FOREIGNER's Mick Jones - "I Never Dreamed I’d Be Doing This At My Age"
November 25, 2019, 8 months ago
We might need a reminder up here on the cusp of 2020, but at one time—and for years—Foreigner were one of the biggest acts on the planet. 80 million albums later, the band has just issued Double Vision: Then and Now, a massive live CD and DVD pack that sees mainstay Mick Jones reuniting with members from the classic lineup, including national treasure of a vocalist Lou Gramm.
BraveWords spoke to Mick Jones about the surreal experience of playing with these guys again, after so many years fronting various lineups that have raised eyebrows but nonetheless delivered all of these great hits the world over, such as “Hot Blooded,” “Cold As Ice,” “Dirty White Boy,” “Jukebox Hero,” “Head Games” and ballad of all ballads, “I Want to Know What Love Is.”
“It’s definitely an incredible experience to go back and look across the stage and see those faces (along with Lou, there’s Al Greenwood, Dennis Elliot, Ian McDonald and Rick Wills). And these concerts we’ve done—and we’ve done several of them—they just seem to be happy events. The guys really can see that from the crowd the fans love it. I didn’t actually think that the people were gonna be that interested, but, it’s proved to be something that has developed into a cool, cool thing, an extra thing for the fans. We’re really enjoying doing it and playing these songs. And, you know, I must say the chemistry between Lou and Kelly (Hansen, current full-time Foreigner singer) is extremely good. That was probably the most nervous part of the whole thing, was getting those two guys together (laughs) and not really knowing how it would sit with them. But, they both had a great time.”
Asked if seeing these fellow multi-platinum Foreigner members from the ‘70s and ‘80s rocking out next to him has caused him to think about his own mortality more deeply, Mick says, “That’s a powerful question. It does obviously. I mean, I never dreamed I’d be doing this at my age. And really, in those days, it wasn’t really done, I guess. Or people weren’t old enough yet (laughs). You know, do I think about mortality? Yes, I do. I mean, I’ve got family, I’ve got kids, a lot of things that I love in life. And I’ve managed to get through a few challenging events, let’s say, health-wise. But I just have to get up each day—each day is a new day—and take it one step at a time, as they say. But I feel good and I feel enthused. This band is such a joy to play with, especially when we combine it with the other members. I’m just going to carry on until I feel stupid and then I’ll leave quietly.”
Doing this was ostensibly prompted by the anniversary of Foreigner’s classic second album, Double Vision, hence the title of the package. Notes Mick on that landmark 1978 record, “It was really a tremendous amount of pressure. We had to prove that we were not just a one-album band—and I don’t know how we did it, really (laughs). By that time we’d just started touring and the band was fairly green. Some of the guys hadn’t really had any big-time experience. So we were actually growing up in public. We just had this amazing, rapid rise. A lot of people were waiting to see if we could repeat it, if we could live up to that first album and even do more. You’re talking about a band that came out of nowhere and on the first album sold four-and-a-half million records. And then Double Vision was neck-and-neck with the Stones on Atlantic Records. I thought, whoa, what’s going on here? It was an incredible, heady experience. Each week we’d check the figures out and we’d be bouncing back and forth; it was the Stones and Foreigner, really, basically keeping Atlantic Records going (laughs). We had a lot of laughs about it. I was friendly with Al McGrath, who used to run Rolling Stone Records, and he would come over like religiously at the end of the week to the studio and we’d compare notes on the sales. We’d be flip-flopping every week. One week maybe we were ahead, you know, by 100,000. Pretty wild.”
Continues Mick, on the mission for Double Vision, “I wanted to really concentrate on a sound, an approach, that reflected some of the best times I had in music in my life up ‘til then, something that would… how should I put this? Yeah, I guess to do something that I felt good about, not to have to fit into whatever genre we would fit into. We were not too concerned about that. And just do the best we could do, and to develop this partnership, really, between myself and Lou. With that vocal presence and with a few great songs and a few memorable riffs here and there, we did pretty good.”
“And luckily I chose to work with some interesting co-producers, a number of them,” reflects Mick, in closing. “I’ve always felt that it was better to have somebody in the room that was impartial, where we could bounce ideas off them and who was up to the task, as it were. And I think we managed to do that. Again, it wasn’t particularly just a monotone direction—there were songs, I think, and that’s what made the difference. That’s what’s made the difference in longevity where people are still… you know, you wind your window down and you hear a Foreigner song (laughs). It’s like, I don’t understand. I just think, well, we did it. You can sort of try and find a reason why, but we were just doing something that we were really turned onto, and it was an exciting ride for several years.”
"Double Vision" video: