We all remember Ashlee Simpson being exposed as the fraud we all thought she was. Here's that if you absolutely must see it again. Or that time Salt-N-Pepa performed "Whatta Man" in '94 and host Sir Patrick Stewart's dignified pronunciation as "Sahlt and Pep-UH!" after the amazing "Sexy Cakes" sketch.
But what about the performances that have become the stuff of legend, like The Replacements rocking Studio 8H during Season 11? Or Fear destroying the set as a horrified Donald Pleasence looked on from the wings? Cypress Hill deciding to bring the party to the stage and shattering Shannon Doherty's innocence in the process? Take a walk down memory lane and explore some of the most exciting and talked about moments in the history of SNL musical performances.
Sinead O'Connor. SNL. Pope-Rip '92.
Everyone remembers this moment as a really dumb move (SNL's Jan Hooks would go on to lampoon the moment and O'Connor in several subsequent broadcasts). It was meant as an act of protest over the Catholic Church's handling of the child abuse scandal. However, ripping a picture of a nice old Polish man that pretty much everyone can agree on just didn't get her point across very clearly.
If the picture thing never happens, is this remembered as the raw and powerful performance it was? Who thought an Irish woman could provide one of the best covers of a Bob Marley song?
You can read more about this event here. My favorite part, and a detail that has been lost in the sands of time: Joe Pesci hosted a week later, taped the picture back together and boasted that he would have given O'Connor "such a smack" had he been there. It should go without saying, but let's do it anyways, that threatening a woman who protested against violence with violence is stupid. He's just a guy with some powerful convictions that didn't express them very well. Just like Sinead O'Connor.
Enough of that serious political melodrama: twenty-four years ago this Monday, fresh off their major label debut, Tim, The Replacements were invited on to perform. In two of my favorite SNL performances of all time, "The 'Mats" managed to shoot themselves in the foot and absolutely kill it at the same time.
They started it off with what has become one of their most famous songs, "Bastards of Young." It is remarkable how they manage to sound this good while being fall down drunk.
For their second performance, the ‘Mats did a rousing rendition of "Kiss Me On the Bus" but only after each member of the group had switched clothes.
Their behavior, nearly being too drunk to perform and swearing at the audience (not seen in above clips, sadly) resulted in the band receiving a lifetime ban. But, you know what? They were notorious for their drunken, sloppy play at shows–they were trying to have as much fun as their sloppy drunk fans. It's fitting they gave America a taste of what those shows were like.
In 1993, with The Replacements broken up and lead singer Paul Westerberg immersed in a successful solo career-jumpstarted by his "Waiting for Somebody" being a huge part of Cameron Crowe's Singles-Lorne Michaels buried the ax and invited Westerberg to be Charlton Heston's musical guest (possibly to lure in the young crowd that might be put off by Ben Hur). For his second performance, backed by the house band's horn section, Westerberg tore into The Mats' "Can't Hardly Wait" with the only blemish occurring when an audience member shouted "Burt Reynolds" and caused Westerberg to chuckle at the absurdity.
The closest Paul gets to a string of expletives is when Moses neglects to mention him at the end of the show. Also: Ex-Mats' bassist Tommy Stinson would go on to play with the house band several times in the 2000s. I think it's safe to say that Lorne has forgiven at least two of The Replacements. Thanks to Frank , Vanessa ,Jessica and MJ for decoding the shout.
Let's fire up the way back machine and hit 1977. It's season 3, everyone's doing The Jimmy Carter Boogie, Elvis Costello and the Attractions are the musical guest with Miskel Spillman (how she came to host is a crazy story in and of itself). The band kicks off with "Less Than Zero" only to cut into "Radio Radio" a song that Costello was told not to perform, because it's an anti-corporate screed if there ever was one:
Costello's gambit put the show off schedule and he was not invited back to the show for twelve years.
However, by the time the 25th Anniversary Show rolled around, in a tribute to the event, Costello interrupted "Sabotage" by The Beastie Boys.
I had forgotten about that particular recurring Will Ferrell character. Let's move on.
A year after Sinead O'Connor's perfomance, Shannon Doherty was one of the biggest stars of 90210 and Cypress Hill were crossing over into the mainstream off of the success of their album Black Sunday. It was a match made in MTV and Fox Watching Young Person Heaven. After a "lethargic" performance of that year's dopest jam, "Insane In the Brain" the band, performed "I Ain't Goin' Out Like That" with DJ Muggs kicking off the proceedings by lighting and inhaling from a marijuana cigarette that he totally bogarted for the whole performance.
The band would never lose their reputation as hip hop hop heads, no matter how many times B-Real appeared in movies. From then on, if someone ordered the London Symphony Orchestra, accusing glances would be made at the guys from South Gate. Here is one such example. In Spanish.
Rage Against the Machine. You think of 90s protest rock, showing Wall Street how to really rock or interrupting the MTV Video Music Awards, they are the only band that comes to mind. So angry and passionate about the issues every other poli-sci major was. Having them perform when Steve Forbes was the host must've been Cypress Hill's idea because wow did it backfire. Zach and the boys wanted to hang upside down American flags from their amps while performing but were rebuffed by astute stagehands. Craziness aside, they unleashed an intense version of "Bulls on Parade" before being summarily ejected from the building. Read their own personal version of the events leading up to the performance and the aftermath that saw them banned for life here.
It was a fairly forgettable episode: a Jack Handy video and a sketch with Colin Quinn, David and Mr. Forbes playing three lazy roofers were the highlights. For Rage, getting banned ended up being for the best, sine they never recorded a song as powerful or worth listening to again.
Devo was brought on as musical guest early in the fourth season and performed exactly how you would expect the guys behind "Whip It" to perform. First they played a really funky, one can even say, Devo-esque, cover of The Stones' "Satisfaction" a week after the Stones had hosted and butchered performed a medley of "Beast of Burden" "Respectable" and "Shattered" (watch that episode on Netflix here)*. That's ballsy. However, it was their 2nd performance of the night, when things got really interesting and Devo acted like the Devo we all know and love. The song is entitled "Jocko Homo," enjoy:
*Of course, modern viewers refer to this phenomena, when a "good" band sounds terrible on SNL, as the TV On The Radio Corollary.
Finally: Fear. Equal parts powerful emotion and crazy punk band. Allegedly, they were only allowed to perform because John Belushi wouldn't do a cameo unless this punk band he liked got to perform. The ratings were off that year and Belushi was a star that could draw in viewers, so Lorne said yes. What a mistake that turned out to be. As this clip shows, these guys were not ready for prime time and wouldn't want it any other way. Watch them tear through "Beef Bologna," "New York's Alright If You Like Saxophones" and "Let's Have a War" taking breaks to say how great it is to be in New Jersey, insult the audience-that were brought in by Fugazi's Ian MacKaye*-and finally just doing their best to tear the place down and giving every mother nightmare's about what their son's or daughter's leather jacket really meant:
*The Ian MacKaye aspect of this story is just so bizarre: Remember: Donald Pleasence was hosting to promote Halloween 2. Belushi agreed to those stipulations above and went to work. He gets MacKaye's number from Penelope Spheeris (Wayne's World, The Decline of Western Civilization) and it all just steamrolled from there. Read an interview where MacKaye touches on it all, and much more, here .
Bonus Video: George Harrison accepting Lorne Michael's offer of $3,000 for a Beatles reunion on the show during the second season's 8th episode in 1976.
Followed by Harrison and the show's musician laureate, Paul Simon, performing "Here Comes the Sun."
Honorable Mention List:
Adrien Brody inexplicably sporting dreadlocks and a terrible Jamaican accent to introduce Sean Paul. A star to whomever finds this clip.
That one time John Goodman hosted with Tom Petty and Jimmy Fallon thought he had traveled back in time.
Faith No More's Mike Patton getting crazy during a rousing rendition of "Epic" during, you guessed it, a John Goodman show (featuring the debut of "Bad Idea Jeans," which isn't funny anymore due to the earthquake in Haiti and David Spade). You know what, watch it here (warning, it's a Russian website and has the shadiest URL I have ever seen).
Which ones do you feel are crazy enough to be included in this listicle? What about your all time faves?