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Foreigner’s Thom Gimbel Talks Long Road To Right Dimension

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Foreigner is currently on a run of shows that will offer fans the chance to hear songs such as “I Want To Know What Love Is” in an acoustic setting.

Multi-instrumentalist Thom Gimbel, who joined the band in the 1990s, says that Foreigner is his true musical home. Gimbel graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston in the 1980s and soon found himself playing with acclaimed songwriter Jon Butcher.

“He was already a national act even though he was based in New England,” Gimbel says.

The two met when Gimbel’s band shared a bill with the Jon Butcher Axis. Butcher liked what he heard and invited Gimbel to jam with the group.

“I got to work with him, and then we went on to record three albums on Capitol [Records],” Gimbel recalls. “We toured around the States. It was a great time for me. I was learning how to ride the tour bus and learning how to play the big venues. We were on tour with INXS, I think. It was a tremendous learning experience.”

When his time with Jon Butcher came to an end, Gimbel joined Aerosmith just as the group was ascending to its greatest commercial heights, though Gimbel says he was always aware of his status as a non-original member.

“They were the five originals, and I was the extra guy,” he says, “so it’s a bit of a solitary category. Did you ever see that episode of 'Star Trek' where Kirk is trapped in another dimension? He keeps kind of floating in and out, they see him for a second and then they don’t? That’s what it felt like, being trapped in limbo. You’re in your own category.”

Throughout it all, Foreigner was never far from his mind. He says he found particular comfort in one classic Foreigner tune from 1984’s Agent Provocateur, “That Was Yesterday.”

“To this day it has a special meaning in my heart,” Gimbel says. “I was moving across the country. I was packing up, and all the words just rang so true and resonated. I think I kept playing that song over and over while I was packing. In those days it meant picking up the needle and putting it back over that song. I just loved it. Still, to this day, I loved the chords, the melody, the harmony, the rhythm and the lyric. It’s a wonderful feeling to think about that: how we move forward and, even though we let go of the past, we don’t forget it.”

When he had the chance to join the band, he was thrilled, he says, in part because he would finally be able to play the saxophone solo on the group’s early ‘80s hit “Urgent” in its proper context: a Foreigner concert.

“I always dreamed of doing that sax solo,” he says. “I just thought it was the greatest sax solo on a rock record that I’ve ever heard. So I always thought, ‘Gosh, I bet I could do that if I had to.’ When Foreigner called, I realized it was my chance to grab that sax solo, and I just dug in with every tooth and nail, and I have kind of done the same ever since, even though it’s coming up on 25 years ago. That’s always been my mission, to play that Junior Walker sax solo as close as I can to perfection.”

Foreigner performs at the Stiefel Theatre in Salina Thursday evening.


Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.


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