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Buyer's Guide: Foreigner

Their blend of hard rockers and atmospheric ballads resulted in 80 million-plus sales and some definitive melodic rock records.

In 1978, shortly after the Sex Pistols had split up, that band’s former singer John Lydon said there was one song from that year that made him jump around like a lunatic.

It was a song written by Mick Jones. But this wasn’t Mick Jones of The Clash, it was his namesake from a band that had nothing to do with punk rock. The song in question was Hot Blooded by Foreigner.

With its meaty riff, thumping rhythm and a gritty lead vocal, Hot Blooded represented the heavy end of Foreigner’s repertoire as a classically styled hard rock band. What they also had was a number of epic power ballads such as Waiting For A Girl Like You and the worldwide No.1 hit I Want To Know What Love Is. As a result, Foreigner became one of the most successful groups of all time, with sales of more than 80 million.

British guitarist Mick formed the band in 1976 in New York City. They were named Foreigner in jokey reference to the original line-up’s unusual mix of three Brits and three Americans. And among the latter was the singer in whom Jones found his perfect foil: Lou Gramm, whose voice was reminiscent of Paul Rodgers in its blend of soul and power.

Foreigner’s debut album, released in 1977, was an instant hit, selling four million copies in the US and shaping the sound of Adult Oriented Rock. The band’s popularity peaked in the 80s with the albums 4 and Agent Provocateur. In the 90s they struggled, with Gramm quitting for a short time, then undergoing surgery for a brain tumour. He eventually left the band in 2003. But Jones, the only ever-present member of Foreigner, would not let go.


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