Rising to the challenge is something musician Thom Gimbel thought to himself he could do if ever asked to perform Foreigner’s song “Urgent.”
In the early 1990s, Gimbel got that call when Foreigner asked him to join the hard rock band after being impressed with his performances with Aerosmith. Gimbel was comfortable playing in front of thousands of people after his days in Aerosmith. It didn’t take long before Foreigner put Gimbel’s skills to the test to master the part saxophonist Junior Walker made famous on “Urgent.”
“Foreigner calls, and we’re doing some of our first shows,” Gimbel said. “It must have been New Year’s of ’92. They said we’re going to live TV and we want you to hit the high note on the saxophone on ‘Urgent’ right at midnight and there’s estimated viewership of 56 million or something like that. I was like OK, no problem, we can do this. … Sure, I was warming up beforehand, though. I was taking no chances.”
Gimbel said he hit the high notes and later the band allowed him to make some alterations to “Urgent” so he would not be flailing around and gasping for air after performing the song night after night.
“Eventually, I said, what if we modulate to a different key, then I can do something else and come back and it worked really well,” Gimbel said. “The band helped with the arrangement of the idea, and it just absolutely fit.”
Gimbel takes on several musical duties in the band, including backup vocals, rhythm and some lead guitar, flute and keyboards. He said the band works as a team, with frontman Kelly Hansen taking the lead and knocking it out of the park every show.
After all these years, Gimbel continues to enjoy performing Foreigner’s music catalog.
“I think all the songs resonate with me, but I get a supercharge of adrenaline with ‘Urgent,’ when I grab that saxophone,” he said. “That’s a direct shot of adrenaline straight to the central nervous system. They’re all like that, just starting with ‘Double Vision’ – the guitar riff in ‘Double Vision’ is so much fun to play, and those massive power chords in ‘Juke Box Hero.’ The signature riff in ‘Hot Blooded’ on guitar and ‘Waiting for a Girl Like You,’ I’ve always loved that song. I get to sing it in harmony with Kelly and everything; it’s pure joy. That’s why we feel so fortunate to keep this music going strong.”