On second thought

By: sonofabeach96

Dec 17 2015

Category: Uncategorized


On this date, in 1977, Elvis Costello got himself banned as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live.  Well, at least for 12 years that is.  It’s a bit of a path to get to the bottom of it, so buddy up and stay with me.

The episode in question had bizarre twist after bizarre twist, including whom hosted that night.  Her name was Miskel Spillman.  Who, one may ask?  Well, she was an elderly woman who happened to be the winner of the “Anyone Can Host” contest (hilarious, right?).  The musical guest was slated to be The Sex Pistols.  However, they were denied visas to enter the US due to their questionable criminal records and something referred to as “moral turpitude” (?).

SNL producers reportedly approached The Ramones about filling in, but Joey Ramone turned the offer down, later saying, “We don’t substitute for anybody.”

Cue Elvis Costello and The Attractions.  They were in the midst of a tour and agreed to be the last-minute fill-in.  Costello had a new album out, My Aim Is True, which had been released in the UK but not the US.  He wanted to play something from the new album but his label, Columbia, thought playing an already-known song would be a better choice to drum up increased interest in the band ahead of the impending US release.  The strong-armed tactics of the Columbia suits didn’t sit well with Costello.

He took the stage on SNL as scheduled, and he and the band started to play “Less Than Zero”.  But within a few bars of beginning, he turned his back to the crowd, waved his arms in the air towards the band signaling them to stop playing, and shouted, “Stop!  Stop!”.  He then turned back to the audience and said, “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there’s no reason to do this song here.”  The band then proceeded to play “Radio Radio”, a song that bashes mainstream media and record industry tactics in controlling what music gets airplay.  Most assumed he did this in protest of Columbia.  Costello himself says he was inspired by an occurrence he’d seen on a BBC TV show in which Jimi Hendrix was cutoff for playing “Sunshine of Your Love” in tribute to a recently dissolved Cream rather than “Hey Joe”, as was planned.

The move by Costello got him banned from SNL for 12 years, until Lorne Roberts cooled off enough.  Roberts was pretty pissed that night, reportedly holding up his middle finger at the band the entire time they played.  Costello is only 1 of 3 formerly-banned individuals who were asked back for a return visit, returning as musical guest in 1989 and appearing again in 1999 during the shows’ 25th Anniversary Special.  On that episode, The Beastie Boys were on stage and had just begun playing “Sabotage” when Costello burst in, halted the band, then they all broke into a raucous rendition of “Radio Radio” in honor of the original episode in 1977.

There are several other notable incidents that resulted in musicians getting banned from SNL over the years.  Frank Zappa had one appearance in 1978 as both host and musical guest.  He was never asked back due to pissing off every cast member with his pompous attitude.  The Replacements were banned in 1986 after returning to the stage for their second song drunk and out of tune, although Paul Westerburg was invited back as a solo artist.  Sinead O’Connor was banned in 1992 for ripping a picture of the Pope.  And Cypress Hill was banned in 1993 for smoking a joint on-stage and trashing their equipment, among a few others.

So, in honor of all of that, my songs of the day are:

“Sabotage” by The Beastie Boys

“Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream

“Less Than Zero” by Elvis Costello

“God Save The Queen” by The Sex Pistols

“Radio Radio” by Elvis Costello



18 comments on “On second thought”

  1. I love the rebellious nature of this post! lol! Great song choices! Who doesn’t love some SNL trivia? 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I love it! This is all new to me, and it’s so wonderfully “rock n roll.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Had no idea about the Replacements getting banned, I remember the Cypress Hill debacle quite vividly.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I remember the Sinead O’Connor incident. Didn’t realize there were others! Thanks for the info!

    Liked by 2 people

    • There were some hosts that got banned too. I just ran with the musical guests. Some of the stories are pretty wild. That incident with Sinead O’Connor kinda ruined her career. Still not sure why she chose that route.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As always, something interesting and always a blast from the past….kat

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This is worth getting banned for, ” The band then proceeded to play “Radio Radio”, a song that bashes mainstream media and record industry tactics in controlling what music gets airplay.” Good job, because every artist imprints on the world when s/he stands up for something. If he was banned, it totally made the move legitimate and cemented him in history as a star for all seasons. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love them! YAY!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Love you stories! Thank you for all the research!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: