Since their inception in 1976, the Anglo-American band Foreigner has established itself as one of the premiere rock groups to have emerged from the late 1970s music scene. In the United States alone, the band’s sales have exceeded 30 million albums and singles.
During Foreigner’s worldwide tour for their highly successful and most popular album 4, both Robert Plant and Jimmy Page—formerly of Led Zeppelin—joined Foreigner on stage in Germany, while singer Sheryl Crow provided some backup vocals on new songs recorded for Foreigner’s Very Best… and Beyond album. Some of the many artists who have opened for Foreigner over the globe throughout the years have included Bryan Adams, the Cars, Cheap Trick, the Ramones, and Billy Squier. All of these accomplishments were achieved despite the fact that many music critics derided Foreigner as “formulaic” in their mass-market appeal.
According to the unofficial Foreigner Inside Information website, the band came into existence in early 1976
Members include Johnny Edwards (joined group, 1991, left group, 1992), vocals; Dennis Elliott (born August 18, 1950, London England, left group, 1992), drums; Ed Gagliardi (born February 13, 1952, left group, 1979), bass; Lou Gramm (born May 2, 1950, Rochester, NY, left group 1988, rejoined group, 1992), vocals; Al Greenwood (born October 20, 1951, New York, NY, left group, 1980), keyboards; Jeff Jacobs (joined group, 1993), bass; Mick Jones (born December 27, 1944, London, England), guitar and vocals; Ian McDonald (born June 25, 1946, London, England, left group 1980), flute, reeds, keyboards, guitar, and vocals; Mark Schulman (joined group, 1993, left group 1995), drums; Bruce Turgon (born April 25, 1952, joined group, 1993), bass; Ron Wikso (born November 18, 1959, joined group, 1995), drums; Rick Willis (joined group, 1979, left group 1992), bass.
Group formed, 1976; released self-titled debut on Atlantic, 1977; Double Vision, 1978; Head Games, 1979; 4, 1981; Records, 1982; Agent Provocateur, 1984; Inside Information, 1987; Unusual Heat, 1991; The Very Best… and Beyond, 1992; Classic Hits Live, 1993; signed with Rhythm Safari and released Mr. Moonlight, 1995.
Awards: Juno Award for International Single of the Year for “I Want to Know What Love Is,” 1985; Platinum certification for Foreigner, Double Vision, 4, Agent Provocateur, and Inside Information.
Addresses: Record company —Atlantic, 75 Rocker-feller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.
when Mick Jones met multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald at a recording session for Ian Lloyd. A few months later, Jones and McDonald created the band Foreigner when they hooked up with four then unknown musicians including lead vocalist Lou Gramm who was the founder and lead singer with the band Black Sheep. The original lineup came into being with the addition of Dennis Elliott on drums, Al Greenwood on keyboards and synthesizers, and Ed Gagliardi on bass.
Their self-titled debut album was released on Atlantic in 1977. The album sold in excess of four million copies in America alone and remained on the Billboard Top Twenty for one year. This rather impressive feat was due, in no small part, to the strength of the two Top Ten singles that were released from the album—“Cold as Ice” and “Feels Like the First Time.” The success of the album Foreigner earned the band a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist of 1977.
Not content to rest on their laurels, Foreigner released Double Vision the following year. It was a Top Five album, which continued to further the chart success of Foreigner; two Top Five singles, “Hot Blooded” and the title track joined the steadily growing list of accomplishments the band was tallying up. Foreigner’s increased excursions into the top of the charts enabled them to headline the prestigious English summer music celebration known as the Reading Festival in 1978.
By the advent of the 1980s, the Foreigner line-up was whittled down to a quartet with the loss of Gagliardi and Greenwood and the addition of Rick Willis on bass. The release of 4 in 1981 ushered in Foreigner’s biggest sales—a whopping six million. Two more Top Five singles were added to the ever-growing list of hits, “Waiting for a Girl like You” and “Urgent” which featured Junior Walker on saxophone. Additional accolades racked up by 4 included a Grammy nomination for the Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1981 and a Canadian Juno Award nomination for International Album of the Year in 1983. In 1982 Foreigner released their greatest hits album, Records.
Two years later Foreigner released Agent Provocateur, which eventually went platinum. Foreigner’s first number one single “I Want to Know What Love is” was culled from this album and featured backing vocals from the New Jersey Mass Choir. Also charting from this album was the Top Twenty song “That Was Yesterday.” “I Want to Know What Love is” was nominated for a Grammy for the Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1985. In that same year, the song took home the Canadian Juno Award for International Single of the Year.
In 1987 Foreigner released Inside Information. This album also went platinum and yielded the Top Ten hit “Say You Will.” The following year Gramm left the band to pursue a solo career. He reached the top of the charts twice with a Top Ten hit in 1987 and again two years later. Around this time, Jones released a solo album as well, although it barely managed to crack the Top 200 Album chart.
Vocalist Johnny Edwards was brought on board as a replacement for Gramm in 1991 and the band released Unusual Heat. By the following year, Edwards was out and Gramm was back in recording three new tracks for Foreigner’s The Very Best… and Beyond, which featured backing vocals provided by singer Sheryl Crow. Classic Hits Live (1993) was a collection of live material culled from performances all over the globe spanning Foreigner’s career from 1977-1985.
Mr. Moonlight was released on Rhythm Safari in 1995 and marked a turning point for Foreigner. According to the Rock Band Home Page website, not only was Jones “playing acoustic guitar more than he ever has for Foreigner, the two most recent additions to the band line-up—bassist Bruce Turgon and keyboardist Jeff Jacobs have contributed some song writing on the album.”
In the Rhythm Safari press release for Mr. Moonlight, Gramm was quoted as saying, “I always felt that Foreigner never quite lived up to our own expectations, but I think with this album we’re taking a big step to where we want to be. I want this to be what it always should have been… and better than it ever was.” The press release went on to add that Jones felt “that the sound of Mr. Moonlight not only takes Foreigner further than it’s ever gone before, but again puts the band on the map as a competitive entity…. We’ve really reformed this band…. Part of it is being driven by the new blood in the band, and I think it’s done us both [Jones and Gramm] a lot of good.” And Entertainment Weekly’s Chuck Eddy lauded the album’s skillful production: “Almost every track here is as magnificently produced and hookful as the filler on Double Vision or 4.”
Foreigner has also been credited for its significant contribution to rock music for two decades. By the late 1990s, the band was still adding a great deal of energy and vitality to its live performances, and audiences were still responding enthusiastically.
Foreigner (includes “Feels Like the First Time” and “Cold as Ice”), Atlantic, 1977.
Double Vision (includes “Hot Blooded” and “Double Vision”), Atlantic, 1978.
Head Games (includes “Headgames”), Atlantic, 1979. 4 (includes “Waiting for a Girl like You,” “Juke Box Hero,” “and Urgent”), Atlantic, 1981.
Records (greatest hits), Atlantic, 1982.
Agent Provocateur (includes “I Want to Know What Love Is”), Atlantic, 1984.
Inside Information (includes “I Don’t Want to Live Without You” and “Say You Will”), Atlantic, 1987.
Unusual Heat, Atlantic, 1991.
Very Best… and Beyond, Atlantic, 1992.
Classic Hits Live, Atlantic, 1993.
Mr. Moonlight, Rhythm Safari, 1995.
Amusement Business, May 13, 1993.
Entertainment Weekly, December 17, 1993; February 24, 1995.
People, December 26, 1983; February 4, 1985; August 26, 1991.
Additional information was provided by Rhythm Safari publicity materials, 1995.
—Mary Alice Adams