Here’s one for the top 100 dumbest lists about music: it’s A. V. Club’s 10 Great Songs Nearly Ruined By Saxophone. Topping the list somehow is Bowie’s Young Americans. Really? Young Americans? Because I have a hard time imagining what Young Americans would sound like without the saxophone. Maybe I’m biased, but to me David Sanborn’s opening sax in Young Americans is the hook that latches onto your earlobes and keeps you listening. It’s fundamental to the idea of the song and the sound of the entire album. But to the author, Josh Modell, it’s just sounds like “constant nagging and yipping.”

If you want to make a case for bad sax in a Bowie song, why go after a classic? I think Neukoln is your obvious choice. I don’t mind the wailing there, I’ve never heard the sax played in such a way, but I can see how someone else might find it a hard listen. Or what about the Forgotten Songs of David Jones version of Waiting For The Man? I think I actually would describe that sax as constant nagging and yipping.

What do you think? Are there any Bowie songs you’d prefer with different instrumentation?

4 Responses to “Can You Ever Have Too Much Sax?”

  1. Webmaster Says:

    It goes without saying that “Cracked Actor” is one of my favorite Bowie songs, but I think the original album version could seriously do without the harmonica. I think the live version of the song performed at the BBC Radio Theatre in 2000 with no harmonica and Earl Slick on guitar kicks the original’s ass.

  2. Webmistress Says:

    Sound and Vision would be even better with a punchier bassline. Get Gail Ann a bass with some flat wound strings and let her go to town. I don’t think the song is meant to be funky in the context of the album, but as a stand-alone piece in a show it could be considerabely more funked up.

  3. saudade Says:

    Oy, they are reading my mind with The Cure’s ‘A Night Like This.’ Hate hate hate that sax!

    In rock and roll, sax needs to be playful or unique if it’s a focal instrument, or used sparingly for emphasis. Otherwise it so easily runs into cheese.

    Sorry, I don’t have any Bowie song edits. I just needed to get that off my chest.

  4. Webmistress Says:

    Preach it, sister!