The tragic death of E Street Band sax player Clarence Clemons brought back the thought of my love of a good sax solo. Sometimes, instrumental music does something that vocals cannot, and the saxophone being played in rock and roll hits is no exception. It's kind of a weakness. Since we're on the topic of the saxophone being played in rock and roll, I am going to list a few of my favorites. I will not be doing any ranking, simply because I don't feel like doing so, plus there will be several more ranking submissions the go around. I just feel like naming some of my favorites that are settled on my mind. I may leave out a few that should be on here, but for now, I'm putting those that I have listened to and thoroughly enjoyed. Here we go...
You Belong To The City (Bill Bergman)- Glenn Frey of The Eagles had a hit with the 1985 hit featured on the soundtrack for "Miami Vice." The solo provides a bluesy tone to city life during the night. It creates such a fascinating picture that you takes you, places you in a seat, and then you fly off into paradise. The sax solos and sax background gives it just the right "umph" you are looking for in a sax solo provided hit.
Harden My Heart (Rindy Ross)- Quarterflash released this song back in 1980 and on their album a year later. The song is one of those cheesy, but addicting hits of the eighties, as there were so many from the eighties like there are in any decade. What made this song such a success were the powerful sax solos at the beginning and middle of the song. Ross is one of the few female saxophonists in the rock and roll world and she's a really good one at that. While there are only two sax solos in the song, they make a strong impact on the song.
Take Me Home Tonight (Eddie Money)- Eddie Money's upbeat hit is known for the incorporation of The Ronettes front lady Ronnie Specter, singing part of her sixties hit "Be My Baby." What should be noted is the brief, but powerful sax solo that Eddie Money injected into his song. The solo is fast and flows to the tune so well. It hooks you so much and it makes you wish that there's was more where that came from.
Only The Lonely (Marty Jourard)- This is a 1982 hit from The Motels and is not a cover of the Roy Orbison hit from 1960. I would quite honestly have never come across this song as a starting product, but came across it when I was looking up sax solos from the 1980's. This is just a powerful, quick, and flawless sax solo that fits well with the song. It's by far the best part of the song and the reason to listen to it, though the song itself is okay as well.
It's Still Rock And Roll To Me (Richie Cannata)- Billy Joel is a successful singer and this is his most successful song with a sax solo. By this time, Billy Joel is beginning to perform music that had a feel from past decades, but at the same time had a current feel to it. The sax solo does it part as a fast and swift player in an upbeat song about recalled the old days of rock and roll.
Heartbreak Hotel (Bill Clinton)- One thing I like about Bill Clinton is his easygoing personality. He comes off as being such a friendly guy who would be a great guy to hang out with. In 1992, he went on The Arsenio Hall Show when running for president. Being a sax player, he showed a more laid back side of his by performing "Heartbreak Hotel" on his sax. It's just interesting that a political figure can really play his hand at rock and roll sax playing. Then again, political figures are human.
Baker Street (Raphael Ravenscroft)- This song put the sax solo over the top. This Gerry Rafferty hit is a sad little tune about typical frustrations and how this typical fellow takes out his problems by drinking and ultimately gives up drinking by the songs end. However, while this song was originally supposed to have a guitar solo, swifted to sax solo after a suggestion to do so. The solo is injected into the song perfectly and is given a fair amount of time in the song. The sax solo from Ravenscroft just sends you to another place, feeling like a walk on the evening streets of a flashy city. This sax solo is the bait that lured me in to other great sax solos. It's a shame that Gerry Rafferty died earlier this year.
Jungleland (Clarence Clemons)- If there's any sax player that stands out more than any other in rock and roll, it would have to be the late saxophonist from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, Clarence Clemons. I first heard of him when The Boss gave mention to him in his Christmas hit "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," where he is mentioned as Springsteen mentions that he ask Santa to get him a new saxophone. Then, the Big Man played away. He also had a part in Roy Orbison's "We'll Take The Night," featured on his posthumous 1992 album King Of Hearts. However, I felt his biggest showcase of his talent is from Springsteen's "Jungleland," where Clemons is given the spotlight to just play away, and play away he did. Clemons performance of "Jungleland" was one that left me hooked, wanting to keep on playing it. He just keeps on going. Clemons will surely be missed as a key role in the spice to Springsteen's great hits.
The sax solo has made a difference in rock and roll. It has created a ride for the listener that made the ride only more exciting. If I think of any more hits, I will have to share them I next time I write about saxophones, but there may be an amount of time that passes before that event occurs. Now I'm left to wonder whether or not they have angels up at the pearly gates that know how to play the saxophone.