Mick Jones’ Early Foreigner Gear

November 17, 2009 | By | 4 Replies More
Jones_Mick_70s

A rare shot of Mick with the 'wrong' guitar.

Foreigner is a funny band. One of their songs will cause you to change the station, another will cause you to crank it up – because Mick Jones can throw out cool riffs.

I’ve always been curious about the specifics of Mick’s early Foreigner gear, but there isn’t much info on the web about it. So I kind of punted on the specifics until recently, when I was lucky enough to track down a 1979 issue of Guitar Player magazine with Mick in it.

Don’t know if you’re familiar with guitar articles of that era, but good info is hit or miss. Sometimes you get a lot, sometimes not nearly enough. The Mick Jones article (not really an interview) has both, with the bottom line being you want more. But some is better than none!

Anyhow, here’s what’s in there.

Guitars

1958 black Les Paul Custom

> Bought in 1973.

> “He altered the electronics, first removing the middle of the three pickups on the guitar. The other pickups have been rewired several times [this does not seem to mean rewound]. In the middle position of a specially-wired toggle switch, the pickups are off. In the up position, the signal goes through the pickups, volume and tone controls. And in the down position the volume and tone controls are bypassed, and everything is set on full. Mick uses this last setting primarily for solos.”

> He used this guitar on the first two Foreigner albums – Foreigner (1977) and Double Vision (1978), as well as in 1974, during the last year with his pre-Foreigner band Spooky Tooth, and when he played with Leslie West in 1975.

1957 Les Paul Custom

> Acquired after Double Vision.

> Mick “claims that the 1957 Les Paul’s pickups are very active [not active as in EMGs – remember this was in 1979!], and the action is superior to the 1958′s.”

More

> He likes sticking with one guitar for the studio and live. “I try to get the feeling out of one instrument, to extract as much as I can out of it. I get very attached to a guitar.”

Amps

Here’s where we are left wanting more. All the article says is he uses two Marshall 100-watt heads (Super Leads, presumably?) “with two modified [how?!] Hiwatt cabinets reinforced and fitted with Celestion speakers [which ones?!].”

And there’s another tantalizing piece: “His amplifiers were also beefed up.”

Effects

Although he had used a wah pedal and Fender Leslie cabinet along with a few other effects in Spooky Tooth, in Foreigner at this time his only effect was a digital delay – first an MXR and then a Lexicon.

However, in the studio he at times used a cocked (fixed) wah with cleaner sounds.

> One exception is on the studio version of Starrider:’ “The recorded version of the solo i derived from using a Roland Jet Phaser placed on a fuzz setting, then blended with a clean signal….”

Tone

Here’s what Mick said in the interview:

“I like to go for a sort of sound which is right on the edge of really breaking up and being distinct at the same time.”

Technique/Playing

> “I don’t usually plan my solos out. I like to do it all in one go.”

> He held (at that time, anyway) the pick between his thumb and first finger. At times he switched to finger picking, and kept the pick between his first and second fingers.

Notable: The Mick Jones signature Gibson les Paul Custom

In 2008 Gibson came out with a replica of Mick’s Custom (presumably the ’58 because of the electronics). The Gibson website doesn’t have much detail on it, but here’s what it does have:

Here's the signature Les Paul Custom (click to see bigger – from Gibson.com).

Here's the signature Les Paul Custom (click to see bigger – from Gibson.com).

“The pickups are a pair of Gibson’s legendary ’57 Classic humbuckers with exposed coils, delivering all the raw punch and power of original PAF pickups. Other appointments include an ABR-1 bridge and light stopbar tailpiece, Schaller tuners and strap locks, a black metal jackplate and two mini toggle switches that deactivate each individual pickup in the middle position, bypass the volume and tone controls in the down position or activate the volume and tone controls in the up position.”

MSRP is $7,998 – $4,999 at Guitar Center.

Notable

> On the guitar, Mick said at the time: “I like to maintain a relationship with the guitar whereby the guitar still holds a mystery for me. It’s a very deep instrument for such a simple-looking thing. It’s got so much you can bring out of it.”

> Mick played with such luminaries as Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Peter Frampton (as well as Leslie West, mentioned above) before hitting it big with Foreigner.

‘Double Vision,’ album version, audio only

Category: Hiwatt, Les Paul, Marshall, Mick Jones/Foreigner

Comments (4)

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  1. Tommy Gun says:

    hey. do you know what Mick Jones is playing in this Youtube video? I remember seeing the photos of him in the 80's with that guitar. I never figured out the name of it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m5DIGU10so

    also appears in Molly Hatchet video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AqDVbTmt6U

  2. Neal says:

    Some finer details of his early stuff have come to light since we began working directly with Mick on a signature amplifier head. The early head was a modified Marshall 100 watt "Plexi". The mods didn't add gain (or distortion), but altered the intrinsic tone of the amp. Though there were back up Marshall's, it was just the primary (modded) head on those early recordings. His cabinets were loaded with Fane speakers, not Celestions, though they may have started with Celestions (Mick doesn't recall).

    In the early stages of the R & D for the signature amp, Mick had Jeff Pilson send over isolated tracks from the early recordings. These isolated (no other instruments or vocals) really showcased Mick's tones and skill of being able to double and triple track his parts (the old school fashion). These isolated tracks were incredibly helpful during the R & D process.

    Mick admits that it was his '58 Les Paul Custom on the first two (albums). The Gibson Signature Custom comes stock with Classic '57 pickups. The number 1 Gibson Signature is a dead-on replica, whereas the number 2 is heavier…"a brick" per AJ, Mick's guitar tech.

    I have some pics, but not sure how to post them here…

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