Q Magazine

Rick Wills on Joining Foreigner, His Experiences With the Group, and His Stints With Roxy Music, Bad Company and the Small Faces

'Dennis Elliott got off his drum kit and just walked forward towards me and said, "I want HIM in the band!"'

Rick Willis
Source: Facebook / Rick Wills

Rick Willis, thrumming the bass onstage with Foreigner.

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As one of the defining mainstream rock bands of the '70s and '80s, Foreigner has found their way into the upper reaches of the pop charts on more than a few occasions over the course of the almost-50-year career of the band, including the top-10 US hits "Feels Like the First Time," "Cold As Ice," "Hot Blooded," "Double Vision," "Urgent," "Waiting for a Girl Like You," "I Want to Know What Love Is," "Say You Will," and "I Don't Want to Live Without You."

Bassist Rick Wills wasn't part of the band when they first came into existence in 1976, but he remained a stalwart of the lineup from 1979 through 1991, and - like the rest of his bandmates past and present - he's giddy at the thought of Foreigner being in a position to possibly make their way into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year. As such, Wills is doing his part to help remind people just how great the band was and remains, and he kindly hopped onto a Zoom call with Q to discuss such topics as how he came to join the band, what it was like to work with Mutt Lange and Thomas Dolby, his picks for favorite and most underrated Foreigner album, and some of the other artists he's worked with over the course of his lengthy career.

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Source: Karsten Steiger

Old meets new: the current lineup of Foreigner mixing it up with the original members.

I know a fair amount about your history, but I always enjoy hearing an origin story straight from the horse's mouth. You'd racked up plenty of credits before you ever joined Foreigner, but you weren't actually a founding member of the band. How did you find your way into the lineup?

It was just a career thing. I mean, it'd just been one thing after another. I've been so fortune in being in the right place at the right time. It was just how life was supposed to be for me, I guess! The fact that I got my place with Foreigner was really partly to do with Peter Frampton, actually. Because the first song that Peter and I ever really sat down and wrote together when I joined him was "Do You Feel Like We Do?" That was the first thing we worked on, and lo and behold, it's become probably one of his best-known songs over the years! It's been incredible to see how what started out as a three, three-and-a-half minute song turned into a twenty-odd minute epic in his shows! [Laughs.] But that was one of the reasons I happened to be in New York.

I was going through a period in London where I really wasn't doing a lot of work, and I was getting broke and pretty hard up for money. So I called Dee Anthony, the manager of Humble Pie and Peter Frampton, and I said, "Dee, I think I'm owed some money for the album..." Because it had sold millions by then, and it was still selling huge numbers. He said, "Oh, Rick, you're owed a lot of money! You'd better get your backside over here and we'll see what we can do about it!" [Laughs.] So I did. I went to stay with my friend Jerry Shirley, who I'd been in a band in Cambridge with prior to Humble Pie. He had an apartment in New York. So I stayed there a couple of days and went to see Dee Anthony, who had an office on Park Avenue. So I said, "Well, Dee, I'm here. Tell me the news!" He said, "Rick, we've got such a crazy amount of accounting to do, with Peter's album selling so well..." I think it sold over 18 million in the States alone! It was just huge. So he said, "Listen, we just haven't got the numbers all finished yet, but I can give you a check today to take down to the bank downstairs." I said, "Oh, that would be great!" And he gave me a check for $35,000!

Not bad.

Believe you me, it was more money than I had had in my life at that point! I was more used to a thousand a week or something like that...and that was a good week! So, yeah, I went down there to this bank, and I spoke to the cashier, and I said, "I have this check made out to 'Cash.'" She said, "Do you want me to give you that money over the counter? You're in New York! You've got to realize, this is dangerous stuff!" I said, "Well, what do I do?" She said, "I want you to put it in a safety deposit box. And then when you need money, I'll give you the key, you come in and help yourself. But I do not want you walking out of here on the streets of New York with $35,000!" And I thought about it, and I thought, "Well, yeah, that's probably the best thing I can do." Well, shall we just say that Jerry and I partied for about two or three days, and we partied pretty hard. [Laughs.] I don't remember much about it, to be honest! But it was just a great feeling to have finally landed it.

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And then, lo and behold, Jerry found out that Foreigner had just decided to change bass players. Now, I'd known Mick Jones since '67, when I was living in Paris, playing with David Gilmour. So I knew who Mick was. He was the lead guitarist for Johnny Hallyday, the French Elvis Presley, and I knew him well. And he'd come to New York, he'd played with Spooky Tooth, he'd played with Leslie West and Mountain, and he'd done various things. But he wanted to form his own band, and he had. He'd formed Foreigner with Al Greenwood, Dennis Elliott, Lou Gramm, Ian McDonald from King Crimson, who I greatly admired, and Ed Gagliardi. So I called him up, and I said, "Mick, I'm in New York. Can I audition for the band? I'd love to do it. I really love what you're doing." Because I had both the first two albums, and I'd had them in my car on what in those days was 8-track. So I knew the songs pretty well, and once I've heard a song, I can pretty much memorize it and play it. So I said, "I'd love to come and play." So he said, "Well, come over to SIR Studios. We're rehearsing tomorrow. We're starting off auditions." I said, "How many bass players are there?" He said, "About 70 who want the job." [Laughs.] I said, "70?! What odds have I got?" And these were all the most well-known players, too!

But I did, I went over and met the guys - I had never met Lou or Dennis or the other guys before - and they said, "Well, what would you like to do?" I said, "You name the song, I'll play it." So we did "Double Vision," "Hot Blooded," I think we did "Cold As Ice," maybe a couple of others. And Dennis Elliott got off his drum kit and just walked forward towards me and said to me, "I want him in the band!" [Laughs.] Just like that! And I said, "Wow, that's amazing, Dennis!" And Mick said, "Dennis, no, you can't do that. We've got all these bass players to work with and try out before we make a choice!" So I said, "Look, you do what you've got to do.. Let me come back again, we'll go over vocals and all the background vocal things." Which we did, and that went really well, too. But I was just sort of hanging out in New York for awhile. I was there for probably a couple of weeks! And I used to call home to my wife in London. We had two children at this point, they were very young, and they both got chicken pox at the same time.

Ugh. As a parent, I can't even imagine.

Oh, my wife was climbing up the walls. She was going, "Rick, please, come home!" I said, "I can't! How can I leave this situation? I want the job with Foreigner!" And she said, "Please come home!" So I did. I gave in, and I flew back to London. And I was home for one night, and I got a call at 8 am from New York from Bud Prager, the manager of Foreigner. He and Mick Jones were in the office together, and they said, "Rick, how are you feeling?" I said, "Ugh, really jet-lagged, man. I'm really tired." They said, "Well, you're gonna feel pretty good." I said, "Why?" They said, "Well, you've got the job in Foreigner." I was, like, "No!" I couldn't believe it! I had the children on the bed with me and my wife, and we were just over the moon. I said, "What do I do?" They said, "Come back to New York today." I said, "Today?! Oh, my God, no!" But I did. They said, "Go to Heathrow Airport, go to the British Airways desk, and there's a ticket waiting for you to come back to New York."

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So that's what I did. I went up to Heathrow, went to the desk, and said, "Hi, my name's Mr. Wills. Richard Wills. I believe you have a ticket for me to New York." And the lady looked at me, and she said, "Oh, we're really sorry, Mr. Wills, but the Concorde is sold out today." I said, "Concorde? I don't do Concorde! I sit in the back of the plane! I always have done! I'm in the economy!" [Laughs.] She said, "No, you're not today. We were wondering if you wouldn't mind being in First Class on a 747." I said, "First class? Me? In a 747? Would I mind? You've got to be kidding!" So that's what I did. And, of course, in those days - this was early '79 - they had a lounge upstairs on the 747s, and we had a bar, so you could go up and have a drink and hang out up there rather than just sitting in your seat down below. So I thought, "Well, this is a good opportunity to have a bit of a party for the seven or eight hours to New York!" Which I promptly did. And I really had a great time telling everybody why I was going to New York and what the reason was, never thinking that I would have to work that day...

Anyway, I landed, and one of the road crew - Troby Laidlaw was his name, lovely, lovely guy - he picked me up with his car and said, "Rick, we're going straight to rehearsals!" I said, "Oh, no, Troby, don't tell me that. Please, I've had too much to drink, really. Go to a coffee shop right now and get me some black coffee. Two or three, at least. I've got to straighten up before I get there, otherwise they're gonna be on my case!" But he took me straight to SIR Studios, and there I was. I was doing this thing with Foreigner suddenly. We were leaning the first songs for Head Games. And the rest, as they say, is history, because it was so much fun doing it with a bunch of guys who really knew what they were doing and writing great songs. Each one of them really brought their own individual talent to the band, because they were all really good, and I just loved it. I'd finally reached that pinnacle in rock and roll where I could say, "I've made it. This is the right place to be." 'Cause they were big by then. They really were. Both Foreigner and Double Vision had sold so well. They were huge albums. So I'd entered into a very wonderful world by being in the right place at the right time, and...that's how it happened! It was very, very exciting for me.

What was it like for you to suddenly be in that upper echelon of the pop-rock community? Because you'd been with plenty of high-profile artists, but this was something completely different, in terms of mainstream popularity goes.

Well, what I'd done with the various bands over the years that I'd played with, including Peter Frampton, Roxy Music, Small Faces, and various other stuff, was that I felt comfortable. That was the main thing. I wasn't out of my depth. I wasn't sort of, like, "Oh, my God, I'm gonna get a big head now, and I'm gonna do this and I'm gonna do that..." No, I was in there to work. I was in there to get it right and do the best job I could for the band. That's why I was there. And it seemed to really work. They were very happy with me, and I was very happy being with them. The touring went great. I mean, it was a bit nerve-wracking at first, because I didn't know quite what to expect on that scale. I wasn't doing 2,000-seaters anymore. I was doing 12,000-15,000 seaters! That's a big jump! [Laughs.] But I wouldn't change a thing, put it that way. My life has been incredible. Just really enjoyable.

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When you mentioned Jerry Shirley, my first thought was Syd Barrett, just because I'm a Syd Barrett aficionado, and I know Jerry had worked with Syd for awhile. I hadn't really considered the fact that you were all from Cambridge.

Yeah! I'd been in this successful soul band in Cambridge called the Soul Committee, and they were doing great. We had two American black singers in the band, so they taught us all the good American soul stuff. The Temptations, you name it. We were really popular. Actually, we were doing very well. But I saw this band called Little Women that had Tim Renwick on guitar, Jerry Shirley on drums, another bass player whose name has gone out of my head completely... But I said, "I'd really like to join you guys!" Because I loved the way that Jerry played drums. He was only 16 years old at the time, but he was incredible, I thought, and Tim Renwick's a wonderful guitar player, he really is. So they said, "Yeah! We'll have two bass players! Why not? Let's do it!" So that's how I got to know Jerry. And when I was living with him...

We had a bungalow house outside of Cambridge which was kind of kept quiet, because we didn't want people bothering us, because we were rehearsing a lot. Well, my wife, who wasn't my wife then, was in London at Ealing College, and her ex-boyfriend was our roadie. So we had a van, and she called him up and said, "Could you come to London and bring my stuff home from Cambridge? Because I've finished my two-year course in London." And he did, and he brought her back to the house to meet us. Now, I knew who Lynn was, but I didn't know her very well. And in the course of him bringing her there, something really extraordinary happened.

Steve Marriott rang Jerry to say, "I'd love for you guys to come over and jam for an evening." Because he had a thatched cottage in the country called Beehive Cottage. It was a beautiful place. And they said, "Yeah, we'd love to do that!" But there wasn't enough room with all of us in the house to be in the van and our equipment to go and see Steve. So my little mind working as it does... [Starts to laugh.] I thought, "This is my opportunity to get to know Lynn better!" Because I really liked her a lot. So I said, "Well, I'll tell you what: I'll stay back, and I'll stay with Lynn while she's here." And they said, "Okay, that's fine!" And here we are, 56 years later, been married for 52, very happily, still together! Isn't that a good story? It's a good one, isn't it?

It's fantastic. So what was it like being on the road with Foreigner? You mentioned the increase in the size of venues, of course. It must've been an increase in the size of the team involved as well.

I mean, when we first started touring, after we finished the Head Games album, we used to have our own private plane. It had a Rolls-Royce engine and held about 20 people, with a stewardess, pilot, and co-pilot. We had the luxury of using that, so we'd fly into a private airport near where we were going to play, the cars would take us to the venue, we'd do our soundcheck, we'd do the show, we'd come straight offstage, into the car, back to the plane, and fly to the next town. So it was a very, very nice lifestyle as well as enjoying what we were doing onstage.

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But the oil embargo hit later that year, and all the fuel prices went right up. They skyrocketed! So it just became to expensive to run the plane and make money for ourselves, so we decided that we wouldn't go that route anymore. We'd start bussing it. And none of us had never bussed America before. We didn't really enjoy the idea of being in a tour bus. In those days they were fairly basic. They weren't like they are today, the really nice, luxurious, really comfortable ones, a bunk where you can sleep and everything. But that's what we did. And that kind of changed things a bit, because some of the traveling... You know, after a show sometimes, you're talking 600 miles, 800 miles sometimes, to the next venue! Which is extremely exhausting. That's the most tiring part of being on the road. There's nothing much to do while you're on the bus, as Bob Seger so accurately points out in one of his songs. [Laughs.] And, y'know, you either get drunk or drink too much or...you just do stupid things! It was an experience. But we got used to it in the end. Things got better with the busses, so it wasn't real bad at all. But I don't like doing it anymore. I really don't. I'm too old for that!

I've noticed that there's a lot of farewell tours going on these days. I'd wondered how much of it was to do with the travel involved in being on the road rather than the shows themselves.

Well, I think that's the reason why Foreigner - the current band that's out - have decided that enough's enough. They've been 19 years together, and they've done such a great job of doing our music as well as they could possibly do. And I think they do it as well as we ever did, personally. A lot of people don't agree, but I do...and I've played with them many, many times, so I know how good they are. Each one of them takes their position extremely seriously, because they want to be what Foreigner stands for: good music, good songs, good presentation. So, yeah, I think the fact that Kelly [Hansen] got married a couple of years ago to a really lovely lady from Poland - he met her in England, of all places - and they're now together as a couple, he wants to spend some more time at home. Because, you know, for the last few years, they've really toured a lot. They've done a lot of tours, they've worked really hard, and I think they deserve it!

I don't think it's the end completely, by any means, because I think, if they can, they'll do one-offs or whatever. And I know Phil Carson, their manager, will want them to still do that, obviously, for all the right reasons. Foreigner's still in demand. It's amazing how many shows they still sell out right now. So I think it's deserved and only right. Sometimes it annoys us when you see people write about, "Oh, they're just a cover band." That's not the case. Because we put them there. Mick Jones specifically chose pretty much every member that's in that band for the reasons of being good at what they do and doing it right. So it does hurt my feelings a bit when people say, "Oh, they're just a cover band."

The fact of the matter is, some of us, because of our age and health issues, can't really do the touring anymore. We just can't do it. Al Greenwood and myself, yes, we're still very capable of playing and being up on a stage, and we love to do it. But we do it when we feel it's the right time, and we always talk to the management and the band about it. They love us coming out. But we do not love the traveling situation anymore. So that's where we stand at the moment. Yes, it's a farewell, but I don't think it's forever. I think there's still something there, and Foreigner will still keep going. If you'd have told me 40 years ago that it'd still be relevant today, I would've said, "No, don't be silly!" [Laughs.] But it's amazing: the crowd, they love to hear those songs. And that's what's made it last. The quality of the songs that the band wrote and played is there.

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When you look at the discography of Foreigner while you were within the band, do you have a particular favorite album?

Well, obviously 4 is very much a landmark album in every way. Because the band had been cut down to four members... Ian McDonald and Al Greenwood were let go, and I kind of understood in a way why Ian was let go, because he'd kind of got involved with various substances and wasn't really as on his game as he should've been. But Al Greenwood was - and still is - a great keyboard player and a very, very nice, mellow guy. I love him. We get on great. But anyway, that's what they decided on, and it was Lou and Mick who decided that was going to happen. I became more involved in the day-to-day stuff, as I still do, because I love to talk to people about the band...as you might have guessed! [Laughs.]

So 4 was a landmark, but each album we made, we tried to make something different or better, there's no doubt about it. The funny thing is, when we did 4, we had Mutt Lange as our producer, who's a wonderful guy from South Africa. Hardest working guy you'll ever meet. He just loves everything about the music business and doing his job. And that caused slight problems between he and Mick, because Mick likes to be in charge, too. Very much so! [Laughs.] And when we went into the studio, we did it at Electric Ladyland in New York City, down on Eighth Street, and the first song we cut was "Waiting for a Girl Like You." We did it in two takes. It was in the can, done. I thought, "Wow, this is a great start!" Never knowing that, a year later, we'd still be in the studio, rewriting songs and changing things around!

Because Mutt wanted an anthem. He wanted a "Jukebox Hero." And that's what we gave him. We wanted something different, like "Urgent." It was very different, style-wise, and had a sax solo! We brought in Junior Walker, who played the sax solo. Along with Mark Rivera, who was our sideman. He played sax and guitar and keyboards, along with Bob Mayo behind us. But the focus was on good, strong songs, and Mutt was not giving in until he got what he wanted. And it worked! When we released "Urgent," I wasn't sure if that was a good idea as a first single. But - boom! - straight out of the box, up it went! And "Waiting For a Girl Like You" was a no-brainer. As a ballad, how could you not like that song? And we got to #2, which was a landmark for us. Unfortunately, we didn't make #1 because of "Physical," by Olivia Newton-John. God bless her, but we couldn't beat her! [Laughs.] But we made it with "I Want to Know What Love Is." That was #1, and that album [Agent Provocateur] was #1. We've had so many successes that it's been almost... Well, almost unthinkable! But it's been a real pleasure to be part of that, to look back on your life and say, "Well, that was something special!"

On 4, what do you recall about working with Thomas Dolby?

Well, we brought Tommy because we wanted to have that English... [Hesitates.] What he was doing in England was so different, and Mick really liked that. He likes things that are a little bit different. And we brought him in to "texturize," they call it. "Texturing" the songs. Bringing his ideas into it. And it really worked! It was interesting. He's a great guy, there's no doubt about it. And I think he found it interesting being with an American rock band. Well, we worked in America. We were three English guys and one American!

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Is there a particular album that you consider to be underrated?

Well, for some reason, Head Games didn't do as well as we thought it would, and I think that's mainly because of the album cover, because of the girl in the men's urinal, trying to rub out her name on the wall or whatever it is. That's where the idea of "head games" comes from. That's what's going on. So I think that was sort of overlooked a little bit because of the album cover, but I still think it's a very good album. I love "Head Games" as a song. I love "Dirty White Boy." That was the first track I ever cut! But I have fond memories of all of them, actually, to be honest. I'm really very happy with what we produced.

Given that you'd come off writing with Peter Frampton, I was curious: did you ever have the opportunity to write for Foreigner, or was the collaborative process within the band already pretty much set by the time you joined?

It was a collaborative effect. Mick and Lou would come up with the ideas. They worked together very closely, Mick mostly on keyboards, Lou with lyrics ideas. And then they would bring it to Dennis and I, and then we would rehearse the song and put our own feel and what we thought was right for the song. And if they agreed, that's how it was kept. But we didn't get credited for those inputs that we put in. We have one or two things where credit was given to myself and Dennis. But in all fairness, Mick and Lou came up with those ideas. They worked very closely together and liked doing it that way. Why would you mess with a good thing? [Laughs.] If it ain't broken...

Before we wrap up, I just wanted to ask you about a couple of other things in your back catalog. To bring it back to Cambridge, I know you've known David Gilmour for years...

Yeah, we grew up together! As you say, we both come from Cambridge, we both lived in similar areas of Cambridge as well. We both started in local bands. We were very competitive. You know, we used to watch what each other were doing all the time! [Laughs.] And one thing led to another... I knew where David was going to end up, because he was such a good player, and also an extremely good-looking guy. He was very popular with the girls, believe you me. And a guy called Jonathan King who was in college there, he took a shining to him because... I mean, Jonathan's gay, but that's not the point. He thought David had a career ahead of him. He said, "I'd like to take you to London to meet a couple of friends." He said, "Well, who would that be?" He said, "Brian Epstein and Andrew Oldham." The Beatles' and Stones' managers. You don't get any bigger than that! And he met them, and they liked him. They said, "We think we could do something with you."

So he came back from London, we met up in a pub in Cambridge, and he said, "How would you feel about moving to London with me, Rick?" I said, "Oh, I'd love to do that, man, 'cause I've done Cambridge. We're over it." This was 1966. He said, "Well, if you'd like to do that, I'd love to have you in the band, and Willie Wilson on drums, and then we're probably gonna get sent abroad." And we did. We got sent to Spain to get it together, as they called it. So we had a long, long journey from London to down the south of Spain on a train with our equipment. It was a bit of a nightmare, really, but we did it. We were there for about three months or more, and then we moved to France, to Paris, and we were there for a year before we gave in because we were starving hungry half the time. We didn't have much money. And Pink Floyd, who we knew, because they were all Cambridge guys, they wanted to replace Syd Barrett because he was out of his brain on LSD all the time. He was a pretty sad case, actually. So gradually David was integrated into the band, first with Syd, but then they just didn't pick Syd up one day for a show, and that was the end of Syd! [Laughs.] But that's how it goes! And it was the perfect fit for David to join Pink Floyd, because what they achieved has been incredible. Really incredible. I was so happy for them. And Dave lives a wonderful life, and he deserves every bit of it, because he's done so well. All of them were lovely people, they really were.

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You also got to work with him on his solo album several years later.

Yeah, it was the time when people were doing solo albums, and Dave said, "Let's do one ourselves! I've got some song ideas. I've got to have some friends write some lyrics for me 'cause I'm not terribly good at writing lyrics." [Laughs.] And off we went to France to record! And it worked out great. Brought it back to London to their studio at Britannia Road and finished all the overdubs, the backing vocals, and all that stuff we did. And out it came! And it took off pretty well. It took time to sell a lot of records, but it eventually went gold as an album in the UK. So I called him up and said, "Hey, Dave, where's my gold album? I haven't got one!" He said, "Give me your address, and I'll send it to you right now!" So, yeah, I've got a David Gilmour gold album, I've got a Roxy Music gold album 'cause I played on some of the live stuff for them, and I've got a whole bunch of Foreigner ones. So it's very good! Covers the walls.

I guess that was kind of your journeyman period, since it's also when you were working with Small Faces.

Yeah, it was a good experience. Roxy Music was out of the blue. I didn't expect that at all. I was at a show - seeing Paul McCartney, actually - in London, and we went to the bar in the intermission, and I met a lady who I knew. She was the wife of Roxy Music's manager, and she said, "Rick, what are you doing these days?" I said, "Oh, not much, really. There's not much going on!" She said, "How would you feel about auditioning for Roxy Music?" And I just looked at her and I laughed. "You've got to be kidding. I don't dress like that! I don't do Roxy Music!" And she said, "Well, they'd like you to try, because they like what you do!" So I did. And lo and behold, they said, "Would you join the band?" I said, "Well, yeah! What are you doing?" They said, "We're touring America." I said, "When do I rehearse?" They said, "Oh, we don't like rehearsing much. We're gonna give you all the albums. You can learn' em at home." I said, "Oh, great..." [Laughs.]

I met them at Heathrow Airport to fly into...I think we flew into Detroit for the first show. And the next thing I knew, I'm on the stage, starting the show on my own, playing the bass for one of the parts on the Siren album. And I'm thinking, "What the hell am I doing here? I've never played with them before!" And it was quite an experience, I've got to say, but again, I lucked out, because they were really nice people, and they really put me back on my feet financially, and they really made me feel comfortable. They were very, very nice indeed. And Bryan [Ferry] and Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay became very good friends of mine. So, yeah, I'm happy I did it. But it was something different, I'll say that!

The Small Faces was literally Steve Marriott calling me up in the middle of the night, as he does, and saying, "I've just an argument with Ronnie Lane. He's gone. Would you play bass for Small Faces?" I said, "Steve, come on. I can't play bass for the Small Faces. That's Ronnie's gig! I'm a foot taller than you guys, anyway!" They're only about 5'4. I'm 5'11"! And he said, "It doesn't matter about your height, mate. We just want you to be the bass player!" So that's what I did. For a year or so, a few years. We made two albums, and I love them. Ian McLagen, Kenney Jones... Lovely, lovely people. Steve was a little nuts, I've gotta say. But that's Steve Marriott. What can you say? What a voice. What a performer! Incredible.

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Mick Jones contributed a song to one of my favorite rock movies: Still Crazy. I was curious: is there a particular rock and roll movie that comes close to capturing the reality of being in a band?

I'm not sure if there's one that really does, to be honest. It's kind of difficult to really do it in a movie, to make it look really like it's the real deal. It always looks a bit fake to me somehow. But I do like seeing films of bands performing live, like the Stones and people like that, 'cause they're really something special to watch. When I first saw Led Zeppelin, I was completely blown away by that band. The power they had, the strength of their performance and how they came across. It was just the most perfect combination of the best drummer, probably, in rock and roll heaven, John Bonham, one of the best bass players ever, John Paul Jones. Robert Plant? I mean, what a force at the front of the stage. And Jimmy Page, who's an absolute gem. He's great! And I've had the pleasure of knowing them all!

Robert and Jimmy came to one of our performances in Germany with our manager, Phil Carson, who knew them very, very well. They came to see us - they liked what we were doing - and I came out of the elevators to go to the car, and there was Robert and Jimmy standing there. I went, "What are you guys doing here?" [Laughs.] They said, "We've come to see you! Is that all right?" I said, "Yes, of course it's all right!" So they went out front and sat at the control desk, where the sound was done, watched the show, and when we came off at the end of our show to have a rest before we came back up for our encore, they said, "Can we play?" I went, "What? Can you play? Of course you can play!" So Jimmy borrowed one of Mick's guitars, a Les Paul. Robert just got on the stage, stood next to Lou Gramm, who's, like, 5'5", 5'6." And Robert's tall. He's a big guy! And they looked at us, and they said, "What should we do?" I said, "Let's do 'Lucille,' by Little Richard. Everybody knows 'Lucille'!" And he started the riff...but he started the riff to "Pretty Woman," by Roy Orbison! And it was pretty close, but I said, "No, no, no, no, no! It's the wrong riff!" And we were laughing like hell on the stage. The audience didn't know what was going on, because they were so absolutely blown away by seeing Robert and Jimmy up there, and there we were, killing ourselves with laughter, not knowing what the hell we were doing. But it ultimately worked pretty well, and we were all over the papers the next day. "Foreigner and Led Zeppelin Get Together!" It was crazy. But it was all good fun.

So what actually led you to leave Foreigner?

Well, when Lou decided to go solo and do his solo albums, it kind of fell apart. You know, we didn't know what to do. How are we gonna replace Lou Gramm, the voice? Well, it was a difficult one. But he'd been told, "You're the voice! You're an important one! We want you to do some solo stuff!" So it kind of bent his ideas. So we started auditioning various people, and we got very close to actually having John Waite in the band, believe it or not. We auditioned with him for about a week, and we wrote two or three songs together. I thought he was great. He's a great singer. But he's a little different. A little unusual. And at that point, I got the feeling, I thought, "This is coming to an end." It was '91, '92, I'd already been there 13 years...

So I called up Simon Kirke and Mick Ralphs of Bad Company, and I said, "Mick, are you touring this year?" He said, "Yeah, we're going out in September." I said, "Can I play bass? I'd really love to play bass with you." He said, "Actually, we really need a bass player right now, 'cause we haven't got one!" And this was when Brian Howe was the singer, and they'd had some really good success with the album Holy Water, so things were very good. So they invited me to join them...and I did! So the next ten years I spent playing with Bad Company...and it was really good fun! [Laughs.] It really was! It was a good band. We got rid of Brian, and we got Robert Hart in the band, who was a friend of ours and who sounded more like Paul Rodgers than anybody I know, and...we were good. We were a good band! So I had 10 years of that. It kept me busy!

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As far as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame goes, to bring up your old mate Peter Frampton again, he mentioned his nomination by adding, "You mean I'm not already in?"

I mean, I'm really pleased for Peter to be nominated also. I'm touch with him, because I obviously still know him very well. I'm excited! I really hope he does get inducted - if it happens - in April, because it would be a very special night for all of us, including Ozzy Osbourne, who's leading us at the moment in votes. [Laughs.] Which I find somewhat amazing, because I know Ozzy, and he's such a character. Off the wall, in a way. But good luck to him, too! We're the top three in the voting at the moment: Ozzy, Peter, and Frampton. We're doing great! But we want everyone to vote for us, and I'll give your readers where to go: Vote.RockHall.com. So please ask all your readers to do whatever they can do to help us get the votes we need to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, because we would be very proud of that.

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