Even celebrating its biggest album, Foreigner will not leave its biggest song behind.
On Dec. 16, the group releases a new live set, The Best of Foreigner 4 & More — focusing, as the title suggests, on its six-times platinum 1981 release and only No. 1 entry on the Billboard 200. But the album also includes a smattering of other Foreigner favorites, including the epic “I Want to Know What Love Is,” the chart-topping, platinum smash that celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
“It’s had a life of its own, really,” Foreigner founder — and sole remaining original member — Mick Jones tells Billboard. “When I first wrote it, the sequence of chords that you hear in the beginning, on the synth, at that moment it moved me and I knew I wanted to proceed with it and see where it was going to take me. It sort of developed itself just very quickly after that. It sort of led me along; I was just kind of the vehicle for it, I think, and once we got to putting the choir on there, I already felt it was more than just a ballad or a love song. I knew it was more than that, but not to the extent that it became, just a huge, worldwide hit. It gets played everywhere in the world, still. But for me, we were just there to guide it and bring it to life.”
“I Want to Know What Love Is” remains a staple in Foreigner sets, usually with a local choir hired to assist the band. But on The Best of Foreigner 4 & More, recorded during October in Atlantic City, Jones and the latest lineup of Foreigner dig deep into the 4 album for not only the hits — “Urgent,” “Juke Box Hero” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You” — but also less-celebrated tracks such as “Break It Up,” “Night Life,” “Woman in Black” (recoded on Dec. 8, 1980, the night John Lennon was killed) and “Girl on the Moon,” the latter two of which Jones says Foreigner never performed live before.
“Obviously it was sort of our big album, as it were,” Jones notes, “and we thought it might be a good idea to revisit some of the songs because what happens with most albums is that you get three or four songs picked out, and with this one we had never actually done much of that album on stage. We had done probably about five or six of the songs but not the remaining bunch, so we thought we’d revisit a couple of those just really to demonstrate how well they could work with this new group of…ruffians. It just turned out really well. The preparation was not that long, actually; I think everybody else remembered things better than I did!”
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Jones says Foreigner will likely be “too busy” to work on new material, though the specter looms of doing some writing with original Foreigner frontman Lou Gramm after he and Jones reunited after years of estrangement to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame last June.
“It was a really wonderful evening and we opened up a bit of communication,” Jones acknowledges. “Lou has a bunch of ideas that he discovered, a few tapes, and we may take a look at that. It’s not about reuniting as Foreigner, but we’re in touch and we text each other, which is a big step further than it’s been in the last 10 years. It’s broken the ice, and there’s much less tension between us.”