Pop & Hiss
The L.A. Times music blog
R.I.P. Raphael Ravenscroft: More sax that made music pop

Studio musicians contribute immeasurably, and often anonymously, to the fabric of pop music, making it a rarity when one rises above that anonymity the way saxophonist Raphael Ravenscroft did as the result of his signature wailing solo on Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 hit “Baker Street,” a hook that is every bit as important to the song’s popularity as Rafferty’s voice and lyrics.

It also came not long before the era of the synthesizer dawned in the 1980s, when organic sounds of a wind instrument were largely abandoned, at least in terms of what surfaced on pop radio.

With that in mind, an in recognition of Ravenscroft’s passing, Pop & Hiss offers an entirely subjective selection of 10 other great saxophone moments in pop history:

Bill Haley & the Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” (1954): The hit often cited as the Big Bang for rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t have a formal sax solo, but tenor saxophonist Joey Ambrose’s instrumental shouts in conjunction with the band’s electric guitar and steel guitar...

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Red Bull Sound Select offers more details of L.A. 'music takeover'

Those who peruse online music sites have perhaps been bombarded of late with exclamatory ads regarding a month-long series of events dubbed Red Bull Sound Select Presents: 30 Days in LA. A music-centered set of cultural happenings sponsored by your 2 a.m. juicing-up beverage of choice, the series will occur throughout Los Angeles in November. 

In addition to a full roster of gigs at various venues by acts including Run the Jewels, Future Islands, Warpaint, the Head

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An Appreciation: Elvis Presley photographer Alfred Wertheimer (1929-2014)

The first thing that springs to mind about my encounter in 2010 with Elvis Presley photographer Alfred Wertheimer, the man who shot the celebrated intimate images of Presley on the cusp of stardom in 1956, was the marrow-deep passion about his vocation.

I interviewed Wertheimer, who died Sunday at 84, in conjunction with a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition of his photos that the Grammy Museum hosted at that time. Wertheimer came out from his home in New York to attend the show's gala opening, but did he stop to revel in all the adulation being heaped on him and the revealing photos he’d shot more than half a century earlier?

No, he had his camera around his neck and will snapping shots of all the activity and people surrounding him, ever-determined to document the event. He was endearingly unassuming about his photographic accomplishments and spoke matter-of-factly about the Presley photos and other assignments he’d spent his life chasing.

The call to shoot Elvis shortly...

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Avenged Sevenfold brings 'Deathbat' to life in video game

The members of Orange County’s heavy metal slayers Avenged Sevenfold recently found themselves in a rather enviable position in this depressed music sales climate. That is, the band had money to spare — about a cool half-million — for a dream project.

So the group made a video game.

Late last week, Avenged Sevenfold released “Hail to the King: Deathbat,” a mobile role-playing game available for iOS and Android devices. This isn’t a quick cash-in, says lead singer M. Shadows, noting that the $4.99 game was two years in development and boasts levels that can encourage multiple hours of exploration. The game uses touch controls to have players battle a multitude of undead creatures, telling the story behind the group’s long-standing “Deathbat” logo.

“A band like Mumford & Sons or Imagine Dragons or Coldplay — there’s no game to be made there,” Shadows says. “They’d have to come up with something completely fresh. When you look at us, or Iron Maiden, someone with a logo and a strong...

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Kesha denied Dr. Luke abuse allegations in a previous deposition

According to a newly unsealed 2011 deposition, pop singer Kesha had previously denied that her producer Dr. Luke ever abused her.

Her statements, which she delivered under oath, stand in contrast to her recent claims that Dr. Luke, born Lukasz Gottwald, sexually and emotionally abused her over the entirety of their decade-long professional relationship.

The newly unsealed documents were part of a 2011 lawsuit on behalf of her old management firm DAS, which was suing both the singer and Gottwald for breach of contract complaints. A judge released the deposition after a request from Gottwald's attorneys. 

In the 2011 deposition, the singer, born Kesha Sebert, was asked, "Did Dr. Luke ever give you a roofie?" and "Did you ever have an intimate relationship with Gottwald?" The singer answered "no" to both questions, and later said that "Dr. Luke never made sexual advances at me."

Kesha's recent lawsuit, in contrast, claimed repeated incidents of Gottwald giving her drugs and sexually...

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Kanye West, Chemical Brothers lead Lorde's 'Hunger Games' soundtrack

The contestants have been declared in Lorde's tournament of experimental pop music on her soundtrack for "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1."

The New Zealand electro-pop artist, who just played a well-received stand at the Greek Theatre, had previously been tapped to curate the soundtrack and contribute original music. The latter turned up early in the single "Yellow Flicker Beat," and now the rest of the soundtrack has an official track list.

The top names include Kanye West (on a re-mix of "Flicker"), the British big-beat rave duo Chemical Brothers joining Miguel for "This is Not a Game," Grace Jones' "Original Beast" and a track from Charli XCX that features Duran Duran's Simon LeBon. There's also a massive collaborative track "Meltodown" with spots from Stromae, Haim, Q-Tip, Pusha T and Lorde herself. 

Holding up the rest of the compilation are efforts from rising acts like Tinashe and Tove Lo, and a few veterans such as Bat For Lashes and CHVRCHES. Unsurprisingly for a "Hunger...

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