Lou Gramm Didn’t Expect Foreigner Reunion: Exclusive Interview
The last few years have been healing times for the friendship and working relationship between Foreigner’s Mick Jones and the band's original singer Lou Gramm.
Getting an induction nod for the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013 led to the pair taking the stage at the ceremonies to jam on some Foreigner classics for the first time since Gramm left the band at the end of 2002.
Gramm and Jones stayed in contact, and as Foreigner marked their 40th anniversary in 2017 with extensive touring, they welcomed the singer and other former members of the band back to the stage for a series of special one-off appearances, culminating in two Michigan dates that were filmed for a future release.
All five surviving original members -- Gramm, Jones, drummer Dennis Elliott, keyboardist Al Greenwood, multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald and bassist Rick Wills -- played a set of Foreigner favorites, with the current group lineup joining them for the encore. They played four more shows together at the end of last year.
Gramm tells UCR in an exclusive interview that playing with Jones and his former bandmates brought some closure. “The last thing I expected was that to ever happen," he sayd. "I’d come to accept that. So when these shows were proposed, I honestly felt very excited about it.”
He admits he had some concerns when the idea of the original members playing together again was first proposed. He wasn't sure how they'd sound since it had been years since they were onstage. "As soon as this was brought up that we were going to be doing shows, they started practicing and rehearsing," he says. "To my surprise, when we played the first show, they were not only sharp on their instruments, but to be honest, I think we sounded as good, if not better than we ever did as the original band.”
And then there was the moment when “Super Foreigner,” as current bassist Jeff Pilson dubbed the union of the new and old lineups, took the stage. “That was so awesome," Gramm says. "There was a lot of camaraderie between the two bands. I must say that the current Foreigner was very gracious to us, and we got along with them very well. It was a lot of fun to do the shows that way. There was no, ‘Well, we sounded better than them tonight.’ It wasn’t anything like that. It was totally to uphold the name and to be the best we could.”
Watch Foreigner Perform 'Hot Blooded' in 1978
Both Jones and Gramm have spoken frequently over the past few years about unreleased Foreigner music they’d like to complete. Gramm says that's still on the table. “Mick’s moved a few times in the last dozen years, and I think because of his illness, some of his CDs and things have been packed away or misplaced,” he explains.
“But I have a CD of maybe over a half a dozen songs we were working on at the time when I left the band. And they were good songs. So Mick asked me if I would send him a copy, just to let him refresh himself as to what we were doing around that time. I did that and when he called me, he was very excited, because those song ideas were really terrific and had the makings of a good album. We more or less vowed to pick up where we left off at some point and see it through.”
Time will tell when and if the pair will get together to finish those songs. Gramm says he’s otherwise planning to stick to his retirement plans. “At some point, you look forward to doing more of that than performing shows,” he says. “So other than the [potential] Foreigner reunion shows, I’m not doing anything.”
He recently disbanded his solo band of nearly a decade. “We had done a lot of shows," he reflects. "It was a very good band.” But his reasons for shutting them down were pretty simple: “I just decided that I didn’t want to be on the road so much and wanted to spend more time with my family and my hobbies.”
Instead of concert stages and hotel rooms, Gramm says he's looking forward to cruise nights and car shows -- he's a longtime muscle-car lover. He's amassed a small collection of five or six cars; his favorite is a 1968 Camaro Super Sport with 18,000 miles on it.
So while he enjoys some time away from the stage, fans can still get a dose of vintage Foreigner with the March 15 release of Live at the Rainbow ‘78, a new video that features Gramm and the original members captured live during the closing moments of the tour in support of their debut album.