Thursday, June 5, 2008

Someone's Scratching at the Window, I Wonder Who Is It?

The infamous Elvis Costello performance on Saturday Night Live, when his band started playing "Less Than Zero" but he quickly told them to stop, then ripped into the unrehearsed (and un-cleared by the censors) "Radio, Radio," came on the Anyone Can Host episode, with 80-year-old New Orleans grandma Miskel Spillman. Elvis may have felt the need to exhibit a little extra punk attitude on that show because he was actually a replacement. Originally slated to appear - as announced at the close of the previous week's show by Don Pardo - were the Sex Pistols.

Up to that point - we're at the tail end of 1977 - the show had booked fairly hip musical acts, but they tended to be of the folkie variety, like John Prine and Kinky Friedman. They hadn't so much as dipped a toe into the punk movement, but obviously, the Sex Pistols would have been going whole hog. Punk scholars probably know what happened here, why they didn't show up, but I have no idea.

Elvis played up the punkdom to the hilt, not only changing songs at the last second but stalking stiff-legged around the stage, stuffing his face into the camera and charging offstage before the audience was done clapping. I bet the Sex Pistols approved.


Pike said...

Point of order, sir? Are you reading the Beatles book or watching the season of SNL? You can't be doing both.

T. Nawrocki said...

I'm also listening to old American Top Fortys.

Gavin said...

Wikipedia says it was because of visa problems. My Sex Pistols Day by Day book doesn't mention the SNL booking, but says that on 17 Dec 77 they played a club called Mr. George's in Coventry, England.

AJF said...

For what it's worth, SNL dipped into punk at least one time before this, in April 1976 with musical guest Patti Smith Group. Bonus props for booking her on the show hosted by Gerald Ford's press secretary - quite the improbable host/musical guest combination.