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Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Radio Radio - Saturday Night Live
December 17, 2007 3:07 PM   Subscribe

It was 30 years ago today that Elvis Costello and the Attractions appeared on Saturday Night Live. They'd wanted to play Radio Radio but SNL said no as it was thought to be 'anti-media.' So they started playing Less Than Zero, but stopped eight seconds in and played Radio Radio anyway, which led to them being banned from SNL for 12 years. Tip o' the hat to the Post Punk Progressive Pop Party.
posted by carter (85 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I never knew the story behind that clip, though I'd seen several times. Thanks for posting it...
posted by HeroZero at 3:15 PM on December 17, 2007


Heh heh. "I wanna bite the hand that feeds me / I wanna bite that hand so badly". And so he did! But he did just fine without SNL for 12 years anyway.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:17 PM on December 17, 2007


Good on Elvis! That punk-rock gesture probably increased his record sales... you know, 'fight the power!' and all that...
posted by vhsiv at 3:19 PM on December 17, 2007


Has it been 30 years....Elvis Costello was intensity personified. My pulse is still hammering after watching that. His aim clearly was true.
posted by rudy26 at 3:19 PM on December 17, 2007


banned from SNL for 12 years

quaint.
posted by stbalbach at 3:20 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Elvis totally became my hero for that.
And remains my hero for this.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:21 PM on December 17, 2007


Wait, 30 years ago Saturday Night Live aired on Monday?
posted by mrnutty at 3:23 PM on December 17, 2007 [5 favorites]


An awesome musical event. Thanks for reminding us of its anniversary (and of the boneheadedness of the network powers that were).
posted by blucevalo at 3:23 PM on December 17, 2007


That's one of my favorite rock and roll tv moments ever. It just fit him and the time perfect.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 3:25 PM on December 17, 2007


Argh. One freaking link to YouTube. This is getting ridiculous. Has got ridiculous.
posted by xmutex at 3:27 PM on December 17, 2007


Wow, that sure was a quick tempo.
posted by grouse at 3:27 PM on December 17, 2007


It's hard to wrap your head around why that song would upset NBC execs so much, just like it's hard for us under 30 to get why anyone cared what kind of guitar Dylan played.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:29 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Argh. One freaking [awesome] link to YouTube.

Fixed that one for you. Cheers Carter.
posted by anomie at 3:33 PM on December 17, 2007


So they started playing Less Than Zero, but stopped eight seconds in and played Radio Radio anyway, which led to them being banned from SNL for 12 years.

And it totally crushed Costello's career.

p.s. - fuck you, lorne michaels, you pompous egotistical shithead.
posted by shmegegge at 3:37 PM on December 17, 2007 [5 favorites]


I met Elvis Costello on a train one time. He signed my ticket from the previous night's concert.

I like that analogy, roll truck roll.

The funny thing is, that song is much more a propos about American radio today than it was then (not that it was about American radio, but if the shoe fits...). But today, they realize that nonconformity sells, so if his label were willing to press to get him on TV, he'd be able to do this song without much of a problem.
posted by ibmcginty at 3:38 PM on December 17, 2007


Wow, I didn't know Elvis Costello is Claire's dad on Heroes.
posted by billder at 3:38 PM on December 17, 2007


I've always thought they were pissed was because "Radio, Radio" was at that time unreleased, and his label (and SNL, I guess) wanted him to do a single. From Wiki (this story is similar to what's in my This Year's Model liner notes):
Costello wanted to play "Radio Radio" on SNL. Columbia Records, Costello's US label, on the other hand, was interested in having an already-established song performed on SNL, to stoke the fires of interest in the band prior to the American release of My Aim Is True and This Year's Model. In the event, Costello began the SNL performance by playing "Less than Zero." However, after a few bars, he turned to the Attractions, waving his hand and yelling "Stop! Stop!," then said to the audience, "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there's no reason to do this song here," possibly referring to the obscure story behind "Less than Zero," which was written as a reply to British fascist Oswald Mosley. He then led the band in a performance of "Radio Radio." Costello was banned from Saturday Night Live for twelve years.
It's still awesome though.
posted by SoftRain at 3:38 PM on December 17, 2007


No Doubt did something similar, but for a completely different reason. They started into their record-company-requested performance of a promoted single (I think it was "Spiderwebs"), then switched after a few seconds to "Excuse Me Mr.," which wasn't being promoted at the time at all. But I guess the band liked it better.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:39 PM on December 17, 2007


I remember that moment. I was watching. It's what turned me into a punk rocker.
posted by tkchrist at 3:40 PM on December 17, 2007


Don't forget Elvis and the Beastie Boys doing a parody of the performance for the 25th anniversary year, in 1999.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:40 PM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


First prize: Banned from SNL for 12 years straight.
Second prize: Being forced to play SNL for 12 years straight.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:42 PM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Argh. One freaking link to YouTube. This is getting ridiculous. Has got ridiculous.

Oh there's worse, xmutex.
posted by Avenger50 at 3:43 PM on December 17, 2007


Ooo. I just hate media after listening to that song.
posted by telstar at 3:44 PM on December 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


Remember Elvis's '89 SNL performance? And like how he ripped up that picture of the Pope at the end? Michaels must've been all like, "Man! We just can't catch a break with this guy!"
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:50 PM on December 17, 2007 [5 favorites]


It's a great moment of spirit and I've always really liked the Beastie Boys tribute/parody/reference that MiltonRandKalman linked above.
posted by Divine_Wino at 3:58 PM on December 17, 2007


And it totally crushed Costello's career.

I'd say the Ray Charles incident (scroll to "Get Happy!!") damaged EC's career more than the SNL hoopla.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 4:00 PM on December 17, 2007


This is why Elvis Costello has never been invited to play the Super Bowl half-time show.
posted by ColdChef at 4:01 PM on December 17, 2007


*first reaction* Jesus, thirty years? Man, I'm getting old.

*second reaction* Still a toe-tapper though.
posted by jokeefe at 4:05 PM on December 17, 2007


And now I'm watching Elvis Costello videos on youtube which is an ok thing to do, so thanks again.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:11 PM on December 17, 2007


FIGHT THE REAL POWER
posted by DU at 4:12 PM on December 17, 2007


I always liked Elvis, but was never a diehard until I saw him touring after The Delivery Man came out. This clip is of a Today show appearance where he changed up his lyrics a little, and I happened to be at the concert that night in CT. It's not as obvious from the Today clip, but the crowd that night definitely reacted positively. I became a much larger fan on the spot.
posted by pupdog at 4:20 PM on December 17, 2007


i remember seeing this as it happened, too - it was one of those moments that define rock and roll
posted by pyramid termite at 4:29 PM on December 17, 2007


Saw him live in the late seventies on the Unversity gig circuit (if I recall - been a long time.) Would never call them Punk though, not by a long stretch.
posted by A189Nut at 4:36 PM on December 17, 2007


xmutex, you sure are a grouch. It seems every time someone's being grouchy about something, I see your name. What gives?
posted by ORthey at 4:43 PM on December 17, 2007


One of my favourite Costello moments:
"When Costello and the Attractions refused to do an encore after playing for only 57 minutes, the crowd went berserk. While promoter Zev Eizik was trading punches backstage with Costello's manager, Jake Riviera, the audience decided the best way to encourage the band to do some more songs was to rip up the seats and throw the cushions on stage, along with anything else that was or wasn't nailed down."
posted by tellurian at 4:49 PM on December 17, 2007


I read somewhere that the reason Lorne Michaels was pissed was because changing the song threw off the timing of the show and they had to cut a sketch out. Hence the ban.
posted by zardoz at 4:53 PM on December 17, 2007


Don't forget Elvis and the Beastie Boys doing a parody of the performance for the 25th anniversary year, in 1999.

"This video is no longer available." :(
posted by miss lynnster at 4:57 PM on December 17, 2007


Between this and the Fear appearance, I'm surprised Lorne Michaels didn't sour to punk permanently.
posted by drezdn at 5:02 PM on December 17, 2007


On October 9, 2007, I saw Weird Al Yankovic live for the first time. In his two-hour-plus show, he only played one song that he hadn't written himself. It was "Radio Radio". And it showed damn well Al's ability to rock out and send a lyrical message without jokes. And yes, one of the sponsors of his concert was one of the local Clear Channel-owned radio stations. (Since then, Clear Channel sold all their stations in the San Luis Obispo/Santa Maria market to a regional radio group... still fairly monopolistic, but now more local) And yes, this is also the place where he was kicked out of the Cal Poly College Radio Station about 30 years ago.
posted by wendell at 5:07 PM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wasn't Elvis Costello inspired by how the Jimi Hendrix Experience played an unauthorized cover of Sunshine of Your Love on the Lulu Show in 1969?
posted by jonp72 at 5:09 PM on December 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


You know, I've been indifferent to EC for a couple of decades now, ever since he decided he was the second coming of Cole Porter and started making tasteful hyperliterate records with complex chord changes and shit. But watching that three-minute clip wiped all that away and made me fall in love with him again. I flashed back to walking through Westwood back in the late '70s and hearing "Oliver's Army" blasting from a record store and feeling a cleansing blast of rage and joy lift me right off the sidewalk. Christ, he was a great Angry Young Man. Thanks for the memories, carter!

Ooo. I just hate media after listening to that song.


Play that and the Clash's "Complete Control" back to back and you'll want to burn down a radio station and/or record company.
posted by languagehat at 5:12 PM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


And now Elvis is shilling for Lexus. Sigh...
posted by twsf at 5:16 PM on December 17, 2007


In the latest issue of MOJO there's an interview with Costello in which he justifies selling his image to Visa for a series of print ads by claiming it enabled him to take his band on the road, playing small clubs, for a year afterwards.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:21 PM on December 17, 2007


His sound sure has been influential.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:38 PM on December 17, 2007


There's one fact that everyone should just face: people who get all self-righteous and indignant over musicians "selling out" are almost always college students who've never had to work and support themselves. Or folks who are all grown up and work for a living, but don't work in a field as fickle and up-and-down as music or the arts.

That said, I do seem to recall ol' Elvis himself (no stranger to self-righteousness, after all) spewing invective over Michael Jackson selling Pepsi or whatever... if I recall correctly, he said something to the effect that someone with as much influence over youth as he had shouldn't be selling them sugar water. Can't find the quote via Google, though.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:40 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Does someone have a good link about the Ray Charles incident? I never knew about it before, and Wikipedia is not extremely helpful.
posted by roll truck roll at 5:59 PM on December 17, 2007


flapjax, wouldn't pretty much anybody who complains about anything fall into one of those two groups?

And honestly, people don't really complain about struggling artists selling out. Everyone understands that. People have a problem with successful, wealthy artists, like Costello, selling out.
posted by Doug at 6:03 PM on December 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


Weird!
Just last evening, I was admiring my LP of MY AIM IS TRUE, and I commented, before sliding it back onto the shelf, "Holy shit - this album came out 30 years ago!"

Now, granted, I was all of four when that record was released, but that realization made me feel old nonetheless.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:13 PM on December 17, 2007


roll truck roll, the best recounting of the events I have read are in EC's liner notes to the Rhino reissue of Get Happy!! (mentioned in that AVClub link above):

"...The most widely read account of my explanation of the events that utterly changed the course of my career and probably lead to the recording of this album was published in a Rolling Stone interview and cover story. Greil Marcus' questioning was thoughtful enough and suitably uncompromising...."

Alas, the only mention of the incident on Rolling Stone's website is very similar to the Wikipedia mention.

What I've read in fanzines and elsewhere was that Bonnie Bramlett and Stephen Stills were haranguing EC about British music in general and punk/new wave in particular. He responded in a manner befitting an extremely drunk (and probably high) "angry young man" - he said something utterly offensive in the hopes that the 70s rock luminaries would fuck off. Unfortunately for Elvis, Bonnie cold-cocked him and then told the press.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 6:15 PM on December 17, 2007


And, yes, I know "Radio, Radio" is on THIS YEAR'S MODEL. Still a coincidence.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:16 PM on December 17, 2007


roll truck roll, as I understand Elvis' view on it, he was extremely drunk at the time, and . Here's a Greil Marcus interview where he describes his view of what happened (part 1 of that interview), and here's a Nick Kent article about it.

From the Marcus interview:
EC: What it was about was that I said the most outrageous thing I could possibly say to them - that I knew, in my drunken logic, would anger them more than anything else. That's why I don't want to get into why I felt so effronted by them, because that's not important. It's not important because - they don't mean _anything_ to me. They don't even mean anything now - I don't feel any malice in the way I feel that they probably exploited the incident to get some free publicity.

My initial reaction - I can tell you now - to seeing Bonnie Bramlett get free publicity out of my name was that, "Well, she rode to fame on the back of one E.C., she's not gonna do it on the back of another." But that was before the consequences of what had happened had sunk in - that was a flip way of dismissing it.

GM: Did you have any idea of how dangerous, or how exploitable, or how plainly offensive, what you said would be in the public context?

EC: No, because it was never intended - if I hadn't been drunk I would never had said those things. If it had been a considered argument, I probably would have either not pursues the argument to such extreme length, or I would have thought of something a little bit more coherent, as another form of attack, rather than just an outrage. Outrage is fairly easy. Not in terms of dealing with the consequences, but in terms of employing it as a tactic in an argument.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:23 PM on December 17, 2007


Um, that's, "he was extremely drunk at the time, and acted obnoxiously just to elicit outrage from Stills and Bramlett."
posted by ibmcginty at 6:24 PM on December 17, 2007


Christmas 1977 was when I got my first rickety stereo system, including a $5 turntable my Mum got from a church sale. Depending on the LP, I needed to tape 5 to 15 cents to the tonearm to keep it from skipping. That year's Christmas haul included Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, Stiffs Live and My Aim is True. It was the last one that finally killed the tonearm for good. Damn you, Declan!
posted by maudlin at 6:29 PM on December 17, 2007


And here's the Rolling Stone article, about the tour, the barroom argument, and the press conference, that Elvis refers to in his interview with Marcus that I linked above.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:34 PM on December 17, 2007


List of people/acts banned from SNL over the years.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 6:43 PM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Some real interesting bits of information in Ike_Arumba's above link. I remmber this:

"Sinéad O'Connor was banned from appearing on SNL again after her peformance on October 3, 1992. In her second set of the show, she performed an a cappella version of Bob Marley's "War". During the word "evil", she picked up a picture of Pope John Paul II, ripped it up, and shouted, "Fight the real enemy!""

But what I found most interesting about that was this, which I'd never heard until now:

"Dave Wilson immediately turned off the "applause" cue and the audience reacted with complete silence. "

There you go, eh? No applause cue, no applause!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:07 PM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ah! Thanks for posting this. I was 15 years old that night and at one of my first High School parties. I was aware of Elvis but it was the first time I saw SNL. There were other firsts that night too....
posted by mmahaffie at 7:10 PM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


A189Nut: Would never call them Punk though, not by a long stretch.

And neither would he. There was an "Elvis and Friends" concert on one of the HD channels where he sat around between songs with the interviewer and all the folks that he'd had 'round to play with him (Green Day, Fiona Apple, Death Cab for Cutie, etc). At one point, the interviewer asked him how he defined himself, if he wasn't "punk". He said something along the lines that he never wants to answer that question, as every band or singer that's been defined by a genre dies by that genre, and he didn't want to be contained.

Oh, and that concert had a version of Radio Radio that was fantastic.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:56 PM on December 17, 2007


I thought Elvis appearing in that episode of The Simpsons where Homer went to rocker camp was the most damaging moment of his career (yet the highlight of Brian Setzer's).
posted by Mael Oui at 8:26 PM on December 17, 2007


which led to them being banned from SNL for 12 years

It's really hard to imagine how people might get upset when, in a medium that's planned down to a few seconds, you suddenly stop doing the song that you'd agreed to do and start doing some completely different song that takes some completely different period of time and everyone has to scramble to either fill up thirty seconds or find thirty seconds to cut and maybe swap out a skit for one that runs a little bit longer or shorter without any notice to anyone.

The time to pick that fight is while the show is still being put together.

Or, just decide not to play SNL if you can't play your faaaaaaaaavorite song and do a show somewhere nearby as a fuck-you, without fucking up that night's episode.

Fucking prima donna.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:35 PM on December 17, 2007


That original clip is great, but that scene stealer is badass.
posted by gwint at 9:54 PM on December 17, 2007


Wait a second. Is this FEAR on SNL? Now that's badass.
posted by gwint at 10:06 PM on December 17, 2007


yeah, well, *10* years ago I saw Elvis Costello two tables over at the Samrat (indian) restuarant in Shinjuku.

true story
posted by panamax at 10:35 PM on December 17, 2007


Or, just decide not to play SNL if you can't play your faaaaaaaaavorite song and do a show somewhere nearby as a fuck-you, without fucking up that night's episode.

Right, because it's critically important to have a show like SNL have the *appearance* of being edgy and hip, without taking any of the risks that go with the reality.

Now dance, monkeyboy, dance!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:27 AM on December 18, 2007


Doug writes: "flapjax, wouldn't pretty much anybody who complains about anything fall into one of those two groups?"

I'll grant you, that's a good point. Perhaps I should've just said people in general often hold musicians to unrealistically high standards that they themselves probably wouldn't live up to were they in those musician's shoes.

"And honestly, people don't really complain about struggling artists selling out. Everyone understands that. People have a problem with successful, wealthy artists, like Costello, selling out."

Yeah, well, funny thing is, struggling artists are not often asked to do TV commercials for nice paychecks, you see... The opportunities for "struggling" musicians to "sell out" are, unsurprisingly, exceedingly rare.

Not to mention that terms like "struggling" and, yes, even "wealthy" are pretty relative, Doug. As someone mentioned in a comment above, Elvis Costello said that the big earnings from the TV spots were instrumental in enabling him to take a band on the road and play small, intimate venues. To pay his sidemen a decent wage, presumably. This "selling out", even for a musician as visible s Costello, is not as cut-and-dried as you'd make it. You think he's wealthy? Well, it's all relative. He ain't poor, but there's no doubt that even with a musician of his position, the work-hours that go into what he does are not always commensurate with the money he sees at the end of the day. You might be surprised, at how often "famous" doesn't necessarily translate into "wealthy". And there's things like retirement to consider as well. No pensions and retirement benefits for musicians, you understand. The man's also gotta look to his old age. Cause hey, not all yer rock god heroes are gonna die young and stay pretty, y'dig?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:54 AM on December 18, 2007 [4 favorites]


The day I came to England for a job interview, I met Elvis Costello at the Hopwood Park Services. He was great; very friendly and cool. I couldn't have been happier if I'd met the Queen.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:45 AM on December 18, 2007


Did anyone else notice that despite this supposed last second change in songs, that the camera changes during the new song seemed very smooth and appropriate.

My bet is that it was the network who vetoed the song, and Lorne Michaels pretended to go along with them, but secretly planned the whole thing with Costello.

Otherwise, why not cut to commercial, or at least stick with a long shot?

The 12 year ban? Network decision, and probably Lorne got a secret wrist slap too. Anyways, all publicity is good publicity as they say.
posted by fairmettle at 2:53 AM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hmmm... maybe you're onto something there, fairmettle.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:48 AM on December 18, 2007


zardoz

I don't know... even before I read your comment, while I was watching the clip, it looked to me like Elvis was rushing through that song at a break neck pace. In addition, he seemed to be glancing left and right like a paranoid speed freak. I figured he was trying to finish before someone came up there and dragged him off. In any case, the whole thing comes in at just under three minutes. It's hard to believe Lorne wouldn't allow him 180 seconds on stage. How long would the LTZ performance have been?
posted by Clay201 at 4:28 AM on December 18, 2007


Did anyone else notice that despite this supposed last second change in songs, that the camera changes during the new song seemed very smooth and appropriate.

My bet is that it was the network who vetoed the song, and Lorne Michaels pretended to go along with them, but secretly planned the whole thing with Costello.


I could sort of see this happening, but whenever Lorne Michaels wanted (wants) to present something as Totally Unexpected, he does so in a such a contrived way that tells you it was Totally Planned To Be Unexpected. The concept of "producer intervening during a live show" was still a New And Amazing Turn in 1977, so had Lorne had a hand in the song change, things would have gone probably something like this:

ELVIS: Calling Mr. Oswald with his swastika tattoo, there is a vacancy waiting at the... wait, stop! stop! Lorne! Mr. Michaels!

LORNE MICHAELS (who, during this period of the show, would've just been a voice on the PA from the control room): What is it, Elvis?

ELVIS: I'm sorry, Lorne, but I can't perform this number.

LORNE: You can't perform Less Than Zero? But it was great at dress rehearsal.

ELVIS: I know, but...

LORNE: And everybody loves it.

GILDA RADNER (walking out onstage): I love it!

LORNE: See? Even Gilda loves it.

ELVIS: Well, I love Gilda, but there's no reason to do this song here.

GILDA: Awww!

LORNE: Look, you've made Gilda sad. Aren't there any other songs you could do? Something to cheer her up?

ELVIS: Well, we'll give it a shot.

(Goes ahead and performs Radio Radio. Afterwards, before the cut to commercial, Gilda runs up and gives Elvis a big hug.)

In spite of the "hip, free and edgy" spirit of SNL and live television, Lorne Michaels hated, and still hates, any deviation from the planned schedule of the show -- his show. He fired Damon Wayans for deciding to play a policeman character as flamboyantly gay right at the last second before going out live. It wasn't the character that pissed Lorne off so much (though honestly it was a pretty lame idea) as the fact that Damon had gone and made a change without Lorne's knowledge (and therefore without his consent.)

In that same vein, Lorne gave Adrien Brody a lifetime ban for his bizarre ad-libbing before introducing musical guest Sean Paul. It made the show run over, even 30 seconds over is bad, and Lorne didn't know about it first. It's mentioned in the article Ike_Arumba links to above. Sure, SNL is live and that's supposed to represent free-wheeling television, but it is tightly controlled, and by one heck of a Type A martinet.
posted by Spatch at 7:25 AM on December 18, 2007


It used to be that I would sometimes watch SNL just because of the musical guests. Years later, I'd watch SNL despite the musical guests. And now, I can't even remember the last time I watched it at all.
posted by malocchio at 7:36 AM on December 18, 2007


Wait a second. Is this FEAR on SNL? Now that's badass.

At first I thought that was just some show they did in New Jersey, but according to Lee Ving's website that WAS the SNL performance.

And talk about selling out, that guy sure got MAJOR crap for going from that to being the pimp in Flashdance.

But like flapjacks said, being a musician isn't a great retirement plan. Sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do. Some of the most incredible musicians I've ever met are spending/spent their later years living near poverty. It's tragic and kind of scary, really.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:39 AM on December 18, 2007


Does Lorne Michaels really schedule live television down to the second?

When I saw this happen live I thought it was pretty odd of Elvis to change songs like that. Had I known at the time it was pissing off Lorne Michaels, I would have thought it pretty cool. Now all I can think is both Elvis and SNL were a lot better 30 years ago.
posted by tommasz at 11:19 AM on December 18, 2007


fairmettle and Spatch, you make good arguments. You may be right, or at least you may approach rightness.

Also, I'm not really interested in starting a music-nerd fight, but why all of the hating on Elvis' current projects? I've really enjoyed what I've heard of his classical works. And it's not like he's not still doing rock too: When i was cruel could go toe-to-toe with any of his early albums.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:07 PM on December 18, 2007


Not trying to derail, but this thread led me to remember U2's performance of "I Will Follow" on SNL during the closing of the show about 2 years ago. You Tube has clips. The female members of the cast are bawling, and Bono walks around like he's bulletproof. IMO, truly outstanding.
posted by hawkeye at 2:35 PM on December 18, 2007


Don't forget Elvis and the Beastie Boys doing a parody of the performance for the 25th anniversary year, in 1999.

I think the Elvis Costello performance on SNL also inspired Nirvana to play a fake-out of Rape Me before beginning Lithium at a live performance for the 1992 Video Music Awards.
posted by jonp72 at 3:02 PM on December 18, 2007


Does Lorne Michaels really schedule live television down to the second?

Answer = yes.

OK, not down to the second. But going several seconds over the expected time has the potential to screw things up royally down the line. You go over 10 seconds. Someone else after you goes over 10 seconds. Now you're starting to worry that you can't get all the sketches in among the 30-second commercials that you have to air, because you can't easily play catch up with sketches that (ideally) rely on sharp comic timing.

Instead, when running long, you cut entire sketches and ask actors to fill time elsewhere, because that's somewhat easier to do. This partially explains why the "good night" sequence and the SNL news vary in length from week to week, and why some of the pre-filmed fake "commercials" are re-run.

But cutting a sketch is bad news all around. Among other things, you've already paid to build a set, rehearse actors, rig lighting, etc.

Going long unexpectedly is among the worst things you can do in live TV.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:21 PM on December 18, 2007


Ooo. I just hate media after listening to that song.

Play that and the Clash's "Complete Control" back to back and you'll want to burn down a radio station and/or record company.


Throw in Graham Parker's Mercury Poisoning and you've really got it going on.
posted by gingerbeer at 4:38 PM on December 18, 2007


ROU_Xenophobe writes "Or, just decide not to play SNL if you can't play your faaaaaaaaavorite song and do a show somewhere nearby as a fuck-you, without fucking up that night's episode."

Seems to me like it became the highlight of the night. I'm glad he did it. Lorne Michaels got a great moment out of it, and he saw it as a threat. He had no clue about how the music business really worked or how to capitalize on its rebellion, at least at that time. I mean, at least now you pull something like that you get co-opted. His business instincts failed him. Elvis' music instincts were just right.

And who cares? Elvis played a song that's the epitome of the reason to do such a thing. But beyond that, it's just a song, and trying to be too heavy handed about it will only result in things like this. It's not the first time something like that happened, it wasn't the last, and it will happen again.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:20 PM on December 18, 2007


Cool Papa Bell writes "Going long unexpectedly is among the worst things you can do in live TV."

Yes, but the possibility of the unexpected is exactly what makes live television compelling.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:23 PM on December 18, 2007


And over the 30+ years of its existence, Lorne Michaels has done everything possible to give Saturday Night Live the structure of something other than a Live Show. He took comic actors who were true masters of improvisational comedy and put them in scripted, rehearsed sketches (although many of them written by the same people performing). That lack of daring, spontaneity and confidence in the people on screen made SNL dependable - and ultimately dull. The irony is that the best performers on the show are also writers, otherwise imagine what wonders the Writers' Strike might have forced on the show.
posted by wendell at 10:30 PM on December 18, 2007


Not only does Weird Al play "Radio Radio," he has explicitly re-enacted the SNL switcheroo.
posted by anser at 11:13 PM on December 18, 2007


Thanks, anser—that was a kickass performance!
posted by languagehat at 5:32 AM on December 19, 2007


Yes, Elvis, Al, and Jimi (what a trio) all kicked ass. Thanks!
posted by Songdog at 7:57 AM on December 19, 2007


this thread led me to remember U2's performance of "I Will Follow" on SNL during the closing of the show about 2 years ago. You Tube has clips. The female members of the cast are bawling, and Bono walks around like he's bulletproof. IMO, truly outstanding.

This? Why was that outstanding?
posted by grouse at 8:25 AM on December 19, 2007


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