By Jim Schutze
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There existed only one band from the late '70s through the early '80s: Foreigner.
The group gave us immortal rock tunes such as "Cold as Ice," "Feels Like the First Time" and "Urgent"—and who could forget "Waiting for a Girl Like You"? Now, the voice of Foreigner, Lou Gramm, is on the road with his own band and headed to the House of Blues on Friday night—which, somewhat awkwardly, is just one night before his old Foreigner mates take the stage at Winstar Casino just across the Texas-Oklahoma border. We caught up with him recently to hear what he's been up to.
I've had a chance to check out some old Foreigner videos on YouTube. I'm curious: When someone asks you to "show them what love is," is it your natural inclination to punch them in the mouth as hard as you can?
Good question! At one time it probably was, but I've moved on.
What are we going to hear at the House of Blues this week? Please say "Hot Blooded."
The music will be a good representation of the years I spent with Foreigner along with my solo stuff and maybe a Beatles tune or two.
You and Todd Rundgren recently toured together, playing the songs from The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album. Should Paul and Ringo be covering Foreigner?
That would be good, but I just don't see it. I've been a fan of The Beatles since the day they came out. They were a big influence on me.
You still hear Foreigner tunes everywhere these days. How have those songs remained in the public's consciousness all these years later?
It's twofold. I think it's the way the songs were written, recorded and produced—they had both simplicity and character; there were no slick production tricks. Secondly, it was all pretty honest stuff. The songs are based on our own life experiences.
You and Mick Jones penned some classic love ballads ("Waiting for a Girl Like You," "I Want to Know What Love Is") that presented you as sentimental romantics. But come on, Lou, weren't you just lovin' and leavin' them back in the day?
Actually, at the time I was in the middle of a 16-year marriage. Mick was married too. Those love songs are just something that we—especially Mick—wanted to say back then. I like them because the songs have a touch of spirituality.
Speaking of that, I've read where you've recently put out a Christian rock album. Does this mean you're no longer a "Dirty White Boy"?
For the most part, no. The new album is Christian in its message. But it rocks hard too.
As most Foreigner fans know, you experienced some "Double Vision" in the late '90s when you were diagnosed with a brain tumor that affected your memory and sight. How is your health these days?
The tumor damaged my pituitary and adrenal glands. I now take a lot of medication to offset the damage, but by and large my health is pretty good. I feel fine.
In your hit "Midnight Blue" you sing that life is either "midnight blue or cherry red." Given all that you've been through, can you now tell us which it is? Midnight blue or cherry red?
I'd say it's in between. Let's call it purple.
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