1.23.2009

You Can Put Your Sorries in a Sax, Mister!

It is my belief that there are certain instruments that go in and out of fashion in rock, and others that will always be a part of its musical landscape (like your core instruments of guitars and drums, and variations of the piano). Typically these "additional instruments, like the mandolin, percussion instruments like timpanis and bongos, vocorders, etc add a texture to music on a song-by-song basis and give the ear a little variety.

However, there is one instrument that I feel needs to be retired from ever being used in ANY kind of rock format, and that is the saxophone. I am not referring to the instrument as part of a brass ensemble, like what you would hear on Motown or Staxx albums or the like, where they add to the rhythm and melody of a song. I am talking about the solo sax-that grating, pealing, psuedo-rock posturing piece of metal that can turn a good song into a cringe-inducing, dated homage to what was once cool (I'll add the postulate discounting songs from the 1950s, because it did represent rock back then).

Whenever I hear a sax solo, particularly in music from the 1980s, I have a combination of a laughing-and-cringing facial reflex. My mind forms a distinct image of a guy with those big, black Ray-bans that are supposed to cool but do the exact opposite. I imagine this character leaning back as he lets loose with a sound not unlike the Devil letting out a a high-pitched gas emission. I see a crowd of 80s-banged folks in puffy fluorescent outfits clapping along with big smiles in a club like the one in 48 Hours and wooping it up. Much like a scene from Eddie and the Cruisers II. This is why I was never a Springsteen fan and why I am concerned about The Hold Steady and The Killers.

The sax is the equivalent of your dad wearing black socks with sandals, and it needs to go away.

Forever.

Is there an instrument in rock you think should have a lifetime ban, or at least be on probation?

-Chris

5 comments:

Wit said...

Best. Post. Title. EVER.

However, I disagree with your opinion that the saxophone should be retired from rock forever. Sure, it's out of vogue now, but you'll be rockin' the Alto in a few years, you watch. I remember, in the mid-90's when Neil Young made a resurgence (again), I said "We should ban this hippie/folk/cut-your-damn-hair-and-beard music from rock forever. At least a lifetime ban on "country" lyrics like descriptions of sleeping under a Dogwood Tree". That type of narrative holds NO PLACE in rock. Now look. Blitzen Trapper and the like are driving all the kids crazy. You'd think they invented folk music! But I digress. Mark my words, Chris. You'll be BEGGING for more saxophone before the end of the decade.

Matt said...

Although the saxophone is definitely a dated sound in most music, I gotta disagree on the Springsteen comment. That is the one artist that can get away with having a saxophone and you should check out the Hammersmith Odeon, London '75 live show, which is one of the greatest live rock recordings, to prove my point.

Also, everyone should be concerned about the Killers...but for some many reasons in addition to ones mentioned here.

You know what instrument we need more of? The Keytar.

Anonymous said...

So if the sax is banned, what would happen to the carnival scene from lost boys? "I Still Believe" just wouldn't be the same...

Jenny (Matt's sister, but not the one he stole soundtracks from...)

Chris said...

Jenny called me out, and I accept it. However, I will defend my position that the song "I Still Believe" was not my favorite on the album, and the sax did have something to do with it. But, that being said, I'd hate to lose the scene of a creepily glistening muscular guy playing a sax in front of Star and Michael...

Matt said...

no kidding. that scene is gold.