Since the Beatles started the British Invasion of the U.S. music charts in 1964, it has generally been easy to identify groups as 'British,' 'American' or 'foreign.' In 1976, a group got together that was both British and American, and what did it call itself? Foreigner. For more than 25 years, this chart-topping band has been rocking audiences around the world with its British-American hybrid sound.
The band got its start when a couple of British guitarists, Ian McDonald and Mick Jones (not the Mick Jones of the Clash), teamed up with American singer Lou Gramm, keyboardist Alan Greenwood and bass player Ed Gagliardi, as well as British drummer Dennis Elliott. Within a few months they released their first album, Foreigner, which spawned two Top Ten singles, the #4 'Feels Like the First Time' and the #6 'Cold As Ice.'
The hit album and singles called for a tour, and Foreigner sold a lot of tickets even though most of the band had little stage experience. A big problem was the size of their repertoire: Foreigner had recorded their only ten songs on the first album, and after they performed them at concerts, there was nothing left for encores. Even so, word got around that the band's stage presence made for a good show, so tickets were in high demand.
Once Foreigner released their second album, Double Vision, in June of 1978, the issue of short concerts was resolved. Now that fans knew who they were, the second album and its singles sold incredibly well. 'Hot Blooded' reached #3 in the summer of 1978, and the follow-up, 'Double Vision,' spent two weeks at #2. Both singles went gold.
Despite the intense sales success of both vinyl and tickets, or perhaps because of it, the band began to shift personnel in 1979, when Ed Gagliardi left in lieu of Rick Wills. 1979 saw the release of Head Games, as well as the singles 'Dirty White Boy' and 'Head Games,' both of which came close to the Top Ten. This semi-successful album sold five million copies, which shows how popular Foreigner was, and how high expectations were for them.
When Ian McDonald and Al Greenwood left in 1980, Foreigner was reduced to a quartet, and that made the title of the next album, 4, appropriate in several ways. The opening single, 'Urgent,' straddled the line between rock and disco and coincidentally reached the #4 spot on the charts. Foreigner's overall strongest single for sales, 'Waiting for a Girl Like You,' spent ten weeks at #2 and went gold. Even now, 4 is the best-selling album in the history of Atlantic Records at nearly 10 million units sold.
In one sense, the 1984 single 'I Want to Know What Love Is' was Foreigner's best chart success, as it spent two weeks at #1 and also went gold. After a couple more Top Ten singles, though, Foreigner was ready to take a rest. Singer Lou Gramm took advantage of the break to release a couple of Top Ten solo singles. Since Jones and Gramm reunited in 1992, adding keyboard player Jeff Jacobs and bassist Bruce Turgon in 1993, the band has toured frequently and released the album Mr. Moonlight. With the continuing creativity of Jones and Gramm, anyone attending a Foreigner concert can count on an experience equal to those of the early days.
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