Foreigner are a British-American rock band, originally formed in 1976 by veteran English musicians Mick Jones and ex-King Crimson member Ian McDonald along with American vocalist Lou Gramm. Foreigner have sold more than 70 million albums worldwide (including over 37.5 million in the United States alone).
Since its inception, Foreigner have been led by English journeyman rocker Mick Jones (former member of Nero and the Gladiators, Spooky Tooth and The Leslie West Band) who, in early 1976, met with ex-King Crimson member Ian McDonald in and formed Foreigner with Lou Gramm (ex-Black Sheep), Dennis Elliott, Al Greenwood, and Ed Gagliardi as a sextet. Jones came up with the name from the fact that he, McDonald, and Elliott were English, while Gramm, Greenwood, and Gagliardi were Americans.
The band's debut album 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." Their second album, Double Vision (released in June 1978), topped their previous, selling five million records and spawned "Hot Blooded," the title track "Double Vision" and "Blue Morning Blue Day." Their third album, Head Games, which was referred to by Gramm as their "grainiest" album, was also successful because of the thunderous "Dirty White Boy" and another title track hit "Head Games."
For 1979's Head Games, bassist Ed Gagliardi was replaced by Englishman Rick Wills. In September 1980, keyboardist Al Greenwood and co-founder Ian McDonald were sacked as Jones wished to have more control over the band and write most of the music (along with Gramm). The band was now stripped down to a quartet, with session players brought in as needed to record or tour (see below for complete list of members). Greenwood soon joined Gagliardi to form the AOR band SPYS with John Blanco, Billy Milne, and John DiGaudio. The band released two albums, a self-titled debut, and the follow-up Behind Enemy Lines.
In the meantime, Foreigner's next album, 4 (released in July 1981), was the band's biggest hit containing "Urgent" (which includes a Junior Walker sax solo), "Waiting for a Girl Like You," "Juke Box Hero" and "Break it Up." Before releasing albums of his own, Thomas Dolby played synthesizers on 4 (he contributed the signature synth sound on "Urgent" and played the intro to "Waiting For A Girl Like You"). For their 1981-82 tour in support of 4, the group added Peter Reilich (keyboards, synthesizers), former Peter Frampton band member Bob Mayo (keyboards, synthesizers, guitar, backing vocals) and Mark Rivera (sax, flute, keyboards, synthesizers, guitar, backing vocals). Mayo and Rivera had also appeared on the sessions for 4. Reilich was dropped in May 1982 but Mayo and Rivera continued with the band through 1988.
Their next album, Agent Provocateur, was released successfully in late 1984, and gave them their first and only No. 1 hit in 1985 (in U.S., UK, Australia, Norway, Sweden, etc.), "I Want to Know What Love Is," written by Mick Jones, a gospel-inspired ballad backed by the New Jersey Mass Choir. "That Was Yesterday" was the next single from the album in early 1985 and proved to be another sizable hit.
On May 14, 1988 the band headlined Atlantic Records' 40th anniversary concert, culminating with "I Want to Know What Love Is," in which the likes of Phil Collins, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Roberta Flack and other Atlantic artists joined in, singing in the choir. Later that year, the band went back on the road. But the touring for Inside Information was limited to Europe, Japan and Australia. For this tour, Mark Rivera and Bob Mayo were not available, so Larry Oakes (guitar, keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals) and Lou Cortlezzi (sax) augmented the quartet of Gramm, Jones, Elliott and Wills.
In the late 1980s Jones and Gramm each put out solo efforts and Gramm decided to leave the group in 1990 while touring behind his second solo release Long Hard Look (1989).
In 1990 Mick Jones brought in a new lead vocalist, Johnny Edwards (formerly of the bands Buster Brown, Montrose, King Kobra, and Wild Horses). This edition of Foreigner released the album Unusual Heat in the summer of 1991. This was at the time their worst selling album and only climbed as high as No. 117 on the Billboard 200, although "Lowdown and Dirty" was a minor mainstream rock hit, reaching No. 4 on that chart. For their 1991 tour, Jeff Jacobs, who'd played in Billy Joel's band, was brought in as the new keyboardist and Mark Rivera returned. But just after the start of this tour, Elliott decided to leave the group. Larry Aberman was then recruited as a temporary replacement. Since 1992 several other drummers have come & gone, including Mark Schulman (1992–1995, 2000–2002), Ron Wikso (1995–1998), Brian Tichy (1998–2000, 2007, 2008-2010), Denny Carmassi (2002–2003), Jason Bonham (2004–2007, 2007–2008), Bryan Head (2008) and Jason Sutter(2010-present). Scott Gilman(guitar, sax, flute) joined the touring band in 1992 and took over from Rivera later that year after he left. Thom Gimbel briefly subbed for Gilman in 1993 then replaced him permanently in 1995.
By 1992 Lou Gramm rejoined Foreigner (bringing along his Shadow King bandmate bassist Bruce Turgon) and produced the band's second greatest hits album, The Very Best of ... and Beyond, which included three new songs. Three years later Foreigner released what was supposed to be a comeback album, Mr. Moonlight. This album fared even worse than Unusual Heat, although the ballad "Until the End of Time" was a minor hit, reaching No. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1997 Gramm underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor. The medications he was prescribed caused considerable weight gain and affected his singing voice.
In 2001 the Warner Music Group selected Foreigner and 4 to be among the first group of albums from their catalog to be remastered, enhanced and released in the new DVD Audio format. In 2002 the 25th Anniversary Year brought affirmation of the enduring respect for Foreigner recordings with Rhino Entertainment re-issuing the 1977-1981 multi-platinum albums in special enhanced formats. Foreigner, Double Vision, Head Games and 4 received the attention of Rhino's staff with new photos, liner notes and bonus tracks of previously unreleased material. New greatest hits albums were also produced in the U.S. and in Europe. The U.S. version reached No. 80 on the Billboard 200 Album chart.
In late 2002 Foreigner played in the Netherlands at the annual Night of the Proms festival. It was the last time to date that Gramm and Jones played together. Gramm would leave the group in 2003. Jones stated that he and Gramm split because they weren't communicating: "I think we really tried hard to save it, but it got to the point when we both realized that to go on would be detrimental for both of us."
Jones, the founder and only remaining original member of Foreigner, decided to take some time off before looking to form a new lineup in 2004. On July 25, 2004, in Santa Barbara, California at Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort, Jones appeared with a brand new version of Foreigner that included: Jeff Jacobs, Thom Gimbel, former Dokken bass player Jeff Pilson, current UFO drummer Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, who had also played with the brief Led Zeppelin reunions and his own band Bonham) and Bonham singer Chaz West. West was hired for that show only and was eventually replaced by former Hurricane singer Kelly Hansen in 2005.