“I wrote that song hearing Aretha Franklin sing it more along the lines of “Chain of Fools,” or some of her earlier works where she played piano and just sang. It was written on the piano even though it ends up being a guitar song.”
“Lou Gramm on the writing of the song, “Head Games.”
Foreigner was originally formed in New York City in 1976 by Mick Jones and fellow Briton and ex-King Crimson member, Ian McDonald alongside American vocalist Lou Gramm. Jones came up with the band’s name as he, McDonald, and Dennis Elliott were British, while Gramm, Al Greenwood, and Ed Gagilardi were American. The band’s first 4 albums “Foreigner,” “Double Vision,” “Head Games,” and “Foreigner 4” went as high as #4, #3, #3, and #1 respectively on the Billboard charts.
Mick Jones spent years traveling through Europe trying to make it on his own. He spent a brief period in two bands: Spooky Tooth and The Leslie West Band. But, in 1976, he packed up and moved to New York to contemplate his next career move. He considered quitting the music industry in favor of something else but gave it one more shot and formed a band of his own.
In 1996, He and I talked at a hotel in Atlanta about those early days, as well as how he decided on Lou Gramm for the lead vocalist for Foreigner.
Jones: I’d sort of traveled fairly extensively at that point already but never had cut a deal with something like New York. It was a question of survival almost, and I think that brought a lot out in me.
I worked with a partner. That’s when I started writing—in Paris. The drummer in the band was English as well, Tony Brown. We were sort of a writing partnership. That was my first major thing.
So, I kind of did my apprenticeship in France, I guess, but I did have the opportunity to learn about working with other songwriters. We’d come over to England a lot to record Johnny’s albums. I got to meet a lot of English players, Steve Marriott, Peter Frampton, Jimmy Page. We’d all be on the sessions in London. I got to meet Jimi Hendrix. He came over to France to tour with us on his first tour, you know, neat experience.
So, a lot of these things and people that I’ve met and been fortunate to have worked with, I think it helped to shape my style.
I was already in the process of putting a band together. I’d felt confident enough to at least start the band off and I’d auditioned about thirty or forty singers.
I’d come from working in Spooky Tooth. Between Gary Wright and Mike Harrison, there was a very strong vocal style in our band. That had left a bit of a mark on me and I really wanted a voice that was really going to be able to carry these songs. And also, I just felt that if I were going to go for it, I’d have to get the best.
I had called Lou. I had known him. We had met a couple of times on tour and he was a fan of the band I’d been in, [Spooky Tooth], so we used to see him in a couple of shows.
I had a record of his that was just lying around. I just listened to it one day and I heard the voice, the tambour in the voice. That sound, you know, could really sound great singing this song, [“Feels Like the First Time”], that voice…
So, Lou came down from Rochester (NY) where he’d almost given up. He was starting to think about changing his career, too. He had a little trepidation about coming down and getting involved in a band kind of thing. He was in a strange sort of state of mind.
However, he did come down and he auditioned to three tracks that I’d already had recorded, “Feels Like the First Time, “Woman Oh Woman,” and “At War With the World,” and he sang the hell out of those three songs. It was ‘Bang! That’s it!’
Music: Mick Jones
Lyrics: Mick Jones & Lou Gramm
Producers: Ian McDonald, Keith Olsen, Mick Jones
A staple song of Foreigner since its release, “Double Vision” reached #2 on the US charts in September 1978. It was certified gold and placed top 10 in Canada. Billboard Magazine felt that “Double Vision” was a stronger single release than “Hot Blooded” due to its ‘driving but less monotonous hard rock rhythm’ and ‘more infections melody.’ Both Gramm and Mick Jones have been asked whether the title “Double Vision” referred to smoking grass, a fairly obvious and reasonable deduction. They both say it’s cool that people get that feeling, although it is incorrect.
Gramm: We had this song which we were recording the basic track for at the time, and we had a fair amount of the verse and B section storyline but when it came to the chorus it was like a blank.
And it was at the point of the [1979 NHL] playoffs when the Rangers were playing Montreal and [NY Rangers goalie] John Davidson was involved. I was such a fan, that in the vocal booth, while everyone was going for the instrumental part, I had a small TV taped to the corner of the vocal booth. No sound on or anything. Well, I did have the sound on a little bit but not enough to bleed through the mic.
So, I’m singing along as many lyrics as I had, and John Davidson got hit by the puck and went down. And they had to stop playing and try to revive him, and pull him off the ice, and bring in the second-string goalie and stuff like that.
At this point there was a little break for us, so I whipped the volume up and the first thing I heard was that he wouldn’t be back because he was suffering from double vision. (Falling back in his chair with a big smile and sigh of relief) And it was like, ‘THANK YOU!’ (Singing) ‘Ooooh, double vision!’
Years later, Jones appeared on the Madison Square Garden Network’s Rangers postgame show—when Davidson was still a broadcaster—and told John Davidson the story. When asked if Davidson was surprised to learn the song’s title had to do with him, Jones responded, ‘He was impressed.’