Urgent (song)

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Foreigner Urgent album.jpg
Single by Foreigner
from the album 4
B-side"Girl on the Moon"
ReleasedJune 22, 1981 (1981-06-22)
Length4:29 (album version)
3:57 (single version)
Songwriter(s)Mick Jones
Foreigner singles chronology
"I'll Get Even With You"
"Waiting for a Girl Like You"
Music video
"Urgent" on YouTube

"Urgent" is a song by the British-American rock band Foreigner, and the first single from their album 4 in 1981.


Producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange wanted to hear every music idea singer Mick Jones had recorded on tape, no matter how embarrassing. One of these ideas was the opening riff for what would become "Urgent". “I had the riff starting out," Jones recalled. "And I said, 'That’s like an experimental instrumental thing that I’m working on.’ He said, ‘No, it isn’t anymore -– let’s take that one, because that’s got a lot of potential.’ There wasn’t even a song with it.” He also said, “‘Urgent’ … was a bit of a hybrid. It was a soul song, really – a quirky kind of rock and soul combination. That album had a bunch of different departures on it from the album that preceded it, Head Games. … It was just like a musical journey.”[1] In fact, "Urgent" was recorded with Mick Jones playing lead and rhythm guitar, including a line originally composed for Ian McDonald, who left the band in 1980.


Foreigner went into the Manhattan studio with producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange, best known at the time as producer for hard rock band AC/DC. Foreigner's sound wasn't quite as heavy, and the band worked with then-unknown Thomas Dolby to program and play synthesizer. Dolby's work can be heard on "Urgent." Mark Rivera, Foreigner's regular saxophonist on albums and tours throughout the 1980s, played rhythmic sax on the song, including the recurring siren-like riff. The iconic tenor saxaphone solo was performed by celebrated Motown multi-instrumentalist Junior Walker, [2] who was coincidentally performing in New York during Foreigner's album sessions and agreed to contribute. [1]

Lange was a perfectionist with Dolby, making him play some of the simple notes over and over until they were perfect. On the other hand, Dolby recalled Lange using Walker's first take, appreciating its raw, rough edges. Jones stated in an interview his conflicting memory of Lange fastidiously splicing together multiple takes from Walker, who later mimicked the recorded version when performing with the band as a guest on tour.[3] Lange was a fan of Dolby's earlier work, and Dolby had a demo of a song called "Urges" where he sang "urges, urges...". Lange asked Dolby for permission to incorporate this into a Foreigner song, which was then turned into the lyric "Urgent, urgent...". Dolby was a little surprised when he heard the finished song, but later felt glad to have positively influenced the track.[1]

Rivera recorded at least 12 versions of the saxophone solo but ultimately the first version was used in the final release, despite some rough edges.[4]

Jones has rated "Urgent" as one of his 11 favorite Foreigner songs, specifically praising Walker's sax solo and Dolby's "freaky" riffs.[5]


Billboard said that "Guitars and keyboards supply the rhythmic punch on this tasty rocker."[6] Billboard reviewer Gary Graff rated "Urgent" to be Foreigner's all-time greatest song, particularly praising Dolby's synthesizer and Walker's saxophone but also saying that the song "would have been killer" even without the sax solo.[7] Record World said that "From the opening keyboard throbs to Lou Gramm's lusty vocal growls to Jr. Walker's sax heat, this rocker...is headed to the top of AOR-pop playlists."[8] Classic Rock History critic Brian Kachejian rated it as Foreigner's 6th best song, saying that the "rowdy bouncy feel...is highly addictive."[9]

Chart performance[edit]

The song entered the U.S. pop charts the week ending July 4, 1981, and reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, holding that spot for the entire month of September.[10] "Urgent" hit #1 on the Billboard Rock Tracks chart, a position it held for four weeks.[11]

"Urgent" was the most successful single from the 4 album on album-oriented rock radio, though it was outsold by the album's later single, "Waiting for a Girl Like You", which reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1981 and remained at that spot through the end of the following January, for a total of ten weeks, being certified Gold. 4 went Gold and Platinum during the chart run of the "Urgent" single. The album has since been certified multi-platinum by the RIAA, for selling over six million copies in the U.S. alone.[12]

The song was Foreigner's second-best-selling single (after "I Want to Know What Love Is") in both Canada and Sweden, reaching #1 in Canada in September 1981 and #20 in Sweden in March 1982.[13] In Australia, "Urgent" peaked at #24 in November 1981, but remained in the Top 50 for 24 weeks. In the UK, the song reached only #54 upon its first release in 1981. In 1982, after "Waiting for a Girl Like You" went Top Ten there, "Urgent" was re-released, this time reaching only slightly higher, peaking at #45.[14]

Chart history[edit]

Track listings[edit]

  • 1981: "Urgent" b/w "Girl on the Moon" (Atlantic 3831) US 7" single
  • 1981: "Urgent" b/w "Girl on the Moon" (Atlantic 11665) UK 7" single
  • 1982: "Urgent" b/w "Head Games" (live) (Atlantic 11728) UK 7" single
  • 1982: "Urgent" b/w "Head Games" (live)/"Hot Blooded" (live) (Atlantic 11728) UK 12" single



Additional personnel

Other versions[edit]

Foreigner performs a live version of the song on the 1993 album Classic Hits Live.

A live concert version by the 2005 incarnation of the band, featuring Kelly Hansen on vocals, can be heard on the release Extended Versions.

Junior Walker covered the song and recorded it using Motown Records. It was featured in the 1985 movie "Desperately Seeking Susan."

Shannon version[edit]

Single by Shannon
from the album Do You Wanna Get Away
ReleasedSeptember 30, 1985
  • Chris Barbosa
  • Mark Liggett
Shannon singles chronology
"Stronger Together"
"Stop the Noise"

Electropop/R&B singer Shannon recorded a version of the Foreigner hit for her 1985 album Do You Wanna Get Away. Foreigner's label, Atlantic Records, distributed Mirage, the label for the Shannon release.[26] The song was the album's fourth single, peaking at #68 for two weeks on Billboard's R&B Singles chart in November and December 1985.[27] A 12" remix of the mid-tempo track was not the major dance hit of her previous releases.

Track listings[edit]

12" Single

  1. Urgent - 5:10
  2. Do You Wanna Get Away - 4:54


Chart (1985) Peak
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard) 68
UK Singles Chart 84[28]

Radio DCS[edit]

Austrian band Radio DCS released a cover version of the song on their debut album I Try My Best To Mainstream and entered the European alternative charts (WEEK 49 . December 3, 2012) at position #8.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kielty, Martin (June 24, 2021). "40 Years Ago: Foreigner Release 'Urgent' Single". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  2. ^ Graff, Gary GraffGary (2023-03-25). "Billy Joel Saxophonist Mark Rivera on the Life of a Sideman". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 2023-05-18.
  3. ^ "Mick Jones Foreigner Interview - Writing Their Classic Hits". www.songwriteruniverse.com. 2016-10-12. Retrieved 2023-05-18.
  4. ^ Greene, Andy. "Saxophonist Mark Rivera on His Years With Billy Joel, Ringo Starr, Foreigner, and More". Rolling Stone.
  5. ^ "Mick Jones' 11 Favourite Foreigner Songs". Classic Rock. Louder Sound. April 26, 2017. Retrieved 2022-06-17.
  6. ^ "Top Single Picks". Billboard. July 4, 1981. p. 82. Retrieved 2023-01-21.
  7. ^ Graff, Gary (October 11, 2017). "Foreigner's 10 Best Songs: Critic's Picks". Billboard. Retrieved 2022-06-17.
  8. ^ "Hits of the Week" (PDF). Record World. July 4, 1981. p. 1. Retrieved 2023-02-28.
  9. ^ Kachejian, Brian. "Top 10 Foreigner Songs". Classic Rock History. Retrieved 2023-01-20.
  10. ^ Top Music Charts – Hot 100 – Billboard 200 – Music Genre Sales
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 234.
  12. ^ RIAA - Gold & Platinum - August 12, 2008
  13. ^ swedishcharts.com - Foreigner - Urgent
  14. ^ polyhex.com UK Singles Chart runs
  15. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  16. ^ "Foreigner singles". The Official Chart Company. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  17. ^ "Foreigner Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  18. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  19. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 234.
  20. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, September 19, 1981
  21. ^ polyhex.com UK Singles Chart runs
  22. ^ The 1981 Top 100 Singles chart is identified by the RPM Year-End article "Top 100 Singles (1981)". RPM. Retrieved 2018-01-05.
  23. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  24. ^ Musicoutfitters.com
  25. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 26, 1981
  26. ^ Atlantic Records Story
  27. ^ Top Music Charts – Hot 100 – Billboard 200 – Music Genre Sales
  28. ^ officialcharts.com

External links[edit]