he day before I spoke to LOU GRAMM - the legendary lead singer of the equally legendary English-American rock band FOREIGNER - I was out running errands and heard the band's music through the overhead speakers of two different stores and one bank. There is no way to escape the band's classic catalog whether it be through the airwaves, television or film, and why the hell not? The band's monumental brand of pop rock spoke to the joys and the frustrations that go with the territory of love and life and driving the music home was the impassioned delivery of LOU GRAMM and guitarist MICK JONES providing the riffage and the leads that were going to send the blistering material into the stratosphere. Where would classic rock radio be without such standards as HOT BLOODED, FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME, URGENT, COLD AS ICE and JUKEBOX HERO? And where would the brokenhearted turn to if the band didn't embrace their gentler side and issue the glossy mid-eighties ballad I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS? Sounds like an American Songbook to us, and we didn't even come close to naming all of their hits. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of FOREIGNER's sophomore album DOUBLE VISION - a gritty gem of an album that delivered an immediate, in-your-face, rock n roll punch in the era of disco and yielded multi-platinum sales. It is in observance of this anniversary that FOREIGNER's original lineup will be hitting the stage for a massive reunion concert in Sturgis, South Dakota at the STURGIS BUFFALO CHIP on Saturday, August 4, 2018. While the event is being billed as a one-off appearance, GRAMM is certain that more dates are to follow. ROCKWIRED had a chance to speak with GRAMM regarding the upcoming concert. Here is how the interview went.
The album DOUBLE VISION has turned forty this year. After all of ths time how does that album sit with you?
I like it better than I did before.
Did you ever think that forty years after your released that album, that it would still have legs and that the music would still be on the radio and that people would still care?
I didn't have a clue. I didn't think anything. I didn't think that anybody but THE BEATLES would have albums that would still impact people forty years after the fact.
And is the fortieth anniversary the reason for the original lineup performing at Sturgis, SD on August 4th?
That's basically it. We figured that this would be a good time for all of this to happen.
And this reunion could be happening anywhere. Why Sturgis, SD?
It's a national motrocycle festival and mostly HARLEYS and it has hug numbers of people. They're wild an crazy and the location just seems to suite the mood.
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FOREIGNER is a band that has been through countless line up changes. What was it about this specific. "classic" line up that was different?
I think that to a large degree this group of people - and not to knock on any other previous or current members of FOREIGNER - I think this group of guys that we're playing these shows with kind of epitomize those years of FOREIGNER where we were at our best.
You and MICK JONES were the MICK and KEITH and the PAGE and PLANT of FOREIGNER - the creative nucleus. As a songwriting partner, what is it that you feel he brought to the creative process?
He was an idea guy. He would give me a cassette tape or a CD and it would have all of these guitar riffs and guitar ideas and some would play perfectly into being the chords for a rock chorus or a rock verse. He would give me these ideas to listen to and a day later, I would come back and say, "Lets work on this one and lets' work on this one!" We would just flesh out the ideas and start throwing some practice words int here and before you knew it it took that shape of a song.
And bring me back to the meeting of the minds. How did you cross paths with MICK JONES and form FOREIGNER?
I live in Rochester New York. When MICK was playing in the band SPOOKY TOOTH, they came to Rochester. I was able to see them and go backstage and I met MICK and I gave him two albums of mine. I was in a band called BLACK SHEEP and we were on CAPITOL RECORDS. I told him to give them a listen. About nine months, later he calls me and tells me that he is no longer in SPOOKY TOOTH and that he was putting together his own band and would I consider coming down to audition for him as a vocalist. Well, I thanked him, but I told him that I was still very interested in my own band and wished him good luck and that was the end of the conversation. Well, it wasn't longer after that that my band's truck tipped over on the New York State Freeway and we lost all of our equipment. So, MICK called back three weeks later and the guys in my band were like "Go audution! You've got nothing to lose!" So, I told him that I would come in and audition. I flew to New York and auditioned and I got the job.
And when you auditioned, what was it about the band and working with MICK that made you think that FOREIGNER was going to be the band for you?
I thought the songs were damned good! It was hard ot tell if it was going to go anyplace. This business is just to unpredictable. But I thought by the integrity of the songs and the quality playing that it had the elements of success stamped all over it. We started writing songs right away. When they told me that I was in the band, the next day we were writing songs. He had one idea after another and it showed a lot of possibilities. We were knocking off songs the first day we got together. As a matter of fact one of the first songs that we wrote was LONG LONG WAY FROM HOME.
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At what point did you realize that this band and it's music was really going to go somewhere?
I thought it came along when we got signed to ATLANTIC RECORDS. We were rehearsing and we sent our demos and there were some record companies that came over to where we rehearsed to listen to us play. At a certain point, everyone of them had passed on us until ATLANTIC RECORDS came by and I don't know if you know the name JOHN KALODNER - he was their A&R guy. After we auditioned for them, they passed but JOHN came back and said "You know, these songs are way too long, but if you shorten them up and let me help you arrange them." He did and then we called ATLANTIC and their president back again to hear the songs with the new arrangements, and we were signed.
I know this upcoming concert is a one-off thing, but are there plans to do more performances like this?
There are plans to do more of these shows. I don't know where and I don't know when. We did a couple last year. One in Jones Beach and one outside of Detroit. This will be the third show that we do with the original line up. I think there will be more but I don't know of any dates or any cities that they're going ot be in so I'm just going to wait to see what happens.
Why do you feel the band's music still resonates with people today?
I think a lot of it has to do with the integrity of the songs and I think the production and the instrumentation is such that you hear everything the way that it's supposed to be heard. There are dynamics at play and there is a quality in the playing. It's not virtuoso playing. The music is supporting the lyric and the vocals and vice versa. I think that FOREIGNER was and is extremely good at that.
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