Rock music facing tough time: Foreigner’s Mick Jones (Interview)

By Madhusree Chatterjee, IANS
Sunday, February 13, 2011

NEW DELHI - Michael ‘Mick’ Jones, the founder of the popular British-American pop-rock band Foreigner and a man whose ballads have sent three generations of listeners mooning for the last 35 years, says rock music has been facing a tough time for the past two decades.

“Music has had a tough time in the last 20 years with the death of record (vinyl) business. The radio has reinvented itself and finding artists has become difficult. There are a very few bands that make songs that last. It is disappointing. Times are hard for young musicians,” Jones told IANS in an interview in the capital.

Jones is in India for the first time in more than three decades to tour five cities with his five-member band for 100 Pipers’ fusion concert series.

“India is a whole new planet. I wish I could explore it longer. I have been told we have many fans, I can only comment after the tour,” said the musician, who is familiar with sitar and tabla.

The band performed at the Talkatora Stadium Friday.

Jones says the decline began in the Eighties.

“The golden age of rock music was during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The kings of music like Elvis and Chuck Berry played in the 1950s. The Beatles ruled late 1960s and early 1970s till the arrival of funk. It marked the 80s. Funk was more of a revelation than music. Post-80s saw all different kinds of rock music. People just want to listen to quality songs,” 67-year-old Jones, an ace song-writer, said.

Foreigner, formed in New York in 1976, sold more than four million copies of its debut album Foreigner in 1977 in the US alone.

It became one of the top 20 on US billboards with iconic pop-rock-blues and rhythm tracks like “Feels Like The First Time”, “Cold as Ice”, “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and “Long, Long Way From Home”. The band has sold more than 70 million albums worldwide, the singer said.

Jones, who shuffled his line-up in 2004 after the original members Ian MacDonald (ex-King Crimson musician) and vocalist Lou Gramm (ex-Black Sheep musician) parted ways, returned to the mainstream with a new album, “Cant Slow Down” in 2009.

“Ian and Lou are different chapters - it was wonderful. I have to keep the band alive. Lou (Gramm) was more interested in his solo career. When you have a band, you have to give everything to it. It is not easy,” he said.

“We are planning a new live DVD of our music in which we will re-record our older songs in studio and add four new tracks,” Jones said of the band’s “re-invention to stay alive”.

Foreigner is getting better, Jones said. “We will tour Europe in summer followed by three weeks in the US.”

Jones personally is influenced by the music of the 1950s and 60s, “the Beatles, John Lennon’s music and Paul McCartney’s solo music, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Jimmy Page, the founder of the band Led Zeppelin”, he says when asked about his inspiration.

“I met the Beatles in Paris and spent three weeks with them.”

The American Blues was also another indelible trigger for Jones and the Foreigner.

“The British musicians changed the blues coming from the US and sent it back to America. We had no racial prejudice in Britain against blues unlike the US.”

Recalling the making of his signature single, “Feels like The First Time”, Jones said, he wrote the song at a time when he was ready to go back to England from New York.

“It was difficult surviving in New York. One afternoon, I wrote the song. Someone had given me a Black Sheep album. I put the record on and heard Lou’s voice. And I knew that I could work with him. It was just the title of the song; coming out and helping me find a new direction. The track gave new hope,” he said.

“Before the release of our first album in 1977, we did not play on stage,” Jones recalls with pride.

“I had a lot of experience on stage in the 1960s when I worked in a couple of British bands like ‘Nero and the Gladiators’ and ‘Hogsnort Rupert’. I later played with French artist Johnny Hallyday and went back to England to join Spooky II,” Jones said.

He went to the US in 1973 and “partnered with Gary Wright, the man who made the hit Dream Weaver”, Jones said.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

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