The 45th anniversary of Foreigner’s self-titled debut album is celebrated by the syndicated radio show In The Studio With Redbeard: The Stories Behind History’s Greatest Rock Bands.
Redbeard had this to say, “This one was a ‘sleeper’. New band Foreigner’s debut album was released in March 1977 without fanfare. Rock nerds like me recognized the name of guitarist/co-writer Mick Jones from the English blues/rock band Spooky Tooth, but which had no resonance in the United States.
“There was former King Crimson multi-instrumentalist co-founder Ian McDonald, and vocalist Louis Grammatico had caught my eye as Paul Rodgers’ PA of short-lived band Black Sheep. But Foreigner’s set was clearly far greater than the sum of its parts, quickly becoming upon release the best-selling debut album by any band in the history of the estimable Atlantic Records…including Led Zeppelin! Mick Jones, and original singer/co-writer Lou Gramm join me here In the studio for the realization of their collective dream in the stories behind the songs “Cold As Ice”, “Headknocker”, “Starrider”, “Long Long Way from Home”, “At War with the World”, and the timeless “It’s like the first time”.
“Most of the best-selling debut album covers from rock’s first half-century, including Boston, Led Zeppelin, The Band, Men At Work and Hootie and the Blowfish, all share a clear design commonality in that meaning each one looks… the record labels, in their plantation model business dealings, have always passed the album cover costs of photography, artwork and graphic design back to the artist record, so a first-time singer or band has no economic incentive to, essentially, borrow money to splurge on their album cover.This indentured bondage has been enforced the same way to everyone, including this week’s guest, Mick Jones, then a veteran of Britain’s Spooky Tooth little rockers, when Jones signed his new band Foreigner for their first foray in March 1977. Atlantic Records has my showed his support and confidence in Jones’ new outfit by letting what appeared to be a middle schooler with paint-by-number watercolors do the cover art.
“Long after the debut album that followed, Foreigner, featuring such hits as ‘Feels Like the First Time’ and ‘Cold As Ice’, became the best-selling debut album in Atlantic Records’ long history, the music remastered continued to be wrapped in that original artistic austerity. Now fans have even taken to using the latest computer repaint in an attempt to improve upon the original Foreigner cover, but you know the old adage about a silken hand from a sow’s ear: in this case, it’s just lipstick on a pig.
“But again, looking at these best-selling debut covers, there is indeed a sense of innocence and humility in each of them that can never be recaptured. Dedicated to the co-founder of Foreigner, Ian McDonald, who died in early February 2022.” Stream the episode here.
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