Thursday, November 10, 2011


As time passes, your favorite songs from any particular band change.

When I first heard Foreigner, around the time of their first album, Dean Caulfield and I were listening to hits such as "Feels Like the First Time" (not that we knew how that felt) and "Cold As Ice." I also had a particular fondness for another Foreigner song, "The Damage is Done."

By the 1980s, my favorite Foreigner song had become "I Want to Know What Love Is" - an incredible performance. Although I wish that the Altar Boys (a Christian punk-ish band) had covered the song - they could have come up with a great version.

As I thought more about Thomas Dolby's place in music history, I started gravitating toward "Waiting for a Girl Like You." And as a marketer, I've had an admiration for "Juke Box Hero," which (intentionally or not) ended up appealing to Foreigner's target audience.

But if you were to ask me today to name my favorite Foreigner song, I'd go with "Urgent." Why? Because, in my mind, it combines all the best of Foreigner (at least from the Lou Gramm era).

First off, you have Lou Gramm. I confess that I haven't listened to the subsequent vocalist or vocalists in Foreigner, but Gramm has a good voice for either the hard stuff or the soft stuff.

Not that this is soft stuff. "Urgent" is an odd song because it's supposedly a hard rock song, but in reality it's nothing like a hard rock song. Compare to Billy Idol's songs or to Depeche Mode's "I Feel You," songs that similarly have a hard feel, but would be very offensive to rock purists who run in horror when the synths come out.

Yes, the synths. Thomas Dolby had a hand in this song.

But there's one thing in this song that, to my knowledge, is not in any other Foreigner song - a sax solo. Think about it. You have Lou Gramm singing, and the rock sound going on, and Thomas Dolby dropping science everywhere (yes, Dolby was the original Louis Gray), and then all of a sudden a saxophone is added to it. From Junior Walker, no less, although to my mind the sax solo reminds me of guitar soloists such as Bob Mothersbaugh and Martin Gore - not your traditional solo, but it fits well into the song in question.

You can read about the song in Songfacts, which also includes an interview with Mick Jones. (No, not that Mick Jones.) Or you can see what Eric Andrews said:

The first single was the scorching rocker "Urgent", with a smoking saxophone from Motown legend Junior Walker & a vocal from master Lou Gramm that literally oozes sexual frustration. The unholy trinity of AOR [Styx, Journey & REO Speedwagon] could only dream of creating a song this delightfully raunchy. Peaking at #4, the stage was set for 4's full-scale assault on the pop charts for the next year or so.
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