Sax Appeal: 12 Songs That Prove Saxophones Belong In Rock & Roll

Hole frontwoman and widow of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain Courtney Love is considered something of an authority when it comes to rock and roll, but many now feel she overstepped the mark when during a recent video blog, she chastised The Boss for his use of saxophone.

“My Springsteen problem is just that saxophones don’t belong in rock & roll,” Love proclaimed. “They just don’t belong.” Of course, if rock and roll itself is anything to go by, saxophones not only have a place in rock and roll, they can even enhance a rock song, just ask, say, Pink Floyd.

Or ask frequent sax-offenders The Rolling Stones, or even punk rock forebears The Stooges, or Bob Seger and Huey Lewis and the News, or you can ask Men At Work, all of whom prominently featured sax in some of their most enduring work, and all of whom we’ve decided to give props to…

Pink Floyd – Us And Them

Us And Them featured as the longest song on Pink Floyd‘s classic 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon. Written by Richard Wright and Roger Waters, it features two saxophone solos, one towards the beginning and another closer to the end, both performed by session musician Dick Parry.

Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street

This sax lead is so iconic you sometimes forget that the song actually has verses too. How iconic is it? It’s probably the only sax part outside of jazz to have its own urban myths surrounding it, including one that claims session player Raphael Ravenscroft was given a bounced check of £27 for his part.

The Revels – Comanche

Surf rockers The Revels featured saxophone in many of their songs, and perhaps most famously in Comanche, which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1994 Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction. We’re pretty sure The Revels are proud to have their track forever associated with “the Gimp.”

Huey Lewis and the News – I Want A New Drug

You like Huey Lewis and the News? Their early work was a little too “new wave” for our tastes, but when Sports came out in ’83, they really came into their own. We think their undisputed masterpiece is I Want A New Drug, a song so catchy, people probably don’t listen to the sax, but they should! It not only gives the song a nice kick, it’s an important statement about the band itself. Hey, Courtney!

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Jungleland (Live)

Ah, the man at the centre of all the controversy, Bruce Springsteen. While Ms Love can sit happily with her copy of 1982’s dark, sombre, and sparsely arranged Nebraska, we’re going straight to where the sax is. Give us the opening of Born To Run, give us some of that live Jungleland!

David Bowie – Modern Love

Modern Love was the first song on David Bowie‘s 1983 album Let’s Dance. Produced by Bowie and disco and R&B master Nile Rodgers, the saxophone line was provided by Robert Aaron. As you can tell by the clip, the song made for lots of good times on Bowie’s Serious Moonlight tour.


Men At Work – Who Can It Be Now?

Who Can It Be Now? was released by Aussie new-wavers Men At Work in 1981, featuring on the album Business as Usual and reaching #2 on the Australian singles chart. The song’s prominent saxophone line was provided by Greg Ham. We hope it wasn’t taken from a song about birds.

The Rolling Stones – Slave

Slave featured on The Rolling Stones‘ 1981 album Tattoo You. Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the song features legendary jazz and hard bop saxophonist Sonny Rollins. No strangers to sax, the band’s classic 1972 album Exile on Main St was filled with plenty of alto and tenor too.

Romeo Void – Never Say Never

American new-wave band Romeo Void had a huge hit in 1982 with Never Say Never, which was punctuated with post-punk guitars and short saxophone lines. Here, the saxophone lends a creepy, voyeuristic, noir undertone to the mostly spoken lyrics – very, very rock and roll.


The Stooges – Fun House

Fun House, taken from the 1970 Stooges album of the same name. Largely credited — along with the band’s other early albums — as laying the foundation for punk, it features saxophonist Steve Mackay playing amid the band’s powerful proto-punk and frontman Iggy Pop‘s relentless vocals.


Fear – New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones

LA punk rockers Fear released their debut album The Record in 1982, which featured a song by the name of New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones. The track is full of energy, and of course full of saxophone, but was often criticised because of its homophobic lyrical content.


Bob Seger – Old Time Rock and Roll

Old Time Rock and Roll was written by George Jackson, and was recorded by Bob Seger for his 1978 album Stranger In Town. The song’s iconic saxophone lines are still used in a running gag called “Hot Sax” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (and before that on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon), in which cast members mime the song’s sax solo as the recording is played.


Jimmy Fallon’s “Hot Sax” Running Gag (Featuring Sharon Jones)

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