Mick Jones and Son Talk Family Business
by jason fitzroy jeffers
Mick Jones not only founded legendary rock band Foreigner, he penned epic ’80s rock ballads such as “I Want to Know What Love Is” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” thus providing the soundtrack to countless romances, and prompting sales of more than 80 million albums around the world. What’s less known is that Miami’s Roman Jones, one of the managing partners of The Opium Group, is his son. It seems entertainment is in the blood, as Roman is responsible for some of the biggest and most opulent nightclubs South Beach has ever seen. In February of 2012, they both put their demanding lives on hold when the elder Jones was forced to undergo bypass surgery here in Miami at Mount Sinai Medical Center for an arterial blockage. After a brief period of recovery, Mick triumphantly returned to the road with Foreigner last August, and was just inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in June. Ocean Drive was present for a candid father-and-son heart-to-heart at Mansion nightclub about their family adventures.
Roman Jones: People always think we had this crazy rockstar upbringing, but it was always well balanced. Actually, I can remember the first time I saw you live. I must have been around 8 years old, and I just couldn’t grasp what was going on. I honestly believed you were playing a trick on me. I thought these 20,000 people in the audience were just pretending that Dad was famous. It was overwhelming. I find you’ve finally found the perfect balance between being a rock star and being a dad. How did you approach fatherhood, and how has that changed through the years?
Mick Jones: It had a lot to do with my parents and the way they raised me. Even though there were some crazy years in the late ’70s and early ’80s between success, touring, and a couple of marriages, I always depended on what I learned from them. I remember the great times, but I also remember being frustrated because I missed out on taking the kids to school, going to football games. About 10 years ago, I cleaned up my act completely. Now I can lead by example, and I’m available quite a bit more.
RJ: You were a good dad, and you always paid attention to us. Maybe having less of someone who’s amazing works out just as well in the end. Honestly, I was convinced that you didn’t do anything bad.
MJ: Whatever I did recreationally, I was set on my children not knowing. I remember smoking a joint one night—when I was writing, I’d smoke a bit to free my mind up—and you came into the room and smelled it immediately. You got so upset with me because you thought I never indulged in anything like that. I remember the look on your face! In general, your life was a bit bumpy during those years. You grew up really quickly. You became cheekier and cheekier.
RJ: Growing up, I’d have girls always ask me if “I’ve been waiting for a girl like them” or say that “they want to know what love is.” I remember girls coming backstage with breasts the size of my head asking, “Can you sign my T-shirt?” Or being on tour, me being 13, and having 23-year-old girls hit on me. It was a lot of fun. You’ve done a few shows since your heart surgery last year. How does it feel to be back on stage after thinking that you might not ever be able to do that again? It must be a bit unreal.
MJ: It’s certainly been a dramatic year. You know, what was really good about it was that it brought us back together and reinforced for me that my son really loves me. You really took care of me, and without you I don’t know that I would have come through it. You were able to put your life on the back burner and make me the focus to help me to recover. It was incredible.
RJ: In life, things come and go, but your family is always with you, so you have to put them first. It was a great bonding experience. You’ve been honored by the Songwriters Hall of Fame. It must feel great to get critical acclaim from your peers—respected songwriters and musicians.
MJ: It’s very special as far as my songwriting, as it’s really the basis of my success. The achievement for me was writing simple songs, as those are the hardest to write without being corny and tacky. I grew up idolizing musicians who were also writers—people like Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles.
RJ: You’ve gone to legendary clubs in your heyday. What do you see in clubs today versus back then?
MJ: Just look at where we’re sitting now [at Mansion]: There was nothing like this when I was partying back then! I’m amazed at the way you run things. I’ve seen how meticulous you are about detail. There could be one blown light up on the wall, number 20 as you go across, and you’ll raise hell about it. I’m dazzled by what goes on, and I’m very proud of you.
RJ: Growing up on tour and seeing you be so meticulous about sound and the stage setup was contagious. You set a high standard. Whenever I feel like I’m accomplishing something—I’ve got a big head, all of us kids have big heads in a way—we have to stop and ask ourselves, “Have we written songs that people will be singing 50 years after we’re dead?” You’re a tough act to follow.
photography by fan photo (mick jones); ian witlen (roman jones, mick jones, tattoo); les jones (family dinner)