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Foreigner's Mick Jones Reminisces About Opening for the Beatles — 50 Years Ago

Suzy Byrne
Yahoo Music
February 6, 2014

Foreigner's Mick Jones Reminisces About Opening for the Beatles — 50 Years Ago

Suzy Byrne
Yahoo Music
February 6, 2014

Even Mick Jones gets nostalgic about "Yesterday."

The Foreigner guitarist, songwriter, and record producer is gearing up for a tour — it was announced Tuesday his band will hit the road with Styx and The Eagles's Don Felder this spring — but he reminisced about his early days in the business when he was the opening act for… the Beatles?! Yep, right before the Fab Four touched down at JFK Airport — 50 years ago this week — they spent three weeks in Paris with a teenage Mick.

[Related: Foreigner, Styx, Don Felder Announce 'Soundtrack of Summer' Tour]

"I was just thinking: 50 years ago today, I was saying goodbye to the Beatles," he told Yahoo when we interviewed him in New York City on Wednesday. "I was 18 or 19. I had spent three weeks with them in Paris as they were preparing to come to the United States for 'The Ed Sullivan Show.'"

Before hits like "I Want to Know What Love Is" and "Feels Like the First Time" were even a thought in his mind, the British-born Jones moved to France at 18, where he was playing guitar for French singer Sylvie Vartan, who was on the same bill as the Beatles at the Olympia.

"This event in Paris — I was just playing on the bill," he said. "I was struggling, hoping to get a gig, and I ended up opening up for the Beatles."

Over the three-week period, Jones spent a lot of time hanging out with the Liverpool lads and had a bird's-eye look at their megastardom.

"They pulled me into their world," he said. "It was like 'A Hard Day's Night.' Did you see that movie? Just like that. Really. I was running in and out of their cars — the big old cars they used to have — with all the girls screaming."

Jones was even staying with them at their hotel, marveling over how posh The Beatles's digs were.

"They had the whole floor of this hotel — the George V in Paris," he said. "I couldn't believe it."

But America was calling. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr soon left for New York — famously touching down on Feb. 7, 1964 — for their big date with Ed Sullivan two days later. And, despite bonding with the band for three weeks, Mick was left behind.

"I thought they were going to take me with them. I was so involved with them at that point. When they left, I was like: 'Oh, my god. What am I going to do? You forgot me,'" he laughed.

[Related: Memories of the Beatles' US Television Debut]

"I think that was just a little spiritual period of my life though — seeing that phenomenon," continued Jones, who went on to form Foreigner in 1976 and have his own major professional success. "I was so moved by it, too. I would stand on the side of the stage after our show and watch them every night. Tears were coming out of my eyes. You hear about people having spiritual, religious types of moments. This was it. It was unbelievable."

"And I wasn't a 15 year old girl — I was like a 19-year-old guy!" he added with a smile.

Jones called that period in music "historical," explaining, "It changed the world. Elvis Presley opened the door, but the Beatles came in and changed the world. It was amazing."

In the 1970s, Jones saw Harrison and they became friendly again. By that time, the Beatles had gone their separate ways and Harrison asked Jones to play guitar on his solo album "Dark Horse."

Jones also bumped into Paul and saw quite a bit of Ringo through the years. And his stepson, acclaimed music producer Mark Ronson, was one of Sean Lennon's closest childhood friends.

[Related: Foreigner and Styx Team Up for a Yahoo Music Instagram Takeover]

Foreigner, Styx, and Don Felder — who have sold more than 250 million albums worldwide — kick off their Soundtrack of Summer Tour on May 16, with tickets go on sale starting this Friday.

And you can hear Jones talk more about his Beatles connections on CBS News's special "50 Years: The Beatles." It will stream live on the network's website this Sunday at 6 p.m.