Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The Times etc... an addendum of sorts
In reference to yesterday's post, I went off to work, tra-la-la, dum-de-diddly-dee etc. And what do I hear on the muzak when I get there? Well you may ask.
The first thing I heard was another Clash classic, "Train In Vain". "Damn," I thought, "wasn't I just talking about hearing Clash songs as muzak?" I dismissed it as a coincidence.
But then things got spooky.
A few minutes later, I heard the familiar dulcet tones of El Fuss coming from the speaker. Now, the muzak has played a lot of late-era Costello, stuff like "Everyday I Write The Book", and "Veronica", but I was not anticipating hearing "Red Shoes" and then, about two hours later, the classic "Radio Radio" famous in America for the legendary SNL 'song-switch'!
"The song made waves in the United States after Costello's appearance on Saturday Night Live. Originally, the Sex Pistols had been invited to perform on the December 17, 1977 broadcast (hosted by Miskel Spillman, an elderly woman who won SNL's "Anybody Can Host" contest), but problems with the Pistols' various criminal records made getting visas in time difficult, and so the invitation was extended to Costello and The Attractions, who were touring Canada and the U.S. at the time. Costello's album was only available on import (My Aim Is True, released in the UK in July).
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 fact "Less than Zero" was written as a reply to British fascist politician Oswald Mosley. However, SNL music director Howard Shore attributes the move to Costello's bucking pressure by his music company to play "Less than Zero" on the show. He then led the band in a performance of "Radio Radio." Costello did not appear on Saturday Night Live again until 1989. This version of "Radio Radio" (fading into the "false start") can be found (in monaural) on Saturday Night Live: 25 Years of Musical Performances, Vol. 1.
Costello said later that the inspiration for the last-minute song change came from a similar episode years earlier, concerning Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix was on the BBC television show hosted by pop-star Lulu, and was supposed to play his hit, "Hey Joe." Hendrix started the song, stopped, said, "We’d like to stop playing this rubbish and dedicate a song to the Cream regardless of what kind of group they might be. I’d like to dedicate this to Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce." and then launched into a feedback-laden version of "Sunshine of Your Love" by the group Cream, which had just announced its break-up. The song ran far longer (and louder) than the show's producers had in mind, Hendrix said after a bit, "We’re being pulled off the air", and the BBC pulled the plug (literally) on Hendrix's performance.
On SNL's 25th anniversary show in 1999, Costello burst in on Beastie Boys — 'sabotaging' their performance of "Sabotage" — and they performed "Radio Radio" together.
Costello's own account of this performance appears in the sleeve notes for the 2002 reissue of This Year's Model.
Parody musician "Weird Al" Yankovic does a semi-tribute to the incident in his concerts. Whenever he and his band mess up a song, Al violently stops the show cold, says "I'm sorry, there's no reason to do this song here" and goes into a straight, non-parody cover of "Radio, Radio.""