Horn of plenty

One of the new series announced as part of BBC4’s spring season received curiously little attention from the press. Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sax, But Were Afraid To Ask promises to unpick the cultural and sociological legacy of the modern descendant of the crumhorn through five thematically linked but structurally varied episodes adding up to a fascinating snapshot of one of the world’s most ubiquitous busking utensils.

Episode 1: NO SAX PLEASE, WE’RE BRITISH
Paul Gambuccini narrates a desperately earnest historical investigation into the inbuilt reticence within the UK subconsciousness towards parping horn sounds, illustrating his talk with extracts from 31,420 records out of his personal collection. “Now, come with me as we slide all the way back to the year nieensevenyfie, and bask in the slick sounds of that Atlantic-hopping disco-bopping ice cool connoisseur of the chilly Philly soul groove, Mr David Bowwwwwwiieeee!”

Episode 2: SAXUALITY
A laconic prose poem by Billy Bragg with music by Johnny Marr exploring Britain’s fickle relationship with people who decide to come out as saxophonists.

Episode 3: SAX CRIME (1984)
Paul Morley takes viewers on a journey back 23 years to the time of Holly Johnson and the Youth Training Scheme to examine particularly vicious assaults by saxophones upon the ears of a politically divided Britain. He traces the root of the strife to twelve months earlier and the release of ‘True’ by Spandau Ballet, whose saxophone break, he argues, heralded the impending discordant clash of ideologies between Arthur Scargill and the National Coal Board, despite having a good beat you could dance to. Morley concludes by placing an actor looking like Gary Kemp on trial for the collapse of the UK mining industry.

Episode 4: SAX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE
A portmanteau of intimate taped confessions, captured by an enigmatic free-living American, wherein objectionable neurotic upper class types disclose their penchant for the middle bit of ‘Arthur’s Theme’ by Christopher Cross.

Episode 5: THE YEAR OF THE SAX OLYMPICS
Documentary following an attempt to broaden the youth appeal of the world’s oldest sports tournament by IOC President Jacques Rogge, who decides to use the 2008 Beijing games to introduce the ultimate in sonic competitiveness: a saxophone triathlon, requiring competitors to demonstrate sequential mastery of smooth, straight-blowing and swing styles while doing a croggy on a bike going down a 30 mile hill. Unfortunately both he and the documentary crew are unaware the entire proceedings are being secretly filmed and manipulated by a bored Leonard Rossiter, who in turn causes a global arms crisis when one of the contenders is caught on camera referring to another as having “a lazy eye”.

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