|Single by Boots Randolph|
|from the album Yakety Sax!|
|B-side||"I Really Don't Want to Know"|
|Format||7" (45 rpm)|
"Yakety Sax" is a pop novelty instrumental jointly composed by James Q. "Spider" Rich and Boots Randolph. Saxophonist Randolph popularized the selection in his 1963 recording, which reached number 35 on the rock charts. UK comedian Benny Hill later made it more widely known as the closing theme music of The Benny Hill Show. The piece is considered Randolph's signature song.
The selection includes pieces of assorted fiddle tunes and was originally composed by Rich for a performance at a venue called The Armory in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Two bars of "Entrance of the Gladiators" and "The Girl I Left Behind" are also worked into it.
Randolph's take on the piece was inspired by a sax solo in the Leiber and Stoller song "Yakety Yak", recorded in 1958 by the Coasters. The tunes are similar, and both feature the yakety sax sound. Randolph first recorded Yakety Sax that year for RCA Victor, but it did not become a hit till he re-recorded it for Monument Records in 1963; this version reached number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
- Glen Campbell recorded the song in 1969 on his album Glen Campbell Live.
- Guitarist Chet Atkins recorded a version of Yakety Sax in 1965 called Yakety Axe. Atkins' version used a similar tempo and showcased his country guitar picking style in place of a saxophone. The title change referred to the colloquial term for an electric guitar as an axe. In 1990 he collaborated with Mark Knopfler on the album Neck and Neck, where he recorded a slower-tempo version, with verses composed by Merle Travis that he recited rhythmically to the music. The original version of Yakety Axe was Atkins' highest charting song on Hot Country Songs, reaching number 4; it also went to number 98 on the Billboard Hot 100. Atkins and Randolph, who both worked together on Elvis Presley recording sessions in the 1960s, occasionally merged their two versions of Yakety Sax/Axe in joint TV appearances, with each musician trading off a verse.
- Bill Haley & His Comets recorded Yakety Sax on three distinct occasions: for Orfeón of Mexico in 1964, for Guest Star Records of the US also in 1964 (which was released on a split single with Haley's Yakety Sax on the A-side and Boots' Blues, a track by Boots Randolph on the B-side), and a live concert version for Sonet Records of Sweden in 1968. Yakety Sax was also a staple of Comets live performances, usually featuring saxophonist Rudy Pompilli, who was featured on the Orfeón, Guest Star and Sonet recordings.
- In 1989, the British band the Highliners released The Benny Hill Boogie, which is based on Yakety Sax.
- In 2006, the saxophone player Sanne Maestrom in André Rieu's orchestra played a classical rendition of Yackety Sax as part of Rieu's New York Memories performance at Radio City Music Hall.
In popular culture
Yakety Sax is often used in television and film as a soundtrack for outlandishly humorous situations. It was frequently used to accompany comedic sketches—particularly the time-lapse, rapidly paced, silent "chase" skit, which came at the end of almost each episode of the Thames Television comedy programme The Benny Hill Show. Because of this, Yakety Sax is so closely linked to the series that it is also known as The Benny Hill Theme. On The Benny Hill Show, the music was performed by Ronnie Aldrich and His Orchestra.
This use of the piece, and the chase scenes themselves, have been parodied in many other movies and TV shows, including Get a Life, the 2006 American film V for Vendetta, in the 2015 Doctor Who episode "The Girl Who Died", and the animated TV shows The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park. The stop motion animated sketch comedy series Robot Chicken featured a brief sketch depicting Benny Hill's funeral (using dolls) where the attendees have a Benny Hill Show-type chase scene with many of the usual gags and a song similar to Yakety Sax. The theme was used during the 2012 Olympics beach volleyball event between sets (where rakers must rush to smooth out the court).
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