Cold As Ice by Foreigner (Atlantic, 1977)

In the late 40s/early 50s, Long Island grew and expanded east. William Levitt built one of his famed Levittowns and the rest of the island was built using that paradigm. Further out past Levittown, where my mom was raised, was a burgeoning town founded as the Colony of Modern Times. Renamed Brentwood in the late 1800s, this area’s growth would explode in the 50s and using Levittown’s blueprint would create a utopian neighborhood with everything you need, mirroring the Village Greens.

In the middle of these pine tree laden neighborhoods, a small shopping center was erected. With a supermarket as an anchor, most would also include a pizzeria, laundromat, barbershop, gift store, etc. Our house was located just 2 blocks down the street from a Hills Supermarket with a liquor store, stationary store, and barbershop. Light blues, lemon yellows, and deco print as far as the eye could see, a place where Lucy and Ethel might shop. I would walk up to the stationary store with my dad and he would let me pick out one candy of my choice when he bought the Sunday Newsday.

As the neighborhood grew, a little strip was built on the other side of the road with a bakery on its corner. You could smell the fresh bread, cookies, and cakes as you played on the front lawn. That strip would be brown and black featuring stores with no signs and eventually boards or bars on the windows and anchored by a drug store whose high windows would be covered in ads. Around the corner from the drug store was a block of stores we almost never ventured – a seedy bank, a dirty laundromat and a greasy pizzeria. There would always be loud music playing either from one of those places or a parked Monte Carlo with its doors open. Everyone smoked, everyone looked mean, everyone scared the hell out of me.

I don’t know how my mom washed our clothes when we were kids. I don’t remember a washer or dryer in our house and I don’t remember visiting that dank laundromat. I do have this scene in my head that may represent an amalgam of memories, of going up there to get a basket of wet clothes to hang on our line. The soundtrack to that memory is Cold As Ice by Foreigner.

That song does not fire an emotion, good or bad in me. It only serves as a spark, a key to a door through time or scene in my life. And that’s about as much as the song means to me, which is good because there’s not much there. How Foreigner racked up 8 Top 20 upbeat rock hits between 1977 & 1979, in a time seemingly reserved for disco and ballads, is a question not even 2XL could answer. Cold As Ice in particular with its plodding beat (How did drummer Dennis Elliot go from the jazz-rock band, If to Head Games? Only his accountant knows.) its hard rock veneer masking a synth-pop band stole from the cliché basket as it added new ones. Check out this couplet:

You’re as cold as ice.
You’re willing to sacrifice our love.

You can imagine the clueless high fives going around the room when they wrote that. And check out this lyric, never written by Shakespeare:

You’re digging for gold.
You’re throwing away a fortune in feelings,
But someday you’ll pay.

Dammmmmn! What a goldbrickin’ bitch. You really got her good, guys. Speaking of feelings, Foreigner probably went over so well, because it’s rock devoid of any feelings whatsoever. Mick Jones played the guitar, but can you hum any licks that he ever came up with? And what’s your favorite solo of his?………..that’s Ok, I can wait. Lou Gramm’s vocals made you think there was something there. But if passion is judged not by what’s on the edges, but by what’s in the middle, this song is a great big ol’ moon pie.

Still whenever I hear it, I can smell the Wisk on the walls.

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