Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated? - 40 years ago today , Dec. 17 2017

Pretty self-explanatory
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Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated? - 40 years ago today , Dec. 17 2017

Postby elvisarmy » Tue Nov 18, 2008 3:37 am

I was recently reminded of something I read awhile back and thought about way too much last night...

Much has been made of EC's infamous switching of songs on live TV in 1978 but not much about WHY. I read an article that mentioned that the cast was goofing on Elvis a bit and he didn't take it very well. So much that he decided to screw them by changing the song he was playing. That sounds like hundreds of other British acts who rule the UK, only to be very disappointed in how they're treated as virtual unknowns in the US. Sounded like he was just being a brat, not surprising for his angry young man image 'round then. Does anyone know where I might've read this or know any other firsthand accounts?

I went looking for evidence of this and couldn't find anything but people hailing it as the greatest thing ever on TV that he would screw with a network TV schedule and play an anti-media anthem. Erm, why? Some articles said that Lorne Michaels or the record label INSISTED he play Less Than Zero or refused to let him play Radio Radio, but I doubt that either is true. Like most bands who played on SNL, Elvis dutifully performed his latest single, Watching The Detectives. Usually the 2nd song later in the show is another song off their current album or maybe an older hit. Why would anyone insist he play an earlier single that never caught on in the US? He could've played something more listener friendly like Allison or Red Shoes. Radio Radio might not have even been recorded then (it wasn't released until 10 months later) and while it's anti-media, so was SNL. Not to mention the fact that EC & The Attractions were a late fill-in for the Sex Pistols, who the network would be more worried about.

When he did the song with the Beasties years later, I thought THAT was the greatest thing I'd ever seen and reminded me how much more of a sense of humor he has now. Spice World, anyone?
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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby Emotional Toothpaste » Tue Nov 18, 2008 11:59 am

Yes, you are overanalyzing it.

No, it was not the greatest thing ever, and just a small footnote in the early part of his career, IMO. What makes it interesting was the rebelliousness of it, even though it doesn't seem like such a big deal to you or me. I guess Elvis and bandmates had been drinking vodka quite heavily in the green room and had been preturbed by Dan Akroyds comments or something along those lines. Despite it being a comedy show, I can still picture the producers of this or other shows like it, being very specific about what song is going to be played, how long it should last, etc, just doing their job, and the fact that live TV carries certain risks. And so its not hard to imagine them becoming incensed when everything didn't go according to hoyle, which led them or Lorne to "ban" Elvis from appearing on the show again for quite some time. Of course, both Elvis AND SNL later got some mileage out of it as it grew into a legend of rebellious LIVE programming, and the song Radio-Radio the perfect anti-media anthem. I'm sure others have more exact details than I, but thats the long and short of it.

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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby elvisarmy » Tue Nov 18, 2008 12:57 pm

Overanalyzing is my bread and butta.

I guess it just seemed like misguided rebelliousness considering it was mostly because he couldn't take a joke. Throw vodka in the mix and all logic's out the window, I guess. The show is planned as closely to the second as possible and sketches often get cut in the end. Maybe Less Than Zero just fit the bill cos it was short. I'd just think that with the cast at the time digging punk as much as Belushi did that they would've got along better. I doubt he was really banned either. Neither side was probably dying to work together again. Plenty of acts go on and never do again. But when Veronica was poised on being his biggest hit in a long while, on he went again and I'll bet it wasn't really a big deal.

The one thing I could find in my SNL book that I hadn't remembered was that the network censor, who the show had to battle every week, was screaming to cut him off....

"On another show, rock musician Elvis Costello stopped after singing a few bars of his scheduled number and launched into a different song that nobody, including the censor, had heard him play in rehearsals. Unsure of what words Costello might be about to sing, the censor in the control room started shouting "Cut him off! Cut him off!" Bob Liftin, the show's sound consultant, gambled that the new song would be safe and left the sound on, although he stood poised over the volume controls, ready to cut Costello's mic if he was wrong."

A couple of years ago, my band played a local NBC station's cheesy morning show and we did Radio Radio. I behaved. It was early. I hope someone got the joke.
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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby ReadyToHearTheWorst » Tue Nov 18, 2008 6:42 pm

Not only 'overated' but not v. original either. Dec himself admitted he had J. Hendrix in mind at the time:
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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby bronxapostle » Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:01 pm

you had to be there seeing it happen that night...just a punk rock moment....cool!

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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby johnfoyle » Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:15 pm

Elvis may even have been paying tribute to Gram Parsons -

http://www.cmt.com/news/country-music/1 ... sons.jhtml

Grievous Angel: An Intimate Biography of Gram Parsons
New Biography Examines Life of Pioneering Singer-Songwriter
February 27, 2006

As the Byrds prepared their 1968 landmark album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, an ambitious but not-yet-famous Gram Parsons once again found himself on the crest of music stardom. He'd started in a teen rock band in Winter Haven, Fla., then checked out the folk scenes in Cambridge, Mass., and New York City. Yet his move to Los Angeles proved to be a pivotal moment in his career.

After his International Submarine Band's Safe at Home album had fizzled, Parsons accepted an invitation from Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman to join the Byrds -- a journey that led to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry and a British tour with the Rolling Stones.

In this excerpt from Grievous Angel: An Intimate Biography of Gram Parsons, author Jessica Hundley (with Polly Parsons, Gram's daughter
) describes the numerous setbacks and thrilling highlights during this intense time of Parsons' pioneering, tumultuous history.


(extract)

The next night, the Byrds were invited to play on the sacrosanct stage of the Ryman Auditorium, the broadcast venue of the venerable Grand Ole Opry. Gram was ecstatic. The Ryman had originally been built as a place of worship, a tabernacle complete with wooden pews and sacred ground.

When the Byrds hit the stage for their half hour of preacherman glory, a palpable wave swept through the audience, a mixture of curiosity, bemusement, and a hint of hostility. The Byrds had opted for full regalia, Nudie suits catching the spotlights, colors vibrating, rhinestones glowing, their hair stroking their shoulders, their long-legged hippie-kid ease a spit in the face of Opry tradition and an utterly alien presence on the Ryman stage.

They started out easy, breezing through Merle Haggard's "Sing Me Back Home," the audience sighing with relief at the familiar chords and settling in to see what these California kids could do. The next song on the set list was another Haggard number, "Life in Prison," but just as the weak applause was dwindling, Gram leaned forward into the microphone and coughed. He wasn't sure exactly why, but something in the audience's smug assessment made him angry, and defiance rose in his throat, tasting of bile and rebellion.

"This next song," he said calmly, flashing a grit-teeth grin, "is for my grandmother, who used to listen to the Grand Ole Opry with me when I was little. It's a song I wrote called 'Hickory Wind.'"

Hillman and McGuinn exchanged looks, shrugged and started in on Gram's number.
The crowd was uncertain what to think, and the stage manager was furious. Gram gazed out into the vaulted, echoing hall and played like he was born to do it.

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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Wed Nov 19, 2008 2:57 pm

ReadyToHearTheWorst wrote:Not only 'overated' but not v. original either. Dec himself admitted he had J. Hendrix in mind at the time

I like his style: 'We're gonna stop playing this rubbish...'!

How's this for a version of RR?:


The Elv moment doesn't seem to be on YouTube.
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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby StrictTime » Wed Nov 19, 2008 3:34 pm

Otis Westinghouse wrote:
The Elv moment doesn't seem to be on YouTube.


Yeah, I don't think so. I was looking for it to show my boyfriend but it didn't seem to be on there. It also defaulted me to uk.youtube.com for some weird reason.
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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby Top balcony » Wed Nov 19, 2008 4:23 pm

Meanwhile in annother country...

When the song became a hit in the UK, he was invited to perform it on Top of the Pops ( for younger readers this was really the only hit music show on our TV at the time).

Pretty sure some mischievous editor cut to the face of the Radio One DJ Tony Blackburn at the point EC sings "And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools". If being foolish was an Olympic sport Tony B would have got gold everytime.

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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby always dancing » Wed Nov 19, 2008 10:08 pm


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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Thu Nov 20, 2008 2:43 am

No it isn't! As it's a YouTube link, it ain't working. A non-YT if slightly shaky version is viewable here:

https://www.videosift.com/video/Elvis-C ... -Radio-SNL
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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby thenewsoftshoe » Mon Dec 01, 2008 11:16 am

Top balcony wrote:When the song became a hit in the UK, he was invited to perform it on Top of the Pops ( for younger readers this was really the only hit music show on our TV at the time).


It's interesting to me how some songs are done live on TOTP, while others are mimed under a recording. Do you think the artists had to fight to actually perform their tracks? How was the decision made?
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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby Top balcony » Mon Dec 01, 2008 5:19 pm

Hi

I thought that the vocals were sung live over a recorded backing track. One that sticks out for me was when John Peel falultlessly "played" the mandolin during Rod Stewart's performance of Maggie May. Admittedly this was a few years before Radio Radio, but I don't think much changed in the interim.

As to who featured on the programme, think it was simply a mix of the chart acts on the rise plus the most successful of the A&R folk angling for an airing of their new releases.

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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Mon Dec 01, 2008 6:25 pm

Weren't the vocals re-recorded to sound live but still mimed? that was always my impression. New Order playing Blue Monday live (and sounding pretty awful) was a big story at the time.
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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby ReadyToHearTheWorst » Mon Dec 01, 2008 7:11 pm

I think the 'policy' on TotP changed several times over the years. In the 60s we were all so innocent that we didn't realise that our idols were miming (although some were better at it than others).

Later on, Musician's Union grief mean that a 'quota' of performances had to be re-recorded using some ghastly BBC orchestra.

A favourite memory is of Wizzard, who sat in deck chairs and read the newspaper while their current hit (Rock & Roll Winter ?) played, and apparently incurred BBC wrath 'cos they'd given the whole game away.

Actual 'live on the night' performances were, I think, an 80s innovation, but were still quite rare.

Here's a clip of our boy doing Oliver's Army on said poptastic show.

Meanwhile, back on topic, here is the same dude on SNL in 1977, doing Less than Zero-Radio Radio.

Here again, in 1999 with the Beastie Boys doing Sabotage-Radio Radio.

Be warned, the quality in these clips is less than pristine.
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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby johnfoyle » Sat Dec 13, 2008 9:40 am

http://www.avclub.com/content/tvclub/cl ... medium=RSS


Classic Saturday Night Live: Season 3, Episode 8

"Miskel Spillman/Elvis Costello"
posted by: Nathan Rabin
December 12, 2008 - 3:45pm
Image
Buck Henry and the woman who deflowered him, together again on national television

Saturday Night Live’s “Anyone Can Host” contest raised an interesting question. Could just about anyone host Saturday Night Live? Paris Hilton’s hosting gig a few years back seemingly answered that question with a definitive “Oh God yes.” If Paris Hilton can do something chances are good that a reasonably intelligent manatee or orangutan can do it just as well, if not much better.

How hard can hosting Saturday Night Live possibly be? Like so much of Saturday Night Live, the never-to-be-repeated “Anyone Can Host” contest was an audacious stunt that looks progressively less audacious under closer examination. Hiring an eighty-something grandma to host a live 90 minute comedy-variety program popular among countercultural types might seem incredibly risky but was the show really asking perennial trivia question answer Miskel Spillman to do anything other than smile, read her lines from giant cue cards and be adorable in a grandmotherly kind of way?

It’s not as if the show was counting on Spillman to anchor the comedy or do killer impersonations. The writers mostly just wrote around Spillman the way they would a Norman Lear or Hugh Hefner or any other non-entertainer. Nevertheless, today’s episode of Saturday Night Live Classic begins with a cold open where John Belushi and Gilda Radner worry about whether Spillman will be able to remember her lines. I had to laugh at that. Criminy, the Not Ready For Prime Time Players are never expected to memorize their lines. Why on Earth would a doddering rank amateur be expected to out-perform the pros?

Belushi tries to reassure Radner and Buck Henry (who has a charming habit of just sort of popping up randomly on shows even when he’s not hosting) by telling them he gave Spillman a joint beforehand to relax her. “Your joints overwhelm even an experienced drug user like myself” worries Henry in a line I found much funnier than I probably should have. It’s an old comedy staple: old people+pot=hilarity! Actually, pot+anything generally equals hilarity in the minds of comedy pros, which helps explain why pot comedy gets less respect than Rodney Dangerfield’s rotting corpse. Except maybe the Holocaust. I doubt we’re ever going to see a pot Holocaust comedy.

After the tried and true drug humor of the cold open, the show breezes along with an amusingly morbid commercial for a “Meat Wagon Action Track Set” for bloodthirsty tots and a very Monty Pythonesque sketch called “American Date the Self-Conscious Association” about an advocacy group for the painfully self-aware that has formed a strategic alliance with Society for the Extremely Obnoxious and the Really Stupid People's Amalgamation. Of course, much of the sketch’s appeal lied in the performances of Belushi and Aykroyd as, respectively, irritation and rank stupidity personified.

The show continued to channel legendary sketch comedy shows with its next bit, a SCTV-style parody of “The Gift of The Magi” that paled in comparison to SCTV’s own O. Henry parody but was refreshingly literate and dark, especially once Belushi goes mad and begins physically attacking Gilda Radner for giving him a crappy watch chain after he sold his beloved watch and donated his kidney for benefit.

”Sartesky & Hutch”, a cop show parody about a cop/existential philosopher duo promised much more than it delivered. It cried out for the wryly absurdist touch of Woody Allen, who explored a similar juxtaposition in an early short story about a detective who gets hired to find the meaning of life to much greater effect. Instead it just fell flat, as did a sketch where Aykroyd played a sleazy perv who examined classic art through a prurient lens.

But if the rest of the sketches were a mixed bag, the episode contained at least three segments of genuine, unforgettable, tape-this-fucker-for-the-grandkids genius. First up we were treated to an appearance by an impossibly young, skinny, borderline feral Elvis Costello, who pops up alongside the Attractions to deliver a sinister, creeping, down predatory version of “Watching The Detectives”. Stalking the stage as if possessed by strange spirits and sneering directly into the camera, Costello plays up the song’s menace and cruelty.

The performance felt dangerous and edgy and raw but it was just a warm-up for the legendary moment later in the show when a bored Costello begins playing “Less Than Zero”, then abruptly stops, blurts "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there's no reason to do this song here”, then kicks into a revved-up take on “Radio, Radio”, against the wishes of his label and the producers.

Costello, a last-minute replacement for The Sex Pistols, was banned from Saturday Night Live for a solid decade for his shenantics. Costello’s rebellion instantly became a crucial part of SNL lore. It marked a rare moment when Saturday Night Live actually felt spontaneous and dangerous and uncensored.


Speaking of dangerous, today’s episode features perhaps the best-loved of Mr. Mike’s least-loved bedtime stories, “The Soiled Kimono”. Mr. Mike sadistically tells a drunk and desperate Laraine Newman she needs to sing the aria from “Madame Butterfly” to prove herself worthy of a least-loved bedtime story. While Newman sings Mr. Mike makes a “Soiled Kimono” superimposed text tells the story of the drink’s name:

THE STORY OF

THE DRINK

A Japanese aviator was

angry with an unfaithful

Geisha girl.

"Take this!" he said,

flinging 2/3rds of a glass

of costly French champagne

in her face.

"And this!" he said,

flinging 1/3rd of a glass

of Japanese plum wine

in her face.

"And this!" he said,

flinging a paper butterfly

in her face.

"Why this tastes delicious!"

she exclaimed, kissed him,

and then hit him

in the lungs

with a gardening tool.

The end.


In banter that could double as Mr. Mike’s epitaph, Newman accuses him of being cruel. “Well, sometimes ya - you have to be cruel, Laraine.” Still holding onto that tiny last shred of hope, Newman responds, “in order to bee kind Mr. Mike?” only to have him retort, “No, in - in order to be even crueler. Now, scram. Put an egg in your shoe and beat it. It's closing time.”

Moments like that excused an awful lot of flaccid sketches, half-baked ideas and bits that went nowhere and took their sweet time in doing so. As for the host, she acquitted herself well. She was cute, likable and didn’t fuck up too badly. They never did invite her back though. I can’t imagine why.

Grade: B+

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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby johnfoyle » Wed Feb 24, 2010 4:08 pm


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Re: Radio Radio on SNL: awesome or overrated?

Postby Jack of All Parades » Wed Feb 24, 2010 6:32 pm

As one who saw it live on television that December evening I have always thought it more overrated as an act of contrariness- more staged than spontaneous. Would have to agree that Lorne Michaels is being very revisionist in his recollections. I have always thought it would have been a more radical statement to have continued playing "Less Than Zero" given its overert criticism of racism, etc. Besides, though aimed at censorship, "Radio,Radio" aims its barbs at the radio and not at the medium he was performing on that evening- not that television didn't need barbs aimed at it, as well. Just have always felt it was a more planned event than history has treated it as- an attempt to get some more exposure for a song off the soon to be new album "This Year's Model". A highly suspect act of rebellion in my book.
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