It’s that time again where we here at WMMCM must move on from the songs that name names. After spending a few weeks tempting those in the legal profession with our evocative exposés on everyone entered into the emotional evidence of erudite eclecticism, we knew that eventually we would have to emigrate to other forms of educational edification.
So now, where to go? Whilst we were navigating our naming of names, we noticed a notable trend in the negative notoriety of those named. This required us to radically redirect our ribald repartee replacing those revealed with the resplendent reapplication of rational resolve, recently reacquired as a retained resolution, to record readily any rarely reported resultant reality.
Reality is one of those things that makes rock n’ roll so interesting. Most songs have a bit of reality in them even if the songwriter may have been at bit detached from it at the time the song was written. Sometimes songs seem to come from another planet, that can be fun too. Our reality right now here at WMMCM is that we’re feeling kind of blue.
Not the depressed kind of blue mind you. In fact, there will be no – real - blues in our blue mood at all. The blue we’re beginning to banter about is none other than the color blue.
For a color, blue has quite a bit going for it. Most things blue are positive things, except – The Blues – of course. Skies are blue as are little boys. Eyes are blue and things seem to keep coming out of the blue as well, like the occasional shoe. So, while not all of our blue songs will be happy, blue, they will be.
To kick off our new adventures in Blue Cheese, with the delightfully tasty and crusty stuff coming originally from Europe, it seems only right to start out with a foreign band, (kind – of.) As in, Foreigner.
Foreigner was formed not on the foggy shores of England but the equally foggy shores of New York in 1976. And in the original line-up, there were three Brits and three Americans. How did the name come about? A compromise by band leader Mick Jones as the band was split down the lines of nationality, and it sounded pretty good as well. And they soon took off on the charts with their debut album, Foreigner, reaching number four on the charts while spawning two major hits with “Feels Like the First Time” and “Cold as Ice” both becoming top ten singles – all the while selling over five million copies of their first effort.
Quite a great way to start out their career.
After the nearly endless obligatory touring and promotional stuff, the guys were on a fast track to additional fame. They actually released their follow-up album, Double Vision, just 15 months after the release of Foreigner.
This sophomore effort also produced some top ten hits. The title track, “Double Vision,” reached the number two spot and the follow-up, “Hot Blooded” was a solid number three hit. Foreigner proved that they could write hits. And, a lot of them. Double Vision would go on to sell over seven million copies and still had one more hit to give up.
“Blue Morning, Blue Day” is the most aggressive rocker song from the Double Vision album. “Hot Blooded” and “Double Vision” are way more on the pop side that band leader and lead guitarist Mick Jones preferred. Not that he had an aversion to rockin’ out, he just knew where the money was. Over time, that would eventually lead to the break-up of the band but, that’s for another day.
Opening with Jones’ spidery sounding guitar, “Blue Morning, Blue Day” has a wonderful edge to it right from the start. Behind the creepy crawly guitar lurks Alan Greenwood’s keyboards, which are practically playing another song. Greenwood’s oddly rolling, meandering keys sound like a child on his first solo bicycle ride providing a totally unexpected counterpoint.
“Out in the street, it’s six am
Another sleepless night
Three cups of coffee but I can’t clear my head
From what went down last night
I know we both have our own little ways
But somehow we keep it together
You hear me talk but you don’t hear what I say
I guess it don’t even matter.”
Holding things down from the start of “Blue Morning, Blue Day,” are Dennis Elliot and his solid drumming as Ed Gagliardi is keeping a firm but unusually quiet hold on the bass line. During the first part of the verse, the guitar all but disappears, Jones shows an amazing bit of restraint, leaving the floor to lead singer, Lou Gramm.
While Gramm belts it out he’s being followed by an increasingly intense bit of piano chords provided by Greenwood until Jones’ guitar sneaks up with some bass string leads to build it all up into the chorus.
“Blue morning, blue day, won’t you see things my way?
Blue morning, can’t you see what your love has done to me?”
Gramm hits the frustration level hard as he’s joined by some really tight vocal harmonies all through the chorus. One of the things that impresses me with “Blue Morning, Blue Day” is the overall restraint in the arrangement. There’s so much space that all the details become more pronounced even as they stay airily subtle.
They could have gone crazy with layers and layers but they stopped and let everything stay focused on Gramm’s vocals.
On the second verse Gramm takes the opportunity to really ramp it up. He really sounds like a guy who’s tried and failed to keep the relationship together. Gramm was always a terrific singer, good diction and breath control, on “Blue Morning, Blue Day” he sounds wounded. Ripped off. Angry. And, done…
“I’ve always listened to your point of view
My ways I’ve tried to mend
And I’ve always been a patient man
But my patience has reached its end
You tell me you’re leaving, you’re telling me goodbye
You say you might send a letter.”
With the line, “You tell me you’re leaving,” everything goes into a neatly dramatic double time with Elliot’s drums hitting each note as if he’s slamming his fist repeatedly into a table for emphasis getting the message across. Right at that moment the backing vocals start with a simple “Ahh… Ahh… Ahh…” that sounds more and more mocking of the offending ex-girlfriend as they rise out of the mix while Gramm finishes his point.
“Well honey don’t telephone, cause I won’t be alone
I’ll be with someone to make me feel better.”
Only – after – the point has been made do we get the required guitar solo.
Foreigner is one of those bands that usually get dismissed as pop rock or corporate rock along with Boston and Journey. All of these bands had their flirts with the pop side of rock, but at the same time, they all had great singers, great musicianship and knew how to write a hook.
Oh, and by the way, they sold an insane amount of records along the way.
I will say that out of that trio, Journey’s Steve Perry, Boston’s Brad Delp and Foreigner’s Lou Gramm, (All three, the best at what they did,) only Gramm could beat the crap out of a song emotionally.
“Blue Morning, Blue Day” only made it to the 15th spot on the charts but, it has become a rock radio standard for good reason.