Foreigner is a British-American rock band, originally formed in New York City in 1976 by veteran English musician Mick Jones and fellow Briton and ex-King Crimson member Ian McDonald along with American vocalist Lou Gramm. Jones came up with the band’s name as he, McDonald and Dennis Elliott were British, while Gramm, Al Greenwood and Ed Gagliardi were American. Their biggest hit single, “I Want to Know What Love Is”, topped the United Kingdom and United States Charts among others. They are one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time with worldwide sales of more than 80 million records, including 37.5 million records in the US.
Since its inception, Foreigner has been led by English musician Mick Jones (former member of Nero and the Gladiators, Johnny Hallyday’s band, Spooky Tooth, and The Leslie West Band). After the collapse of the Leslie West Band in 1976, Jones found himself stranded in New York City where West’s manager, Bud Prager, took him under his wing and encouraged Jones to continue his songwriting and rehearse a band of his own in some space Prager had near his New York office.
Jones got together with New York keyboardist Al Greenwood (who had just played with former Flash members Colin Carter and Mike Hough in a group called Storm), drummer Stan Williams and Louisiana bassist Jay Davis (later with Rod Stewart) and began jamming. Another friend, Stories singer Ian Lloyd, was brought in to sing but Jones decided the chemistry was not quite right and retained only Greenwood as he renewed his search for players.
During a session for Ian Lloyd’s album, Jones met up with transplanted Englishman and ex-King Crimson member Ian McDonald and another session for Ian Hunter unearthed another fellow Brit in drummer Dennis Elliott. But after auditioning about forty or fifty singers, the right vocalist was becoming harder to come by until Jones dragged out an old Black Sheep album given to him backstage at a Spooky Tooth concert a few years prior by that group’s lead singer, Lou Gramm. Jones put in a call to Gramm, who was back in his hometown of Rochester, New York after Black Sheep’s break up, and sent him a plane ticket to New York City. Gramm proved to be the missing piece of the puzzle and Brooklyn, New York bassist Ed Gagliardi completed the new sextet.
A name, Trigger, was tentatively agreed to and was the name that appeared on their demo tape, but it was passed on by all the record companies it was delivered to. John Kalodner, a former journalist and radio programmer who was working in A&R at Atlantic Records, happened to spot a tape on Atlantic president Jerry L. Greenberg’s desk with the Trigger identification on it. Kalodner had just been to hear an outfit called Trigger and realized that this was not the same band. He convinced Greenberg that at least one of the songs on the tape could be a big hit and to look into signing this group immediately. Because the Trigger name was already taken, Jones came up with the Foreigner moniker from the fact that no matter what country they were in, three would be foreigners, because he, McDonald and Elliott were English, while Gramm, Greenwood and Gagliardi were American.
In November 1976, after six months of rehearsals, the newly named Foreigner started recording their debut album with producers John Sinclair and Gary Lyons at The Hit Factory but switched to Atlantic Recording Studios where they finished recording the basic tracks and completed the overdubs. The first attempt at mixing the album was done at Sarm Studios, London. But, due to the band’s dissatisfaction with the results, the album was re-mixed back at Atlantic by Mick Jones and Jimmy Douglass. Bud Prager signed on as the group’s manager, a role he would continue in for the next 17 years.
The band’s debut, Foreigner, was released in March 1977 and sold more than four million copies in the United States, staying in the Top 20 for a year with such hits as “Feels Like the First Time”, “Cold as Ice” and “Long, Long Way from Home”.
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