I am a foreignor

This morning at brunch we were subjected to dread awful music played too loudly.1 A whole CD’s worth.

“What is this crap?” I asked. “I’ve never heard it before. I hope never to hear it again.”

Scott looked at me like I was deranged. “You’ve never heard this before?”

I affirmed that I had not and was grateful that was the case. He continued to doubt me, asserting that the band had been huge in the eighties, and unless I grew up under a rock I could not have avoided hearing them.

“What band is it?” I asked. Scott looked blank and waved his hands around. “You know, one of those one-word bands from the eighties. Like Kansas or Toto or Berlin.”

We asked one of the waitrons who told us it was Foreigner Journey. She also expressed amazement that i did not know the band.

“She’s Australian,” Scott pointed out.

“So you like Abba then,” she said. It wasn’t a question.

I admitted as how that was true. “But people who don’t like Abba don’t like sunshine or mangosteens or freedom.”

“I hate Abba,” she said.

“You hate Swedes then,” I replied. “Swedish people are all about Abba and sunshine and mangosteens and freedom.”

“Oh no, I love Swedes! My girlfriend is Swedish,” she said clearing away our plates. “She plays Abba all the time. Ack!”

“You’ve really never heard Journey or Foreigner or Toto or Kansas before?” Scott asked.

I shook my head.

“What a blessed life you Australians lead.”

So, my Aussie readers, is my lack of knowledge of those one-word American bands from the eighties an aberration? Am I the only Aussie who doesn’t know them?

I’ve never listened to commercial radio. Maybe while I was listening to Triple J and 2SER and the other ABC radio stations, those bands were on high rotation on 2SM or 2MMM or somewhere like that. But I did watch Countdown and don’t remember seeing those bands there either. And I just flipped around these charts and couldn’t see them listed anywhere. But I was pretty cursory about it.

Do you Aussies know these bands? Were they as popular back home as they were here in the US of A? Seriously, everyone in the restaurants was playing air guitar and mouthing the lyrics. It was terrifying!

Help me out!

  1. How loudly? It was audible. That was too loud. []


  1. Kevin Wignall on #

    Not australian (like you hadn’t noticed) but i remember some of these bands more vividly than i’d like. were foreigner responsible for “broken wings” or “whose gonna take you home tonight”, one of which was used for a video of starving ethiopians during live aid? ghastly. this was a time when the worst you could say about music was that it was mor (middle of the road) and the americans were the kings of mor. thank goodness that all changed with nirvana.

    incidentally, i do also remember the excellent midnight oil from that time, but to counterbalance it, the australians also produced the awful john farnham, against whose people Dame kiri te kanawa has just won a court case.

  2. veejane on #

    Search the phrase “heaven’s just a funky moose” on YouTube or Google Video someday. That’s actually Journey, not Foreigner, but — anything that inspires such silliness deserves to be known far and wide. Even though it sucks.

    (If you listened to pop, not rock, throughout the 80s, it was possible — almost! — to miss out on one-word crapass rock bands entirely, even in the United States.)

  3. Ben Payne on #

    I loved Foreigner when I was in grade nine… in Qld we didn’t get triple J until the early nineties, I think, so growing up it was a choice between two commercial stations, both of which played the same songs… I’m sure you have heard Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice” a gazillion times while shopping without realising it!

  4. Dawn on #

    I was born in the eighties. So…I don’t know of Foreigner or Berlin. Not because I’m not USian, but because I was too young. I have heard a couple songs from Kansas and Abba, though.

  5. Jim on #

    Hey, I’m American, and I don’t even like Foreigner. Of course, I couldn’t begin to tell you who ABBA is or what they sound like, either. My musical tastes tend to run mostly toward classical, big band/swing, and instrumental. I’ve never much enjoyed popular music.

  6. Veronica on #

    Who doesn’t like Abba? Only sickos don’t like Abba. Joe Strummer liked Abba. Stephen Merritt likes Abba.

  7. Little Willow on #

    I’m an American who enjoyed the Aussie girl group Girlfriend.

  8. jonathan on #

    ahhh, justine, you lived in a happy timewarp. terri whatsername from berlin graced countdown on several occasions, and whatchamaxallim and his crew from foreigner had several big hits. i even remember molly raving repeatedly about their first album. toto too, were huge, with africa and rosanna and other songs ending in “a”. kansas not so much, nor styx. sigh. you can tell scott you were a girl in a bubble. australia suffered, while you were being cool.

  9. Justine on #

    Jonathan: You know, I suspected as much. I have always had a talent for not seeing (or hearing) unpleasant things. I am just blessed, I guess.

  10. shelly rae on #

    ha! This is coming from a woman who gave me an entire cd of Australian cover versions of Stairway to Heaven. Well I guess Led Zepplin is an American band name with -two- words…

  11. february on #

    i’m pretty sure “cold as ice” was used on a VB commercial.

    which makes you unastryyyyne or something.

    other one-word american rock bands from the 80s that were huge there but one hit wonders here (what a category!) – boston, and journey. i only found out about them after spending too much time on the american internets, and the reaction of other americans to my cultural philistinism was much the same as scott’s.

    to my great shame i actually like boston a lot now. i keep telling people “more than a feeling” is the worst song on that album, but when i try and lend it to them nobody believes me. 🙁

  12. scott w on #

    Dude, she said it was Journey, not foreigner. How forgettable is that, that you’ve already forgotten it?

    And were there any former members of Kansas in Toto, so they could say, “We aren’t in Kansas anymore?”

  13. Justine on #

    February: I just went and found a snippet of “cold as ice” you are correct I have heard it before and promptly erased it from my memory. What a sucky song.

    And the band was indeed Journey, not Foreigner. I truly, truly, truly had not heard a single song before. The cd was a best of and we sadly heard the whole thing. Shudder.

  14. Justine on #

    Shelly Rae: an entire cd of Australian cover versions of Stairway to Heaven

    You’re labouring under two misapprehensions here:

    1. Led Zeppelin are not one of those American one-word bands from the eighties. They’re English, they formed in the sixties, their name consists of two words.

    2. That my giving you Andrew Denton’s Money or the Gun Stairway to Heaven cd means that I like Led Zeppelin or “Stairway to Heaven”. I like neither. But that cd is a fabbie pisstake.

  15. Hezaa on #

    I’m an American and I’ve never heard of those bands…

  16. Justine on #

    Hezaa: And your life is better for it.

  17. simmone on #

    i will go on record as saying that i love midnight blue by Lou Gramm (He was foreignor’s frontman – he had wild frizzy hair and high tight denim jeans worn thin around the ‘basket’. His face was never in repose. You can also add Loverboy to the list of singletted, sweaty one-name US bands. I don’t remember Journey being huge here but for a while there they racked up irony points for being ryan’s fave rave on the OC. Also anyone getting sniffy about Boston should remember that ‘More than a Feeling’ is only one chord removed from Nirvana’s ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’.

    ps – I’ve never heard anything by Kansas.

  18. Malcolm on #

    I remember most of those bands (“Kansas” don’t sound like a real band, though — I think you made that one up). I wasn’t a big Countdown watcher, but I was in high school in the mid-80’s, so a bunch of songs by those bands are associated with girls and Saturday night dates. They bring back good memories; I can’t hate them, although they do sound a bit dated now.

    Now, where are my “best hits of the 1980’s” CDs? I need to put on some memories…

  19. benpeek on #

    i’m free and safe from alla that 🙂

  20. lili on #

    i currently hate 80s music, having just spent half the night lying awake listening to My Sharona on high (and LOUD) rotation by my neighbours at, you know, 3am on a monday morning.

    actually, i think my sharona is late 70s.

    i quite like the ‘africa’ song by toto.

    and kevin: john farnham (or, as we like to call him, farnsey) is generally pretty crap, but ‘you’re the voice’ is a classic. any man who can have bagpipes in his rock power ballad gets my vote. it’s time to turn the pages over, baby.

  21. Ez on #

    I’m Australian and have a secret fondness for “Hold the Line” by Toto.

    I’m not much for ABBA, but rather enjoy two particular Swedish musicians: The Hives and Jens Lekman.

    Have a lovely day! 🙂

  22. Jeff on #

    Justine: For insight into the kind of mind that appreciates Journey, and some background re the band’s significance to American teens of the ’80s, check this blog posting.
    Simmone: Loverboy was Canadian. As a ‘merican I refuse to take responsibility for that noise.
    Malcolm: Kansas was indeed real. Big hits (from the latter ’70s, actually) were “Carry On, Wayward Son,” “Point of Know Return,” and the soul-drainingest, kill-me-now, most depressing pop song ever recorded, “Dust in the Wind.” It was huge against the Bee Gees.

  23. Robert Legault on #

    Justine, I know all the bands you mention all too well. They’re all pretty sucky. Foreigner have a few OK songs, but all of the hits by all the bands are played relentlessly even today. I suspect that if, God forbid, someone were to tie you down and subject you to their music, you would more than once say, “Oh, THAT…” with disgust. But believe me, you’re better off being ignorant.

  24. Lucy Anne on #

    My Boy (he being from Melbourne by way of Garvoc) says he wasn’t familiar with Journey before I’d mentioned them to him. While the other Corporation Rock bands made the crossing, Steve Perry and colleagues got lost up in South Detroit.

    Meanwhile, Australia kept back The Birthday Party and The Go Betweens and sent us Pseudo Echo. In the end, you did get the best of the deal.


  25. chris barnes on #

    I know *of* those bands, but know nothing about them.

  26. Nicky on #

    See this brings up long repressed memories. I tried to block them out. Then I had an evil conductor who insisted on us doing concert band versions of them. I was one of the lucky ones, who didn’t have to do Africa (only the bigband got that). I still remember the xylophone noise. Dang nabit, I worked so hard at repression.

  27. Peter Hollo on #

    I know of Journey, only because it’s what Foreignor became. I know Foreignor as one of those bands to detest… And most Aussies would know of ’em I’d think 😉 – even the enlightened ones who don’t really listen to commercial radio…
    Toto are of course famous for “Africa” at least, which is a song I can certainly stand, annoying though it is. I’ve heard of Kansas and Styx and stuff but wouldn’t know anything of them.

    I am 33, I’m an Australian, and this is my story.

  28. Robyn Hook on #

    yes,we did know Foreigner and Toto here in oz in brisbane they played the songs africa and rosanna all the time on telly and radio,cheers and can’t wait to read books 2 and3 together

  29. John Scalzi on #

    I’m totally buying you Journey’s Greatest Hits. Don’t stop believin’, Justine!

  30. Justine on #

    And I’m totally using it as a coaster, Scalzi. Or a frisbee. Depends on what mood I’m in.

  31. amy fiske on #

    Coaster, frisbee, or skeet target. My vote is for skeet target.

    Thank god for college radio in the 80s or I never would have made it to adulthood…

  32. Justine on #

    Amy Fiske: Skeet target . . .

  33. Delia on #

    I missed the 80’s entirely, owing to Bad Life Time Warp. Ellen has tried to fill in my education, but she’s more Madonna and the Eurythmics (who I like very much) than those other bands you mentioned, whose names I’ve never heard before.

    Sounds like I haven’t really missed anything after all.

  34. John H on #

    Malcolm: Kansas had two well-known songs – Carry On Wayward Son and Dust in the Wind. They also had a few lesser-known hits – Play the Game Tonight, Fight Fire With Fire and Hold On

    Justine, just remember:

    Someday love will find you
    Break those chains that bind you
    One night will remind you
    How we touched and went our separate ways

    If he ever hurts you
    True love won’t desert you
    You know I still love you
    Though we touched and went our separate ways

    (yeah, the lyrics are wretched – but so were the ’80s…)

  35. Colleen on #

    Okay, go ahead and hate me but I went to jr high, high school and college in the 80s so this music you are all dissing so shamelessly is MY MUSIC!!

    Damn you all for your cruelty!

    First – everyone of you who says they don’t know Kansas will recognize Carry On My Wayward Son the minute they music starts and you know it.

    Second – Open Arms by Journey was playing at the 8th/9th grade school dance when my best friend Caryn Robinson was slow dancing with her boyfriend Danny Matarazzo and he dumped her – in the middle of the flipping song! She ran to the bathroom crying hysterically (“Why? Why? I thought he loved me??!!!) and we spent the rest of the night in there cursing all men forever. I haven’t spoken to Caryn since 1985 (or so) but I hear that song and I’m right back there with her all over again.

    I really miss that girl.

    Third – I Want to Know What Love Is by Foreignor – lyrics written on the bottom of a note sent to me in the 11th grade by my boyfriend Dan Snead. It made me smile for days if not weeks. Foreignor will forever be Dan, a very nice guy I dated in high school and broke up with only to date again in college – and he broke up with me. He’s in the army now and very happily married with two kids. I hoped to see him last year at our 20 yr reunion but he was in Iraq.

    Fourth – We could discuss forever how the songs were meaningless, the outfits deplorable, the hair frightening, the politics isolationist and the lack of environmental awareness pathetic but at the end of the day, all of us in the US at that time loved it and that’s the truth.

    I’m never going to be so hip that I say the music of my teenage years sucked. It doesn’t mean I don’t love all kinds of other music now even more, but nostalgia is a good thing sometimes, and I won’t denounce the songs that kept me sane (and drove my stepfather crazy) a long time ago.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I plan to blast some Springsteen, Mellencamp, Madonna and Fleetwood Mac (Not to mention Def Leppard, Guns & Roses and Led Zepplin) for the benefit of my little boy. It is important that he learn to love this stuff while he’s young!

  36. Mike on #

    It is still entirely possible to go to young folks’ parties in Melbourne today and hear the beautiful strains of Toto. Don’t ask me why.

    Journey may have had one hit hear, Foreignor were like head lice and Toto, well, enough said.

    (The eighties…Gang of Four, The Smiths, The Smiths, The Triffids…sigh)

  37. Mike on #


    At moments like that I am reminded of the scene from Th Unbearable Lightness of Being in which someone complains to the waitress that he is “eating food while listening to sh*t”.

  38. John H on #

    Colleen: I’m class of ’86 too, and of course I enjoy the music we grew up with. That doesn’t mean I can’t recognize its crappiness.

    Have you seen the video for Separate Ways lately? It really is embarrassing…

  39. Mike on #

    Leaving the Jarvis Cocker concert last night, I overhead a woman saying that Jarvis’ Black Magic sounded ‘like one of those terrible 80’s band like Boston…you know, that song More Than a Feeling’. Eeh!

    Actually, it was Crimson and Clover (re-done 80’s style by Joan Jett) tghat Jarvis was channelling. For Boston rip-off you would be wanting Aussie 80’s legends Hunters and Collectors who reissued the song under the title Holy Grail. Without prejudice, your honour.

  40. Robin on #

    Hey Justine!

    I remember all those bands but luckily not the songs. They were all big on Countdown and 3XY. Bands like Toto, Foreigner, Boston, Kansas, America, ( I always wanted to start a world conquering band called “Geelong” but I have no musical talent} As I remember those bands often had records with ELO-type spaceship covers.
    In the 80’s I really started to hate a lot of the popular music and started looking way back to the 60’s when songs were good… I started with volume 5 of the Atlantic Rythym and Blues and then went further back to some of the 50’s stuff. I am still back there pretty often and it was the best musical thing I ever did.

Comments are closed.