For any randy young teen growing up in the '80s, Friday night make-out sessions (and then some) weren't complete without Foreigner songs helping steam up the car windows. The man on the radio whispering in your wanton ears was none other than that impassioned pleader Lou Gramm, who brings all those inspiring hits (his solo ones, too) to the Club in Treasure Island on Saturday.
After such massive songwriting success with Foreigner's guitar star Mick Jones, Gramm and his former mate had a series of falling outs, a relationship that still prickles to this day. In a revealing (some might say too revealing, as you're about to find out) interview, the 60-year-old rock icon talked with Stuck in the '80s about writing the hits, reuniting with Jones and how he inspired one journalist to go all the way.
Lou, we have a special revelation to open things up. Sean here actually lost his virginity while your 1987 solo hit Midnight Blue was on the radio.
Aw, how cool is that! And I was told only Waiting for a Girl Like You and I Want to Know What Love Is works. But Midnight Blue is all right, too.
It worked fine! Do you hear that sort of naughty revelation all the time?
We have heard that occasionally. A lot of it is, "We used I Want To Know What Love Is for our wedding song." And that's very nice, too, you know?
Foreigner had a slew of classic ballads that stuck firmly in the rock canon. When you were writing, say, Waiting for a Girl Like You, did the magic just happen? Or was more elbow grease involved?
That "sky-opening-up" thing? If you get once in your career, you better be really thankful. But it was more trying to put the round peg in the square hole. (Songwriting) is a real push-and-shove, give-and-take thing.
Back in the mid-'80s, when New Wave and synthesizers were major elements in music, was Foreigner tempted to incorporate more modern sounds into your music to goose album sales?
While the synth would occasionally play more of a part than it had in the past, I think we were more determined to fly the rock banner as high as we could, and so we didn't change into something that we weren't.
The 1981 album Foreigner 4 made you the biggest band on the planet at the time. Did that rocketing stardom affect the relationship between you and band co-leader Mick Jones?
I believe Mick and I counted on each other completely to deliver in Foreigner 4. But as time went on, I just felt like Mick wanted to wear the writer's hat almost completely himself and relegate me to just being the singer. I believed in my ideas, and he couldn't fathom what they were about. So at some point in the mid to late '80s, I knew I had to do a solo album.
That must have been liberating, especially since your solo debut, '87's Ready or Not, was a giant hit.
It was fantastic. It was a little scary at moments. You were out there for everyone to see and hear. But I knew we had something with Midnight Blue. We played Midnight Blue for Mick to see if he liked it as a Foreigner song — I swear to you — and he didn't get it. He didn't see anything in it and more or less dismissed it.
We gotta ask the obligatory Foreigner reunion question. If Mick was up for it ...
We had a meeting in New York about six months ago, and I talked to him about a reunion/farewell concert, which I think would be a great way to go out. Maybe get a couple more of the original members, if they're still playing. Play a dozen and a half cities in the states and the same in Europe, Asia and the rest of the world. We'd call it Foreign Farewell.
What was his reaction?
His initial reaction was one of excitement — until his attorney told him to stifle himself. And that was the end of the conversation.
Well, we hope not. Because kids today are smart about their rock history. They crave a Foreigner reunion. We bet you'll see plenty of kids in the audience at your show here.
That would be awesome.
And of course you'll see Sean crying when you play Midnight Blue.
To hear the full interview with Lou Gramm, go to tampabay.com/blogs/80s.