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Posts Tagged ‘Saxophone’

I got a fevah. And the only prescription is… more SAX

In They have the Fever on January 23, 2009 at 12:49 am

Sometimes, when in the right hands, the sax is better than sex.  I mean, so I’ve heard.  I can’t play the sax, and I’m not married yet, so I kind of just have to rely on second hand accounts of both.  Two loyal JSF readers, the golden god Joe Sarge and Tommy (aka Maine Coast 12) Nale, love the 80s.  And they love the sax.  Particularly, they seemed to love when the sax and the 80s mixed.  I was intrigued so I asked for them to provide the first ever guest contribution on John Stamos Fever.  And what I got was a brilliant tornado of emails filled with gems from these two.  When the dust finally settled, here’s what I was able to piece together:

While the sax may not be the uber instrument some wish it to be, with correct placement and execution, it has the power to raise a song to that next level of greatness.  Historians have theorized for decades about when the true birth of the saxophone as a dominant instrument occurred, but few argue with the fact that Gerry Rafferty, fresh off some great work with Stealers Wheel, really held the coming out party for the saxophone.  He helped make it a staple, God bless him.  And a staple it has stayed.  The high was when our president was a rock star on the sax.  The higher, of course, was James Brown’s “Living in America.”  What a classic.  You just know that James was sitting around his mansion, smoking some crack, and saying, albeit inaudibly, “How can I make this song I’m using in Rocky IV more hip?”  Clearly, in a cloud of smoke and after several pipe burns, he found his answer.  Unfortunately he was not prescient enough to find a way to save Apollo from a vicious and fatal beatdown.

Yes, the 80s were a dominant decade, and the sax was there to usher it in.  For example, there’s the heavy sax usage in the “The Heat Is On,” a song that not only launched Glenn Frey’s solo career (and a completely kick-ass appearance on Miami Vice) but also served as the intro for the opening credits in one of [Tommy’s] favorite movies, and arguably the first buddy-cop comedy ever, Beverly Hills Cop.  The sax wasn’t done though.  By 1985, it was just getting warmed up as the last two minutes or so of Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” is just one big sax orgasm.

There are many ways to incorporate the saxophone into a song but all methods result in the aural bliss we have come to love and sometimes crave uncontrollably.  The Sarge has broken the way the sax is used in songs, and in movies, into the following four categories:

Ultimate Sax:  Some songs just grab the sax and run with it.  The lead singer knows when they have to bow down to the instrument, for it is the star.  Huey Lewis and the News and James Brown had that big band sound and made liberal use of the saxophone. The aforementioned “Living in America” and “Back in Time” are not only fantastic but helped to make Rocky IV and Back to the Future the awe inspiring films they are.

Sax on repeat: Other songs feature the sax appearing again and again. “Who Can it Be Now” and “Overkill” by Men At Work and “Your Latest Trick” by Dire Straits are such gems.  Each of these keep coming back to the saxophone just as Rambo keeps single-handedly defeating entire armies and saving the day.

Sax solo: Hits like “If You Leave” by OMD, “Never Surrender” by Corey Hart, “Rio” by Duran Duran, and even “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys blindside you with amazing saxophone breakdowns.  Some are short and sweet while others are quite substantial.  In terms of drinking, the sax solo “was to music what an Irish Car Bomb is to a night of drinking–everyone’s enjoying the show, cruising along and having a good time until the Car Bomb’s start flowing, and then holy hell it’s all over, people take it to the next level, and awesomeness ensues.”

Happy ending sax: A Happy ending sax hit, much like its massage counterpart, finishes off with something extra and leaves the listener with a wonderful sense of euphoria.  “Dancing in the Dark” by Springsteen, while having some difficult to hear sax throughout, kicks it up a notch at the end.  And while listening to “Super Freak” by Rick James or “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, you’re probably thinking, “This can’t possibly get any better” and then wham, super crazy awesome saxophone solo that blows your mind.

Experts still won’t go as far as to say that the sax is inherently awesome–although it may well be.  Many think that maybe it just seems more awesome because it’s involved in a lot of awesome songs.  It’s in “Bad to the Bone.”  80’s legends Huey Lewis, Hall and Oates, Dire Straits, Bruce Springsteen, INXS, Eddie Money, Gloria Estefan, and of course, Billy Ocean all had some big boy sax solos in some of their best 80’s hits.

Maybe the sax is entirely awesome (though nobody thinks Kenny G is awesome) all on it’s own, but it’s more likely the product of great placement and kick-ass timing.  Yes, the era of sax solos seemed to end with the 80s but the songs we got from it can still melt your face off with their awesomeness.