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How I wrote Cold As Ice, by Foreigner’s Mick Jones

Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones on the bad girl-critiquing AOR smash hit Cold As Ice, much loved by beer advertisers



“It was a very heady time. I’d played in bands before, most notably Spooky Tooth, but this was the first time that I was the principal writer and had the responsibility of leading the band. We were in the studio but we didn’t really know yet exactly where we were going. But I knew that I wanted to be in a successful group. 

“I had bought a mini-piano, a Melody Grand, and I started to fiddle around on it, and hit upon a couple of interesting chords that I’d never played before. Lou (Gramm, former Foreigner vocalist) came around to the house and I just threw it out there and we started fleshing it out. I’d never written a full song on piano before and I was rather surprised how quickly I took to it. The piano I played in the studio was actually one that Atlantic had bought specifically for Aretha Franklin.

“Lyrically, the subject was based on the idea of the stereotypical cold-hearted, bad girl – the sort of woman Joan Crawford would play in a film – but it wasn’t aimed at anyone specific. Well, there was one girl at school that dumped me, so maybe that trauma stayed with me over the years and subconsciously filtered in! The other contributing factor was that it was about minus 20 degrees in New York at the time we were writing it, which may have fed into the atmosphere.”

“It’s a strange, quirky little song, basically a pop song written back to front. The structure is unusual: it starts with the title, and it’s only further down the line that you realise that the pre-chorus is actually the chorus. I knew it was the poppiest song we’d done, which I was a little worried about, but everybody seemed to dig it. I didn’t see it being indicative of the direction of Foreigner, so it was a bit of a surprise addition to the album. But one thing I wanted to do with Foreigner was to show that the band had some versatility, and this was definitely different and a bit commercial, not just another hard rock song.

“I must admit though that I was surprised when it went into the Top 10 in America. But then we were a new band, and everything was exciting and surprising at the time. Feels Like The First Time, our first single, had come out a few months earlier, in March 1977, so I guess radio was ready to see what we had next.

“I don’t think we’ve ever played a Foreigner show without playing Cold As Ice. It’s a big one for the fans, probably in our top three songs in terms of recognition. It’s a proper singalong at gigs, everyone likes to belt it out. It’s a bit of an oddity, but it’s done very well for us. I guess it’s part of our identity now.”

The Greatest Hits of Foreigner Tour starts on July 27. Mick Jones was speaking with Paul Brannigan