#21 – A Tongue-in-Cheek Look At The Saxophone


It’s one of those instruments that is often derided as the soundtrack to tacky porn or bad 80’s theme tunes, but today I would like to propose that the Sax is actually awesome. That’s not to say it’s not guilty of the above, just that there are better sides to it.

How about we start with a super brief summary of what wikipedia has to say. It was invented by Adolf Sax, a Belgian, in 1841. Apparently he wanted to create an instrument that sounded like the human voice. He patented it in 1846. Blah blah blah. Basically that’s all we need to know about how / when it was invented. Now on to the important stuff: why it’s worth listening to.

Obviously there are countless inspired jazz players who have made the sax famous. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane and Sidney Bechet are just some names that roll off the tongue. So here’s a song by the late, great John Coltrane…

John Coltrane – Blue Train
Get the song here. Buy his music here.

But it’s not all about jazz. Rock bands have been using the sax for ever. Just think of that solo in Pink Floyds ‘Money’. Can’t remember it? Here you go then.

Pink Floyd – Money
Download the song here. Buy their albums here.

Yup, it just was that good. Here’s one that I almost forgot to put in. How absurd is that? Forgetting one of the all-time biggest Sax riffs ever. Tell me if I’m wrong on that account.

Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street

Get it here. Buy more Gerry Rafferty here.

Inevitably, if I’m going to talk about Sax in popular music Huey Lewis and the news are going to have to make an appearance. Patrick Bateman is a massive fan and if he says something, I’m inclined to agree with him. So when he argues that their undisputed masterpiece is ‘Hip To Be Square’, I’d be mad not to put it up. Turn this one up very loud.

Huey Lewis & The News – Hip To Be Square
Download it here. Get more Huey here.

While I’m in the 80’s, how about we visit a Mr George Michael. Yup, he’s a weed smoking, car crashing toilet loiterer, but he knows how to put together a song with a sax solo. Case in hand, Careless Whisper. For the record, the only bit worth listening to comes in at about 1:26. Feel free to disregard the rest of the song.

George Michael – Careless Whisper
Like it? Get the song here. Buy his stuff here.

I realise that at the top I made it out that the Sax being used in 80’s theme tunes was a negative thing, but it would be harsh to rule them all out. So go and watch the Lethal Weapon series. Not only is Mel Gibson not an awful person (in the first couple, by number 4 his slight anti-semitism is apparent) but the action scenes are great. And who doesn’t like Danny Glover?!

Finally, a video treat for you all. Here’s a great song from the late 80’s and you get to see the Sax player walking along the back of the set working his magic. Sorry for pointing you out there dad, your moves are just too good for people not to appreciate.

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