The Worst Uses of Rock Sax
From the late ’70s and into the early ’90s, the charts were ripe with serious saxophone stinkers. Here are 10 that give new meaning to “breaking wind”
In terms of instruments that have completely lost their luster in rock ‘n’ roll, the saxophone hovers at the top of the list (beaten only by the keytar).
What was once an essential ingredient of early R&B, soul and garage rock has now pretty much become a punchline. The reason? Its atrocious misuse in numerous hits of the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s, when the sax became synonymous with cheesy blaring, honking and “quiet storm” come-on attempts.
Here are the 10 biggest groan inducers of that era, sax-men – and women – who should’ve known when to use a mute.
10. Eddie Money – “Take Me Home Tonight”
Eddie and a ladder rock an empty concert hall – with Ronnie Spector slinking around backstage, apparently trying to locate the entrance, Spinal Tap-style. The sax doesn’t come in until the 2:05 mark, but Eddie’s all over that shit. Banging on ladders, wheezing into woodwinds … the man can do it all! Actually, had the auditorium been packed, the crowd would’ve quickly thinned out.
9. Quarterflash – “Harden My Heart”
Otherwise known as “the ’80s hit by that lady who looks like your mom.” The sax comes storming out of the gate at the beginning, then come keeps popping back in like an unwelcome guest who forgot his keys, then his cell phone, then his leftover beer…
8. Wham! – “Careless Whisper”
The biggest hit on this list practically defined the ’80s sax sound: seductive and sappy. There’s no discreet “whisper” here; that horn’s as in-your-face as a belligerent drill instructor. Later covered by Seether, sans sax, in an even more ear-bleeding version.
7. Icehouse – “Electric Blue”
Jesus, these guys have so many things working against them already – unfortunate mullets, Debbie Gibson hats, a general attitude of “hot shitness” – the last thing they need is a terrible sax solo to further crap up their song. But that’s just what they give us on a poo-poo platter at the 2:00 mark, with a looooong sloooooow instrumental break.
6. Tim Capello (a.k.a. Saxophone Guy from “Lost Boys”) – “I Still Believe”
What happens when an oily meathead, some gyrating hips, a jackhammer-like sax and an approving Corey Haim meet? Somewhere, rock ‘n’ roll weeps quietly to itself.
Click on page 2 below for more dis-sax-tisfaction.
5. Alf Season 3 Theme
Alf ditched the synth-y intro bestowed upon his first two seasons for a more smooth sound in 1988. The end result had a very Alan Thicke vibe to it. We would’ve preferred something with, say, a little more “Magnum P.I. Theme” intensity. Fuck off, Alf.
4. Gerry Rafferty – “Baker Street”
Apologies in advance: This one’s gonna be stuck in your head for eternity. Possibly the only sax tune with more urgency than Foreigner’s “Urgent,” “Baker Street” was such a huge hit in 1978, it actually spurred a sax resurgence known as “the ‘Baker Street’ phenomenon.” How people didn’t realize what a godawful song it was back then is beyond us. The only good thing about “B.S.” is the sax player’s badass name: Raphael Ravenscroft. Please don’t tell him we were talking shit.
3. Tim Curry – “I Do the Rock”
Most likely recorded while Tim Curry was sitting on a mountain of blow, “I Do the Rock” lurches forward awkwardly while an enthusiastic sax-man tags along for the ride. The effect is comparable to listening to the high-pitched snickering of that little guy who hung out with Jabba the Hutt.
2. Clarence Clemons and Jackson Browne – “You’re a Friend of Mine”
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band did their best to keep the saxophone respectable in the ’80s, but when “The Big Man” Clarence Clemons recorded a solo effort and brought in Jackson Browne to lay down a bromance track, a team-up of uber-lame proportions ensued. Browne’s girlfriend at the time, Daryl Hannah, hangs out on a couch and paints, hoping to at least get a meal afterward.
1. Candy Dulfer and Dave Stewart – “Lily Was Here”
Candy Dulfer was a pretty smokin’ 21-year-old who’d already been name-checked by Prince when she and the Eurymthics’ Dave Stewart recorded this four-minute slice of horn-blown hell. The only thing worse than trying to make the saxophone sexy is naming your album “Saxuality.” Dulfer was guilty of both.