Gratuitous Sax! - Articles - Soundblab

Gratuitous Sax!

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

No sax, please. That, infamously, was one of the pearls of advice given by John Peel to aspiring musicians planning to pop a demo in the post for his edification. In this, as in almost nothing else, the great man was wrong, but you can see where he was coming from. The saxophone has for years divided people with self-consciously cool record collections. Is it a tubular icon of cool, its distinctive sound echoing through jazz, funk, art rock and hip hop? Or is it nothing short of the honking harbinger of the muzak apocalypse, forever summoning images of pony-tailed twots with their suit jacket sleeves rolled up, noodling away at some soulless, self-satisfied bilge?

Well, Soundblab is officially taking a stand and saying, hey - relax, kids, sax is okay. Don't believe us? Then check out Soundblab's Top Ten Greatest Sax-Featuring Tunes of All Time!:

And the greatest sax-y song of all time is of course 'Oh Bondage! Up Yours' by the legendary X-Ray Spex. Here's a clip of the band blasting it out live:

Looking like a spiv on a double dose of Viagra and Quaaludes, it's 70s sex-pot Bryan Ferry and his sax-tastic plea to squeeze Jerry Hall not to run off with Mick Jagger (didn't work):

Funk soul brother No 1, Mr James Brown himself with the positively incendiary 'Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose (In The Jungle Groove Remix)'. So damn sexy it makes actual sex look a little redundant:

To a sexual icon of a very different kind now. A man who can snap knicker elastic at 50 paces despite smelling like an Oxfam clothes bin, Jarvis Cocker was a confirmed saxophobe until he recorded 'Homewrecker!' for his last album Further Complications. Here he is at his live best:

The Contortions were a sax-toting no wave band in seedy late-70s New York. They should have been huge but a toxic combination of drugs, egos and a frontman who liked to start punch-ups with the audience tore them apart. The writhing, splenetic 'Contort Yourself' stands as their greatest moment:

The greatest Motown single ever? Easy! The Velvelettes' 'Needle in a Haystack' offers 2:30 of swinging harmonies, sassy misandery and a blistering sax solo. Peely loved it, you surely do too:

There are so many David Bowie tracks which feature fantastic sax playing from his thin white dukeness, but 'Subterraneans' stands out because of its bleak majesty and the exquisite way the mournful sax, symbolising Berlin's lost days of Weimar decadence, is blended into the whole. Spellbinding:

Seven-plus minutes of utter, glorious chaos from bonkers Krautrock pioneers Faust. 'J'ai Mal Aux Dents', with its bricolage hiss and squeal, zoned-out chanting and verbal diarrhea, is about as far out as you can get. Here, the sax comes as a blessed release from the white noise tension. Rock off!

Did we say the last song was as far out as you can get? Scratch that. Gong, a troupe of pan-European acid-fried freaks, were so far out they made 'far out' look positively in your face. They found their saxophonist living in a cave. 'Flying Teapot', a nigh-on ten minute space rock opus, is about having a cup of tea. Really, what else do need to know to love this band?

They've got to keep that sax solo:

Comments (15)

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I have to confess I was one of those people that hated all things sax. It's all Kenny G's fault and maybe that greasy guy from the beginning of the Lost Boys (his name is Timmy Capello if you're wondering). However there are some great records...

I have to confess I was one of those people that hated all things sax. It's all Kenny G's fault and maybe that greasy guy from the beginning of the Lost Boys (his name is Timmy Capello if you're wondering). However there are some great records with sax, so to add to the above:

The Cure - A Night Like This
Martha & The Muffins - Echo Beach
The Stooges - Fun House
Rolling Stones - Brown Sugar

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like Bob I am a loather of sax - only second to bagpipes on my instruments I dislike, again probably due to extreme over-use in the 70s/80s - again some exceptions

agree with Bob re Martha & The Muffins. I'd like to add:

Most songs by...

like Bob I am a loather of sax - only second to bagpipes on my instruments I dislike, again probably due to extreme over-use in the 70s/80s - again some exceptions

agree with Bob re Martha & The Muffins. I'd like to add:

Most songs by Misty's Big Adventure - I'm So Cool With A Capital C - is a great example
anything by Acoustic Ladyland - sax as a lead should not work but somehow seems to work here
Leeds' Band These Monsters - again use a sax in a non-hating way

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I could easily do another 10. And in fact I will:

The Associates - Waiting for the Loevboat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NdpUGW8ru4
The Cure - Why Can't I Be You?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI0a9hTh5AU
Dave Brubeck - Take Five: http://ww...

I could easily do another 10. And in fact I will:

The Associates - Waiting for the Loevboat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NdpUGW8ru4
The Cure - Why Can't I Be You?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI0a9hTh5AU
Dave Brubeck - Take Five: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2In5a9LDNg&;amp;feature=related
Sun Ra - Rocket No 9: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxhsGrZed_E&;amp;playnext=1&list=PL7322BEA76D906D4C&index=31
Polar Bear - A New Morning Will Come: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymPyeHF6fbU&;amp;feature=related
The Raincoats - Black and White: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JRyk1DFkrw
The Psychedelic Furs - Flowers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QpE-87ruqc
The Waitresses - Christmas Wrapping: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SzjDOk_u9I
Haircut 100 - Love Plus One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXruoM7Ypis&;amp;ob=av2el
ABC - Poison Arrow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Waea3eXnl_o

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And three more:

T.Rex - Mister Mister: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syl074ziwiA&;amp;feature=fvsr
Pigbag - Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omYKI8RJaIg
Rip Rig & Panic - Your My Kind of Climate: http://www.yo...

And three more:

T.Rex - Mister Mister: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syl074ziwiA&;amp;feature=fvsr
Pigbag - Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omYKI8RJaIg
Rip Rig & Panic - Your My Kind of Climate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ak8paRfr2_E

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I think the whole Germfree Adolescents album by X Ray Spex is sax tastic but maybe Bowie's Diamond Dogs just pips it as the best album.

More recently I have to say Mystery Jets - Two Doors Down and lots of Rapture tracks. Until I saw the...

I think the whole Germfree Adolescents album by X Ray Spex is sax tastic but maybe Bowie's Diamond Dogs just pips it as the best album.

More recently I have to say Mystery Jets - Two Doors Down and lots of Rapture tracks. Until I saw the Rapture live a few years back I didn't realise you could make such cool sounds with a sax.

If there's one instrument I hate it's the violin. It just reminds me of Irish music, which then leads to Riverdance, the stupidest dance ever invented, apart from when they do it in the caravan in Father Ted.

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I'd definitely agree with The Stooges- Fun House, Steve Mackay is brilliant and These Monsters use the sax in a similar way. Doesn't always work though, even with great songs (check the version of Galaxie 500s 'Blue Thunder' with sax, coulda been...

I'd definitely agree with The Stooges- Fun House, Steve Mackay is brilliant and These Monsters use the sax in a similar way. Doesn't always work though, even with great songs (check the version of Galaxie 500s 'Blue Thunder' with sax, coulda been left out in my opinion)...I guess everyone needs a Baker Street moment sometimes!

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Sweet Thing/Candidate from Diamond Dogs are two of the best, most under-rated Bowie songs.

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How can you hate the violin Bob!? Just listen to Warren Ellis playing on any Bad Seeds albums or with the Dirty Three...it's quite a way from sounding like Riverdance! The melodica is always nice to hear too, a underused instrument!

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Kool & The Gang - Jungle Boogie hits the spot for me:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl7Bk364UdY

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I'll have to disagree with you Bob re the Violin - it adds so much to post-rock music (GYBE!, Yndi Halda, Detwiije etc), plus rousing guitar music (Arcade Fire, Spokes, The National etc), quieter music (Amiina, Glissando, Blue Roses), as well as...

I'll have to disagree with you Bob re the Violin - it adds so much to post-rock music (GYBE!, Yndi Halda, Detwiije etc), plus rousing guitar music (Arcade Fire, Spokes, The National etc), quieter music (Amiina, Glissando, Blue Roses), as well as Warren Ellis who is a enigma as a violinist....

Oh and Two Doors Down is a cracking pop song where I just tune out when the sax comes in near the end - a pointless and unnecessary addition for me!! ah well!

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