Chief among bands with insane amounts of ubiquitous hits and little critical acclaim sits Foreigner, alongside the likes of Journey, REO Speedwagon and upcoming tourmates Styx. Foreigner have, of course, sold millions of records, but traditional approval metrics for rock bands of a certain era — a Rolling Stone cover or Rock and Roll Hall of Fame consideration — have eluded them.
Last year, however, another institution — the Songwriters Hall of Fame — honored Foreigner’s original songwriting team of Mick Jones (guitar) and Lou Gramm (vocals). Billy Joel presented the Jones/Gramm team at the ceremony, where he said, “They were jukebox heroes, back when there were jukeboxes!”
But despite the multiple platinum albums, the lack of formal props can still get under one’s skin. “It used to bother me a bit,” Mick Jones tells Radio.com. “Gradually, I found out that some of our detractors were closet fans.”
One of the more surprising examples can be seen, according to Jones, in perhaps the most famously curmudgeon rock critic of them all, Lester Bangs. “He ripped us to pieces in the press, and I found out that he had these parties at his house on weekends, where he would play air-guitar, and he always played at least two Foreigner songs,” Jones claims. “He had air-guitar movements to both of them!”
Bangs faux rocking-out to ‘Hot Blooded’ is a pretty great visual, but here’s an even better one: Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten playing air-guitar along to the classic rock hit.
“Then I discovered that even [Sex Pistols frontman] Johnny Rotten was a closet Foreigner fan,” Jones continued. “I found this out from his ex-girlfriend who had to sit there when he got the first pressing of ‘Hot Blooded,’ which was on red vinyl; she reminded me of that. She said, ‘I just had to sit there all f***ing day listening to him doing all these moves and air guitar-ing to it!’ She said, ‘It drove me crazy!'”
“There was almost resentment from the press at one point, because the press were not responsible for building us,” Jones explained. “We came out of the blue,” referencing the success of Foreigner’s 1977 self-titled debut album, which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard album chart and yielded three Top-20 hits (“Cold As Ice,” “Feels Like The First Time” and “Long, Long Way From Home”). “It wasn’t like we had slogged away [for years], although I had paid my dues, and a couple of other guys in the band had, too.”
— Brian Ives, Radio.com