Mick Jones of Foreigner: ‘Portsmouth has always been home to me.’

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He’s written songs that have become part of pop-culture DNA and has sold nearly 80 million albums.

But next month Mick Jones, co-founder of rock legends Foreigner, will be returning to Portsmouth, the place he still calls home.

Mick Jones

Mick Jones

His band, best known for enormous hits including I Want to Know What Love Is, Waiting For A Girl Like You, Cold As Ice and Jukebox Hero, among many more, are playing a show at Portsmouth Guildhall on April 9. They will be supported by Final Countdown hitmakers Europe and reformed ’80s rockers FM.

Mick now lives in New York, but often returns to Portsmouth and has fond memories of his childhood here.

He says: ‘I’ve lived there on and off throughout my life. I was born in Somerset, right in the middle of the sticks, but all my family were in Portsmouth, so I would spend a lot of time going to Portsmouth. For me when I first realised I was in a city it was huge, it was like going to London.

‘Portsmouth has always represented, for me, my home.

‘My uncles, aunties, cousins – obviously they’ll all be at the show, so we’ll have to have an extra large area to accommodate them,’ he chuckles.

‘When I was a young kid, my grandparents’ house in Eastney was the central meeting point for the family. Right near the barracks.’

With his grandfather and father and uncles all being marines, he grew up surrounded by strong male figures.

He recalls: ‘I had a grandfather who had served in the First World War and had been a batman to one of the ships that was the King something... anyway, my grandfather, he was a character, he was a boxer, he won a few medals and cups in the war.

‘He was a bit of a lad. I used to enjoy being with him and those celebrations we used to have, whatever time it was, Christmas, Easter, and then my holidays in the summer, I would spend them all in Portsmouth.

‘Several of my uncles had boats and my dad built a boat, so we used to spend a lot of time around the Hayling ferry.

‘I just remember it was magic, the harbour there, we’d go cockling down the end there – I don’t think you can do that any more – so that used to be the main recreation. I still love Portsmouth and coming back.

‘I was last back about three or four months ago. Whenever I’m over I go back.’

And he’s been a life-long Pompey fan too.

‘I’m still a Pompey supporter – we’ve been through some dark times lately. I go on all the websites and every morning I read The News online for all the latest news about Portsmouth.

‘What’s happened with the fans, it’s been a real labour of love over the past few years.

‘I remember the first time I went to a game, my grandfather took me, we were in the stands, right by the pitch, and I had never seen anything like that, or been in a crowd like it. It must have been about 30-40,000 people in those days.

‘I have a cousin-in-law who is a fanatic and he goes down every week, and if I can see something when I come over, I will try to come along.’

Even before Foreigner formed in 1976, Mick had already carved himself a respected career, first as a session player and then in the likes of Spooky Tooth.

He recalls: ‘It started out with being with the Beatles for a few weeks in Paris. I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I had some incredible experiences with some incredible musicians. I was suddenly doing sessions with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, I just thought: “Woah!”

‘I worked with the big French star Johnny Hallyday and he would always want to come over to England and do the latest thing that was in vogue lately. We did a soul album and Otis Redding came to work with us in the studio for a couple of days.’

In 2007, Mick invited a choir from St Luke’s School (now the Charter Academy) in Portsmouth, to join the band onstage at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at the O2 Arena and sing the chorus to the band’s biggest hit, I Want to Know...

The idea came as an extension of the band’s work in America where they help fund music projects in schools.

‘When we came down to see Harry Redknapp and Tony Adams that year, Harry’s personal assistant was a singer and she was in charge of the choir at that school.

‘I thought what a great idea, it would be fantastic to bring them up to London and give them an experience like that in front of 20,000 people. Music to me is the thing that keeps the world together.

‘It’s part of what we do and I was glad to have Pompey well represented there.’

Now though, Mick is keen to keep momentum going, with a strong line-up including singer Kelly Hansen, Jeff Pilson on bass and multi-instrumentalist Tom Gimbel.

‘We are a rock band, despite a period we had when we were regarded as having gone a bit soft. We had the same balance on the albums, it just happened that we had Waiting for Girl Like You, and then the next album had I Want to Know What Love Is.

‘There was never any intention on my part to turn this into a soft rock band, I think we are a full-on rock band with a few ballads.

‘It’s been eight or nine years of building the band back to its former glories.’

Foreigner, supported by Europe and FM, are playing Portsmouth Guildhall on Wednesday, April 9. Tickets cost £38.50, doors at 6.15pm. go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk or call 0844 847 2362.