Foreigner – Urgent (1981)

Foreigner – Urgent (1981)

“Urgent” is a song by the British-American rock band Foreigner, and the first single from their album 4 in 1981.

Producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange wanted to hear every music idea singer Mick Jones had recorded on tape, no matter how embarrassing. One of these ideas was the opening riff for what would become “Urgent”. “I had the riff starting out,” Jones recalled. “And I said, ‘That’s like an experimental instrumental thing that I’m working on.’ He said, ‘No, it isn’t anymore -– let’s take that one, because that’s got a lot of potential.’ There wasn’t even a song with it.” He also said, “‘Urgent’ … was a bit of a hybrid. It was a soul song, really – a quirky kind of rock and soul combination. That album had a bunch of different departures on it from the album that preceded it, Head Games. … It was just like a musical journey.” In fact, “Urgent” was recorded with Mick Jones playing lead and rhythm guitar, including a line originally composed for Ian McDonald, who left the band in 1980.

Foreigner went into the Manhattan studio with producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange, best known at the time as producer for hard rock band AC/DC. Foreigner’s sound wasn’t quite as heavy, and the band worked with then-unknown Thomas Dolby to program and play synthesizer. Dolby’s work can be heard on “Urgent”, along with a saxophone solo by Motown artist Junior Walker.

Lange was a perfectionist with Dolby, making him play some of the simple notes over and over until they were perfect. On the other hand, Lange used Junior Walker’s first take, appreciating its raw, rough edges. Lange was a fan of Dolby’s earlier work, and Dolby had a demo of a song called “Urges” where he sang “urges, urges…”. Lange asked Dolby for permission to incorporate this into a Foreigner song, which was then turned into the lyric “Urgent, urgent…”. Dolby was a little surprised when he heard the finished song, but later felt glad to have positively influenced the track.

Walker recorded at least 12 versions of the saxophone solo but ultimately the first version was used in the final release, despite some rough edges. The song entered the U.S. pop charts the week ending July 4, 1981, and reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, holding that spot for the entire month of September. “Urgent” hit #1 on the Billboard Rock Tracks chart, a position it held for four weeks.

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