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Horny, er, in a sense

Gentle Readers, Your Humble Blogger needs your help. I’m making a mix, and I know I’m missing some songs, and I can’t come up with what’s missing.

It began, as my mixes often do, when the Shuffle played two songs in a row that had a thing in common, and I noticed the thing, and then thought what other songs shared that aspect. In this case, the two songs were “Ring of Fire” and “Soul Man”, and what they both had was a great horn line. In fact, the horn line really makes the song. Well, no, they are both great songs anyway, but they are both really great horn lines. They are so great that when you hear the horn line from “Ring of Fire” (dee de-dee de-dee dee dah dee), it not only immediately tells you what song it is, but it acts like, oh, like seeing an old friend in the airport. It makes you feel good, even before you get to the rest of the song.

So I started thinking about making a mix of great horn lines. I picked “You Can Call Me Al”, which may not be a great song but has a magnificent horn line, over the version of “Late in the Evening” with horns, which is great, too. I picked the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “Hell of a Hat” and Madness’s “House of Fun”. From the many Otis Redding options, I picked “I Can’t Turn You Loose”, which isn’t the best song, but has the best horn line. I would put on Aretha singing “Respect”, but they really replace the horn line with the backup singers, so all you have left is the beginning. The horns are OK (barroom ... bedup), but they aren’t great. In fact, on her great songs, they really do use the backup singers in the place of the traditional horn line—which works just fine, unless you are making a mix tape of great horn lines. I’m not just looking for a mix of great songs that have a horn section somewhere in the mix; “You Can’t Hurry Love” is a great song, and it has a horn line, but it isn’t a great horn line.

I’m not sure how to define a horn line. Strictly speaking, it should require three horns, often a sax, a trumpet and a trombone, or an alto sax, a tenor sax and a trumpet. It is just barely possible to include a flute in the horn line without ruining the song, as proved in “Moondance”, but, you know, don’t try this at home. Or in the studio, either. A horn line isn’t a saxophone solo; there are great rock sides with great sax solos, but that’s not a horn line. I am willing, just, to include “Two Young Lovers” in the mix, even though it’s only one saxophonist playing the line, but it really shouldn’t make the cut. Or does the studio version from the EP have a real horn line? Does anybody have that? Anyway, the horn line is a repeated phrase, usually repeated antiphonally with the vocalist or a guitar. It’s not the melody of the song, or a bridge (usually). It’s a horn line.

Now, I could make a mix of just great soul music (I’m only just now getting into the Stax catalogue, thanks to my nearly-local library), but that’s not what I’m after. I’m not even after half an hour of soul and half an hour of ska. I’d like, ideally, to include a bunch of different stuff all within the greater rock genre. Of course, all of it would be influenced by soul, but that’s fine; I want to see how that plays out in different ways. I mean, the Eurythmics are clearly influenced by soul, but they are not a soul group. I think I would put “Would I Lie to You” on the list; the one-note ‘bah-ta-dah-ta-dah-ta-da-daddah’ line isn’t great, but it’s pretty good.

So my point is that I know there are tons of songs with great horn lines, and I know I’m just forgetting a bunch of them. Can you help me, Gentle Readers? When did your favorite pop stars join up with a horn section, and how did it turn out?

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,


Off the top of my head: "Tears of a Clown?"

(I'll stew the rest of your question and see what floats.)

I'm not going to interpret strictly, so:

Talking Heads: "Mr Jones"
Simon and Garfunkel: "Baby Driver"
The Beatles: "Penny Lane" and "Got to Get You Into My Life"

"papa's got a brand new bag" by james brown
"revolution rock" by the clash
"satisfy my soul" by bob marley & the wailers
"jackie wilson said" by van morrison
"dancing in the street" by martha reeves & the vandellas
"uptight" by stevie wonder

Thanks for the help, all. I had already thrown "Got to Get You into My Life" into the mix, and was trying to remember what T-Heads/Byrne to use. Also, I made a note to get the James Brown "Papa", which I don't own at present. I know, I know. But seriously, I've only just got into soul, by virtue of the Stax sets at my local library.
The Smokey "Tears" is a flute; is the English Beat cover a horn line? I should buy some English Beat anyway. I keep being about to buy What is Beat? but never actually buying it. This may be the excuse I need...
I'll listen to the others and let y'all know what I think. Should I post the mix when it's all done?

I'm having trouble remembering the English Beat version right now, but the Smokey also has sax and (I think) trumpet -- in that context, I tend to think of the flute as an honorary horn in the sense of "horn line", especially since you aren't going brass-only.

I'll send you "Papa" this evening. There's got to be a good Parliament/P-Funk song for this mix, too.

Oh, Oingo Boingo: "Dead Man's Party", or "Wake Up (it's 1984)"

Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" from _Songs in the Key of Life_ has one of my favorite horn lines. I would say that the point of the song is the horn line, in fact. It's mostly a sax line, underlain by electric bass, but I think there are some trumpets, too.

In straight-up pop music, the closing section of Chicago's "Hard for Me to Say I'm Sorry / Get Away" has a great horn line.

I would also come out strongly in favor of the horn line in the _Concert in Central Park_ version of "Late in the Evening" over anything in "Call Me Al."

Please post the contents of the mix when you've made it!

Any interest in doing a similar mix of rock piano?

If you're thinking about ska, there's the simple-but-infectious line from the Specials' "A Message to You, Rudy."

I, too, would have fun seeing the final track list you put together. Please?

Im Your Boogie Man - KC and the Sunshine Band
Take Me to the River - Al Green
Red Shoes - Chris Rea
A Lot of Old Chicago Songs have great horn Sections
Look for anyone that recorded with The Memphis Horns.
A Lot of Elvis songs had great horn sections.

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