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Busted Sax

Busted sax

Another Live & (not so) Local gig put us in the depths of Derbyshire. It makes me laugh to look back at this today as we used to print off directions from AA route planner before setting off. We would jump into the Duke’s people carrier with our instruments, maybe a Lucozade for The Doctor and a handful of A4 paper. The directions were incredibly hard to decipher as if you missed one turn then you had no way to know where you were. You tended to hang on every word and on more than one occasion we would have to drive back to a known location so that we could get back on track. I was often given the role of Chewbacca in the front passenger seat so I could call out the “lefts and rights” and input the data into the ship’s navicomputer. The Doctor, despite the sugary drinks would often sleep in the back with his head stuck on the interior roof of the car due to his height.

Foolishly we had only typed in the postcode into the AA website so when the directions had said we’d arrived, we were halfway up a very large hill. It took us another hour to find the venue because the Duke, despite not being stubborn enough to ask for directions, would either ask someone who blatantly wouldn’t be able to help us - a small child perhaps or a dithery old man, or he would drive off so quickly after receiving the instructions that he would often forget what they said. He had an impatience which meant that despite asking a question, he was often bored before the answer even came to him. One time he asked me a question in a pub and in the time it took for me to finish the sip of my pint and reply, he had picked up a flyer off a table and starting reading it. His mind was always running at a thousand miles an hour.

Unpacking the gear from the car we set up and met the promoter. A nice woman who had cooked us a meal and called us “Duck" a lot. She started out as mildly flirtatious but seemed to step up a gear with each raunchy attempt. She introduced us to her nineteen year old daughter and we watched in amazement as this Mother-Daughter double act dropped innuendos aplenty.

It led to a great gig. We put on the full show which included our pièce de résistance - the final leap. Let me set the seen, the lights are low, the music is blaring and we have whipped the audience into a frenzy. The Mother-Daughter combo is grinding inappropriately at the front of the dance floor. The band holds the last note of the song, the guitar feedback is wailing, the drummer is sweating and grinding his teeth, the horn section are trying to learn circular breathing on the spot. We take our positions, rhythm section at the back providing the wall of sound, the brass section and the Duke on harmonica line up at the front of the stage with toes off the edge and inching forward ready to take the leap. The Doctor has run off the stage and onto the dance floor. He sets up his most athletic move he can remember from gym class - the Arab Spring (which is probably more formally known as a Roundoff and it avoids any racist connotations, even though none are intended).

Now I’d like to put you back in my shoes as I go through what happened. I made the leap and in the 1.5 seconds it took me to land on the floor, I noticed that the Doctor was mid spring. My knees took the impact of the jump and I stood back up to full height as two legs swung millimetres from my head like a couple of sledgehammers tied together.

“Thank f*** those missed me”, I thought.

I then felt a sharp yank on my saxophone neck strap and my tenor sax flipped round spinning it 180 degrees. The Doctor’s inverted legs had fractionally missed my head but had caught the neck of my sax. When I pulled the sax back into an upright position, the neck, rather than curling graciously towards my mouth, was now sticking up vertically to the ceiling. I stood in disbelief and then finally walked slowly back to the green room. I could hear the band start up the encore but I just sat down and shed a tear as my 1969 Selmer sax had just received a mortal wound. The show finished and everyone was elated apart from me who was under a very dark cloud. It was hinted at that we might like to stay for the night with the Mother and Daughter but I was too concerned with the patient and besides…it was just a bit weird!

The Doctor, to be fair to him, was mortified and he helped me to fix it which involved a South African man from Oxfordshire. I remember talking with the man before the operation and was on tenterhooks waiting for the phone call. He said after successfully hitting it gently with a hammer, he had managed to knock out most of the damage and the neck survived. He said it was 50/50 at one point but he managed to save it. I was so ecstatic that I drove over straight away to collect it. I wanted to kiss him but he had quite a thick beard and had just eaten a pork pie so I opted out.

My saxophone still has a weak neck and you can definitely see the scars of the injury but it serves as a reminder to not be so bloody stupid with an expensive bit of kit!


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©2017 JAY RILEY