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Lou Gramm on Foreigner’s Long-Awaited Rock Hall Induction: ‘Justice Has Been Done’

If you turn on classic-rock radio anywhere in America and listen for more than a few minutes, you’re likely to hear a Foreigner song. “Cold As Ice,” “Hot Blooded,” “Feels Like the First Time,” “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” Urgent,” and “I Want to Know What Love Is” topped the charts in the Seventies and Eighties, and really never went away. But rock critics never understood their appeal. “I like rock and roll so much that I catch myself getting off on ‘Hot Blooded,’ a typical piece of cock-rock nookie-hating carried along on a riff-with-chord-change that’s pure (gad) second-generation Bad Company,” Robert Christgau wrote in his review of their 1978 LP Double Vision. “Fortunately, nothing else here threatens their status as world’s dullest group.”

That attitude likely explains why it took them all this time to enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But when we caught up with original Foreigner singer Lou Gramm, he felt nothing but joy that their time has finally come. Gramm was the voice of all their hits, but hasn’t toured with the band in over two decades. And since Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones has been sidelined these past couple of years by Parkinson’s disease, the current Foreigner touring band doesn’t have a single member that joined before the 2000s. (The Hall of Fame isn’t inducting any of them.) 

Gramm, 73, spoke to us about the induction, the strong possibility of a reunion on the big night, his mixed feelings about “I Want to Know What Love Is,” and why the group might be allowed to only play a single song at the ceremony. 

Who told you the news?
It was Foreigner’s manager that told me a number of days ago that it was good news, and we were going to be inducted. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it. It’s been such a long time coming.

What does this mean to you on a personal level?
It gives the ultimate credibility to all the creativity and work that myself and Mick and the whole Foreigner band has been doing for decades.

Why do you think it took so long?
I wish I knew. I think I have an idea, but it’s not even worth talking about. I’m just so happy we’re part of it now.

They’re taking in you, Dennis Elliott, Ed Gagliardi, Al Greenwood, Mick Jones, Ian McDonald, and Rick Wills. Did they get all the right people?
Yes. Those are definitely the right people. It’s exactly right.

Have you spoken to any of your bandmates yet?
I have not. I’ve been crazy busy. I think everyone has been a little stunned. I’m sure there’s going to be some calls today. If I don’t get them, I’m going to make them.

Ed died in 2014 and Ian in 2022. It’s a shame this happened too late for them to enjoy.
It is. Somehow I think they’re smiling.

You played some reunion shows with Foreigner in 2017 and 2018. How did those go?
I thought they went great. They were a lot of fun. It was awesome to play with the original members again. I think we sounded very good. Judging by the response in the audience, I think we did very well.

There were only a handful of shows. Was there talk of doing any more?
Nobody talked to me about it. I would have loved to do a few big stadium shows with the original band. That would have been a lot of fun for me.

Did those shows give you a chance to reconnect with Mick?
We talked a little bit. I think he was a little under the weather. But we congratulated each other for being able to do these shows together again. It was nice. It was very nice.

He hasn’t played recently because of his health issues.
I feel really bad for him because he loved performing so much. But I heard from Foreigner’s manger that he will be performing the night of the show.

The dream for all the fans is to see you, him, and the other originals back onstage together.
That would be my dream too. It really is.

The Hall of Fame isn’t taking in a single member of the current Foreigner, so it wouldn’t make much sense for them to play.
No. I don’t think so. If they want to attend that night, I would be okay with that. I have nothing against them. But I think the spotlight belongs on the original band that night.

What’s your relationship like with signer Kelly Hansen? I know you’ve performed with him a few times.
It’s reasonably friendly. We don’t hang out. But he’s real decent to me when we share the stage. I try to do the same with him.

Some fans dismiss the current group as basically just a cover band. Do you think that’s a reasonable take considering none of them played on the classic recordings?
Well, since Mick hasn’t performed with them in the past few years, it doesn’t seem to have much resemblance at all to the original Foreigner.

They’re on a farewell tour now. Do you think they mean it or do you think they’ll just keep going like most bands do?
I don’t know. I’ve heard it’s a farewell tour. I’ve also seen little notices here and there that they want to keep touring.

You’ve said recently that you want to stop touring though.
I am. At the end of this year, I’m going to be done. I’ve been doing it for over 50 years, and I’m tired. I could be on that stage and continuing to do shows, but traveling is what really exhausts me. And the state of the airline industry right now has mentally and physically beat me up.

How so?
You book a first-class seat. And before you get on the plane, they take your ticket, tear it up, give you another one. You find yourself in the middle seat two rows back from the back bathroom. No explanations. Nothing.

You’re doing some shows with Bret Michaels of Poison this summer. How are they going to be formatted?
I’ve done a couple with him over the past few years. He comes out and does three or four songs. And then introduces me. I come out and do three songs with his band. That’s the way we’ve been doing it. It’s a lot of fun. He’s singing great. He sounds great. Looks good. It’s a fun show to be a part of.

When you look back at Foreigner’s history, do you ever think “I Want to Know What Love Is” was a double-edged sword? It was this massive hit, but it sort of defined you guys as a soft-rock band when that really wasn’t the case.
Exactly what you said is exactly how I feel. I love the song, but it pigeon-holed us into something that we were not. I knew that influenced Mick enough that you could find a soft, smushy ballad on every album after that.

It really changed the formula.
It did. I think ultimately it did substantial damage to our rock reputation.

Band’s often play three songs at the Hall of Fame. How will you pick just three?
Well, here’s the thing. I was first told we could play two. I was told we had 12 minutes to play. And I heard there’s going to be a segment of the induction where people like Pete Frampton and a number of other people will say why they think we should have been in, and how glad they are that we are. That’ll leave us with about six minutes left, so I heard we’re going to play one song.

What song will that be do you think?
I’m not happy about playing one song. And I’ll let you guess which song it it.

“I Want to Know What Love Is”?
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. That’s a great song, but it’s not what we’re about. It’s not something that’s suitable for being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

This isn’t happening until October. There’s plenty of time for them to come to their senses and give you at least two songs.
Well, I think that the of people saying nice things about us could be whittled down to two minutes, thus giving us eight minutes. Eight minutes would be substantial to do two songs. And then we can do “I Want to Know What Love Is” and “Juke Box Hero.”

That makes perfect sense.
As a matter of fact, we could even edit “I Want to Know What Love Is” and cut out some of the choruses that keep going at the end, just have it fade out, and then go into the beginning of “Juke Box Hero.” I’d be totally cool with that.

How do you think it’ll feel to stand at the podium and deliver your speech?
It’s gonna make me feel that all the years of hard work and creative songwriting and recording and touring were worth it. To be included in all the great rock & roll performers from years past up to the present is where I want to be. It’s where Foreigner should be.

It’s a nice way to end the Foreigner story since this is probably the last time that you and Mick will ever play together.
I believe it will be.

What better way to go out than in front of 20,000 people in Cleveland?
And millions more on TV. I think it’s gonna be fantastic. I’m thrilled that we’re finally a part of it. For a good number of years, we were not. I racked my brain trying to figure out why we weren’t even nominated. I just couldn’t come up with an answer.

I think some of the old-school rock critics that ran the Hall were just suspicious of bands from that time that had that many radio hits. There was this sense that those sort of groups somehow weren’t worthy of entering the pantheon.
It’s ridiculous. My favorite band in the world was one of those bands that was on the radio all the time. I’m talking about the Beatles. Are they in the Hall of Fame?

They are. And now you’re there too. Better late than never.
Justice has been done.

Thera are probably some people these days that buy tickets to see Foreigner and expect to see you there. Does that bother you?
I knew for sure years ago that there were people who would go to see Foreigner and expected me to be part of it. They were so insulted that they got up and walked out. But honestly, I think that as time went by, people accepted that this was Foreigner. They had the name. They had Mick there. They had the big show with the lights and everything else. They just accepted that this was Foreigner. And they sounded good. They’re a good band. They just aren’t the real thing.

If I see the Rolling Stones, I want to see Mick Jagger. Having the singer is pretty important.
I always tend to think so.

In some ways, your solo shows are more authentic.
We do a good number of the classic Foreigner hits in my show. We pretty much stick to the original arrangements with the sounds that were on the record when they were recorded. We get thunderous approval for those songs. It makes me feel good I can play those songs the way they’re meant to be played.

Are you planning out a final show for your farewell tour?
I haven’t really announced that this is my last tour. But I’m gonna start publicizing it now, along with the fact that I’m in the Hall of Fame. I think our last show is going to be near the end of November. I’m not sure where yet. I’ll be at peace with that. I’ve been touring for over 50 years. Someday, lord willing, I’m going to ask St. Peter, “How many miles did I ride on a bus with a band?”


What will fill up your time after you stop touring?
Since before I was old enough to drive, I’ve had a passion for muscle cars. I’ve had some really good ones over the years. I’ve got about five now that get very little use because I live in Rochester, New York. When the weather gets good, and you want to take muscle cars out, that’s when I’m touring. The tour comes to the end in October or November. I go home and there’s snow on the ground. I don’t have a chance to use them very much. That’s what I’m going to do when I retire.

I really hope they let you do more than just one song at the induction.
You know what? My next call after we’re done here is to Foreigner’s manager. I’m going to tell him how I think we can do two songs if we cut down the segment a little bit. It’ll still be a classic ballad and then we can end with our best rocker.

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