Mix Six: “Sax in the ’80s”
About once a month I’ll send off an email to Ted with suggestions for Mix Sixes. Usually he incorporates them into his post, which I greatly appreciate. This past Friday I came up with something ludicrous and sent it with the message, “Ted, here’s a Mix Six for when you’re really desperate.” Little did I know that my good friend Mr. Asregadoo was going to take some time off. His email back was “Hey this would be fun, Scott, why don’t you do it up for next week?”Â To me it read, “Great job, Scott, I’m on my way out the door so… whydon’tyoudotheMixSixformenextweekseeya.” Door slams!
So now you’re all stuck with my lame-ass “Sax in the ’80s” Mix. Enjoy!
Oh, and I apologize for not having the true mix up for y’all. I don’t have the software to do things up properly.–Scott
Before Dave Matthews made the saxophone cool again (RIP Mr. Moore), several of bands in the 1980s (mostly early ’80s) were incorporating the famous woodwind instrument into their sound, and I’m not just talking about a certain dude from Jersey (or that other dude from Jersey who sounds just like the first dude from Jersey and whose music was used for a cult film called Eddie and the Cruisers). In fact, several modern rock bands had sax in them as a central part to their makeup. Today we look at some of those acts and their well-known songs.
“Who Can It be Now?” Men at Work (download)
Why not start with the Grammy Award-winning act from down under? Men at Work’s sax player, Greg Ham, was a multi-instrumentalist who also played flute, organ and synths. This song is defined by the opening sax lick. The minute you hear it you know immediately that it’s Men at Work from their debut album, Business as Usual. This is one of the good ones from the early ’80s. It holds up despite being overplayed in its day. I still crack up at the sight of lead singer Colin Hay getting startled while he sits at the kitchen table in the video. Okay, enough yapping. Here’s the song that was an international hit and featured in one of my favorite movies, Valley Girl.
“Remember the Nights,” the Motels (download)
I’m sure you were expecting a different Motels song that made them a lot of money. However, “Only the Lonely” from 1982 was a little too obvious (what, and “Who Can It Be Now?” and “Harden My Heart” aren’t?). I’ve always loved this song, the second single from the Motels’ 1983 album, Little Robbers. Martha Davis has such a great, bluesy voice, and sax player Marty JourardÂ brings an urgency and passion to his playing that matches Davis note for note. Unfortunately you never hear this song on the radio, even though it was a top 40 hit.Â On a side note, my dad is a sax player and he once appeared on stage with one of my brother’s garage bands to play the part for “Only the Lonely.” Still didn’t make me want to put that song in this Mix Six. Live with it.
“Trouble in Paradise (live),” Huey Lewis & the News (download)
If you ask me, there were two reasons to buy the We are the World besides the money going to charity. No, not the syrupy Michael Jackson/Lionel Richie song, but the unreleased track by that Jersey boy, “Trapped” (featuring some mean sax by the Big Man) and this fine live song by Huey Lewis & the News, who were on their way to the height of their fame when it was released. Never really a proper single, “Trouble in Paradise” received plenty of airplay thanks to the catchy chorus and a fine, fine solo by Johnny Colla (“Johnny!”). Since its initial release in 1985, “Trouble in Paradise” has appeared on every Huey Lewis & The News compilation, including this 2006 Greatest Hits CD.
“The One Thing,” INXS (download)
Here’s a band that I’ve always liked. One of the great rock dance bands of their era. New wave rock and roll that had flair, drive and one of the greatest lead singers of all time in the late Michael Hutchence. Oh, and band member Kirk Pengilly played sax. “The One Thing” was the breakthrough song for the band, from their 1982 album, Shabooh, Shoobah. I believe the video was on constant rotation at MTV for a while. It gave the band some heat and a couple years later they exploded.Â I never quite understood why INXS had a saxophone, must be something about being from Australia. I hear Midnight Oil wanted to have their own sax player once, but there was too much glare from the metal horn and Peter Garrett’s bald head so it didn’t work out. I jest. Please don’t send Peter Garrett after me, he’s a scary dude.
“Harden My Heart,” Quarterflash (download)
Let’s see, it’s the early ’80s. Hmmm. Poppy, mainstream rock. Check. Lead singer is cute and looks kind of like Pat Benatar. Check. Cute lead singer lugs around a saxophone while she pours her heart out into the microphone. Check. Hubba wha? Rindy Ross, the attractive lead singer for Quarterflash was also their horn player and the band, which also included her husband Marv on lead guitar, had a huge hit with this song from the self-titled debut album in 1981. It went all the way to number 3 on the Billboard charts. “Harden My Heart” is another number that starts with a distinct sax part that identifies the song immediately.
“Set Me Free (Rosa Lee),” Los Lobos (download)
What better way to end things than with one of the most critically acclaimed, commercially unsuccessful groups of all time? I’m going to say this right now: Los Lobos should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Period. Classy, consummate musicians and songwriters, no matter what type of music they record, they never shy away from their East L.A. Chicano roots. But I’m not here to stand on a soapbox; I’m here to give you one of the great songs from By the Light of the Moon, Los Lobos’s stunning 1987 album that earned them a spot opening for U2 on their Joshua Tree tour. Great album. Even greater band. And hey, I bet you didn’t realize that Steve Berlin, the man laying down these killer sax licks, wasn’t even an original member of Los Lobos. Well, now you do.
That’s all from me. Have a great week and if you have any suggestions for Mix Sixes, I dare you to email them to Ted. Be forewarned: he may hand the reins over to you.