock audience was not happy and then our live audience started to diminish.

Foreigner, Past and Present (Photo: Karsten Staiger)

(Editor’s Note:Waiting for a Girl Like You” was released in October of 1981 and “I Want to Know What Love Is” was released in November of 1984, three years apart; however, the band only released a few singles in the interim)        

RF: It must’ve also changed the audience’s demographic.

LG: It really did. And suddenly people were clamoring for the ballads and after we’d play some of the big rock hits, we’d hear crickets. People were not responding. And it was puzzling. It was infuriating because that’s not the band that we were. I love both of those ballads but it really was just the timing of when they were released that was the frustrating part for me.  

RF: You inadvertently sang background vocals on Bryan Adams’ hit album Cuts Like a Knife in 1984 after a few of his regular background vocalists became ill and Foreigner happened to be in a neighboring studio. Are you still in touch with Bryan and did you guys ever play any shows with him?

LG: We became friends. Bryan opened some shows for us on the following tour. We’re not in constant touch but we still have a friendship. And he gave me a gold album for helping him out when that record went gold.

RF: You released two critically acclaimed solo albums in the late 80s, a couple of singles that appeared on movie soundtracks, and you also made a record in 1991 with a band you formed named Shadow King. Are you planning on releasing any new material, and if so, what can we expect?

LG: Well, I’d gone back and listened to the solo albums and there were 10 songs on each but we recorded about 13 or 14 for each one. So, I listened to them and picked out three good songs from that period and finished them. I’m going to release a downloadable EP in two or three months. It probably won’t be a physical EP but it might. I haven’t decided yet.

RF: That’s great news and it’ll definitely excite your fans. Best of luck with it.

LG: Thank you, Joe! I’ve been working on it for about six months and I’ve got them sounding the way I want them to. I’m really excited about having them see the light of day.

Click here to purchase Foreigner – Double Vision: Then and Now.

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