The enduring vision of Foreigner’s ‘Double Vision’

by MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

The band Foreigner jumped quickly out of the gate when they released their self-titled debut album in 1977.

With top 10 hits such as “Feels Like the First Time” and “Cold As Ice,” the band had immediately jumped into the big time.

But then came the time for the dreaded sophomore album.

The saying goes that a band has a lifetime to plan for their debut but only a couple of months to prepare for their second album.

So, said original guitarist and songwriter Mick Jones, there was a lot of pressure heading into the recording of the second album.

“It’s a funny syndrome, people can’t wait to see if you (can follow up the initial success) or fail,” said Jones, who came to Foreigner after a stint as a session musician and as a member of the British band Spooky Tooth.

But in the end, Jones said the success of a recording depends on the fans. All you can do, he said, is “make the best album you can.”

As it turns out “Double Vision” was a bigger smash than their first album. And in becoming so, Foreigner found themselves in direct competition with their label mates, the Rolling Stones.

“It’s crazy,” said Jones of the position the band found itself in.

Jones said the members of the group kept a close eye on sales and chart positions of “Double Vision” and the Stones’ “Some Girls.” They wanted to see which of the bands was “winning” that week, said Jones.

In the end, said Jones, “Double Vision” had sold 6.5 million records. Between Foreigner and the Stones, said Jones, 13 million records had been sold that year. “We were bigger than all (their label’s) other acts combined,” said Jones.

“I was so blown away,” said Jones.

The album and its singles “Double Vision” and “Hot Blooded” continue to be staples of classic rock radio.

“It may be the timing,” said Jones of the enduring success of “Double Vision.” “We arrived on the right day and the right time and everything seemed to click.”

“I had no idea it would take off like it did,” said Jones.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the album, Foreigner is coming to the Mohegan Sun on Dec. 1 for the “Double Vision: Then and Now” tour. The shows are particularly special because the original band members from that album will take the stage with the current members.

“I thought it would be a good idea to do something for the 40th anniversary (of ‘Double Vision’),” said Jones of the decision to work with the former members of Foreigner.

Having an idea and executing the idea, however, are two separate processes. So Jones reached out to the former members “to see what would happen.”

But, after a couple of phone calls, Jones said everything had fallen into place.

Once the phone calls were done Lou Gramm, Dennis Elliott, Al Greenwood, Ian McDonald and Rick Wills agreed to be part of the proceedings. (Original bassist Ed Gagliardi passed away in 2014.)

Although they had gone their separate ways since “Double Vision,” Jones said he had been keeping in touch with the former members through the years.

For instance, whenever Foreigner played the Sunshine State, former drummer Dennis Elliott, now a Florida resident would come to the shows to sit in on drums.

Gramm and Jones also were in contact. But for a number of years, the singer and guitarist were estranged.

Jones said that changed when he and Gramm were inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame. Jones said the honor brought home the meaning of everything the pair had achieved.

“From that evening, we’ve been in contact quite often,” said Jones.

As part of the “Double Vision: Then and Now” shows, Jones said, “It’s nice to look across the stage and see my old friend… Everyone gets a little teary eyed.”

When the current members of Foreigner— Kelly Hansen (lead vocals), Tom Gimbel (rhythm guitar, sax, vocals), Jeff Pilson (bass, vocals), Michael Bluestein (keyboards), Bruce Watson (guitar), and Chris Frazier (drums) — were pitched the idea of performing with the original members, Jones said they were all excited. In fact, coming into the first rehearsals for the shows, Jones said the current members already had made the effort to learn how to play the tracks as the original members had played them on the album.

“It was a nice surprise,” said Jones.

Before coming to Connecticut, the band already has performed a couple of dates with the melding of two Foreigner eras.

And Jones said, “Everywhere we went, we were well-received.”

For fans who haven’t been able to catch the shows, Jones said the performance in Michigan has been recorded for future release as a DVD.

As for new music from Foreigner, Jones said the reconciliation with Gramm has opened up some creative doors.

Jones said there have been discussions between the two to do some writing together. They have been bouncing musical ideas off each other and they are looking at polishing them off in the near future. And if the timing is right, Jones said the pair may record some of the songs as well.

Foreigner’s “Double Vision: Now and Then” show will be at the Mohegan Sun on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. For more information, go to Foreigneronline.com or MoheganSun.com

Foreigner’s ‘Double Vision: Then and Now’ concert is at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Dec. 1 (PHOTO by KARSTEN STAIGER)