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Prepare your ears for the world's worst saxophone solo

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives (Getty Images)

There’s nothing wrong with minimalist solos. Though some of the most celebrated players, regardless of genre, are acclaimed for exhibiting incredible technical skill during solos, this is not the only approach. A good solo can sound meandering or amateurish and end up capturing the heart of a song’s theme or mood. Really, a good solo can really be anything at all as long as it works to make the track it’s featured on stronger in some way.

With that in mind, please listen to an alternate recording of “The Jones Girl,” a 1956 tune from doo-wop group The Five Satins, that features one of the worst saxophone solos ever recorded.

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Musician Gal Gracen tweeted out the relevant section, neatly summing it up as “absolutely the worst solo i have ever heard by any instrument.” This is hard to argue with. “The Jones Girl” is an otherwise good track and the sax starts off just fine, blasting a single, enthusiastic note for a few bars. As it continues, though, that same note is blown over and over and over again until it begins to feel like the sax player is reaching out across the decades to insert a drill into the listener’s ear. The only real variation comes from a few, hilariously strained notes toward the end where the repetitive rhythm also begins to break down and the player soon stops abruptly, allowing the rest of the band to come back in.

Unless it’s part of an elaborate, meaningless hoax, the tweet doesn’t seem to be doctored in any way. A YouTube upload of the track, which titles it “The Jones Girl (alt),” contains the same solo, placing it in context with the entire song.

Weirdly, the better known version of The Fave Satins’ “The Jones Girl”, which was used as a B-side for their release of “In The Still Of The Night,” is only slightly different and also has a saxophone solo. The tempo is a bit faster and the key is shifted up, but the saxophone break starts out the same. For a few seconds, the ear expects the same maniacal repetition; instead, this take’s solo is both competent and...good.

Listening to both back-to-back, it’s pretty understandable why the alternative version wasn’t the one The Five Satins put on the B-side of one of their best known singles. What isn’t clear is why, and how, the first solo came to be recorded in the first place.

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About the author

Reid McCarter

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.