I remember where I was the first time I heard “Juke Box Hero.” I was in high school; the song had been out for close to a decade. I was transitioning from grunge back to the 80’s. I was driving around in my ’88 Eagle Summit when it came on the classic rock station. That experience sent me straight to my local cd/record store where I purchased Foreigner’s Greatest Hits only to find out I knew every song on the disc. It was one of those magical musical moments that I will never forget. It was such an honor to speak with Lou Gramm about his up coming biography “Juke Box Hero: My Five Decades in Rock n Roll.”
You can listen to the interview in its entirety here:
Bob Zerull (BZ): You recently released your Autobiography “Juke Box Here: My Five Decades in Rock n Roll.” What made now the right time to tell your story?
Lou Gramm (LG): I think enough years and enough interesting things in my life and career have gone by that I just felt it was the right time and that it would be interesting reading. Hopefully it’ll inspire some young musicians.
BZ: Did you know ahead of time what you wanted to accomplish with the book? I know a lot of rock bios tend to celebrate the excess and that kind of thing, did you have a goal in mind when you wrote it?
LG: Going by where I am in my life right now I think I meant to write more of a story of perseverance and being able to over come the problems in life and in this occupation that I chose, the good and bad side of it. Just a true story of how it went for me.
BZ: What was the writing process like, did you keep a journal over the years to help you, did you just sit down with your cowriter?
LG: I did just sit down with my cowriter and he would just ask me questions. He’s written these type of books before, one for the coach of the Syracuse University Basketball team Jim Boeheim and one for a baseball pitcher who was from Rochester New York who was named Johnny Antonelli, he pitched for the Giants in the late 50’s early 60’s. Basically he really kind of broke it up, he’d ask me a couple questions about my childhood and my formative years then jump ahead to Foreigner touring, then go back to some anecdotes from college. He kept it real interesting and then he put it in a time line.
BZ: How many sessions did that take?
LG: We were working together once sometimes twice a week for about 2 or 3 hours a session. I don’t feel it was that long because the sessions seemed to go by fast and apparently he got what he needed and I think it really turned out. I was expecting everyday for like six hours and the guy would be tailing me as I did my errands during the day. I thought my life was going to be dominated by this person as we try and write a book. It really was comfortable and it was not so much that I really felt closed in.
BZ: I just started reading it last night and I noticed one of the first things, I’m a big baseball fan and I read right off the bat that you were a big baseball fan. Are you still huge into sports?
LG: Yes I am
BZ: Growing up, I know a lot of times you hear the stories where the musicians didn’t necessarily get along with the jocks how was your relationship with the athletes growing up, or were you a jock?
LG: I played little league for three years. In high school I was on the JV Soccer team. I went out for wrestling. The only reason I had to quit was because the band I was in was rehearsing so much I didn’t have time to practice with the other guys on the team so I had to make a choice and I did.
BZ: Another part you talk about your dad not listening to the “noise” as he called it. How long did it take for him to kind of accept rock n roll?
LG: I think he did, at least he says he did. I don’t think he…he did like certain songs by the Beatles, so did my mom. They liked “And I Love Her” (sings part of it), the acoustic ballads. I think because I was his son and his other sons were playing that kind of music too that he did gain an appreciation for it. Plus on my first solo album I had him play horn on one of the songs. It wasn’t a begrudging appreciation.
BZ: Do you ever find yourself, and I know I find myself doing this, but do you ever find yourself calling a new generation of music noise?
LG: There are certain parts of it that I have very little appreciation for musically. I certainly get the angst and the rebellion that part comes across loud and clear, but the musicality of it sometimes escapes.
BZ: You and Mick Jones are being inducted into the Song Writers Hall of Fame. How exciting were you when you found out?
LG: It was unbelievable. I don’t think I understood the full impact of it until I started reading about who was in the Song Writers Hall of Fame. These people are the cream of the crop and the ones that have written the classics, the standards, not only from my generation, but also from years past. It’s a very exclusive group of people. It now really strikes me as a really big honor.
BZ: How is your relationship with Mick Jones?
LG: We haven’t performed together in almost 11 years maybe a little bit over 11 years. There really hasn’t been a relationship for all that time. When I found out we were being inducted and they asked us to perform, I shot him a call, I don’t think he was expecting a call from me, but I called him and congratulated him and then we started talking, just the general hi how are you king of talk, then we started talking about what we might want to play because they want us to play two or three songs. I felt that old camaraderie again, it was nice.
BZ: So performing was an easy decision for you guys?
LG: Oh for me it was, yeah I think it’s going to be terrific.
BZ: Is there any chance that something more may come out of this performance?
LG: I don’t know, I have a very open mind to it, but he’ll have to feel the same way and then we’ll have to test the waters to see if there’s any interest if something coming out of that would be worth doing.
BZ: You guys are being inducted along side Steven Tyler and Joe Perry who are also in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame it seems like if you’re a performer as well as a songwriter, if you’re in one you should really be in the other.
LG: I know there is quite a few groups who in my personal opinion should be in there and aren’t. I am not surprised that we’re not because this kind of thing ends up happening to us frequently. I don’t know what the stigmatism is, but it’s just the way it is. I’ve gotten to the point where I won’t let something like that make or break my day. If you get passed over and passed over then just forget about it. I am pleased with the honor that we have and in some way shape or form it even has a little bit more depth and credibility than the one that we don’t have.
BZ: At this stage in your career are you happiest when you’re performing or when you’re creating?
LG: I actually like creating. I enjoy performing, but some of the songs I’m singing are songs for young men. I’m not a young guy any more. I feel a little on the foolish side singing “Dirty White Boy.” The songs that the meaning of them can stretch over time I have no problem with, but I’m finding myself extremely enjoying creating more than performing.
Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.