August 19, 2017

Playing the wrong song.

On December 16, 1977, Elvis Costello was on "Saturday Night Live, and he was supposed to play "Less Than Zero." He gets started, then starts waving his hands and saying "Stop! Stop!"...



and "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there's no reason to do this song here" — it was about some British political situation — and switches to "Radio Radio."

Later, Costello said he got his inspiration from Jimi Hendrix, who was on Lulu's BBC TV show back in January 1969 and supposed to play "Hey Joe." Hendrix starts the song, then stops and says: "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." Cream had broken up a couple months before.

Jimi then switches to "Sunshine of Your Love" and goes on and on until "We're being pulled off the air":

49 comments:

Henry said...

Costello realized at some point that Americans thought that "Oswald" referred to Lee Harvey Oswald when the song is actually referencing British Fascist Oswald Mosley.

He actually wrote some alternate lyrics based on Lee Harvey, but the original is best.

Known Unknown said...

Costello was banned from SNL for 12 years.

Fabi said...

The Experience was the best trio in the history of rock. Cream was not enthusiastic about "Sunshine Of Your Love", so maybe it was a backhanded compliment.

jerpod said...

EC and the Attractions were a last-minute replacement for the Sex Pistols. It likely would have been worse had the Pistols shown up.

traditionalguy said...

Hendrix was really great, but somehow it wasn't so important back then. The Tet Offensive had finally ended in the defeat of the Viet Cong, but then we were declared to be the losers by Cronkite, LBJ bugged out, Bobby Kennedy joined his brother in crazy loner assassination land, and Nixon was put in charge to take the fall.

But Jimmy Hendrix playing on was the big deal.

Earnest Prole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Earnest Prole said...

it was about some British political situation

Sure, if the lead-up to World War II in England can be called "some British political situation."

Ann Althouse said...

The way it's written at Wikipedia is "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." I couldn't really understand what that was about. Thanks for the additional info.

The line is:

Calling Mister Oswald with the swastika tattoo
There is a vacancy waiting in the English voodoo
Carving "v" for vandal on the guilty boy's head
When he's had enough of that, maybe you'll take him to bed
To teach him he's alive before he wishes he was dead

I've heard that song many times but never had any idea what he was talking about.

traditionalguy said...

Oswald Mosely played a strange role in WWII by being among the Royals who were 100% in favor of Peace negotiations with Hitler that would have made England a neutral, but it kept its Empire. The details of that negotiation tricked Hitler into not slaughtering the trapped English Army on the beach at Dunkirk. Churchill who was supposed to sign the deal, but he refused and sent the small craft of the British Isles across the Channel to rescue the Army. The Navy had been told to stand down awaiting the deal working out. And then Churchill took over and he risked it all.

But it worked because the German Panzer crews on Methamphetamines for two straight weeks had basically not stopped to rest until they were ordered to take a three day halt, after which their officers could not get them going quickly again to stop the small boat rescue they thought impossible.

Earnest Prole said...

Oswald and his sister are doing it again
They've got the finest home movies that you have ever seen
They've got a thousand variations, every service with a smile
They're gonna take a little break, and they'll be back after a while

JC said...

Like the switch from march grip by Mitch. Oddly, nowadays, blues players (white) tend to go for Black drummers and bass players, simply because of colour. Nice to see Jimi being colour blind on that. And, at the time, and forever, the best power trio was Taste. Rory Gallagher's band. A man from Cork who loved Belfast

Carter Wood said...

When Elvis returned in March 1989, he played Veronica and Let Him Dangle. I'm sure the American public fully appreciated the political point of Let Him Dangle, a recounting of the case of Derek Bentley, hanged in 1953 for murdering a policeman during the commission of a crime.

A cause celebre, of course. His defenders argued that he was illiterate, had a low IQ, didn't have a gun -- his partner did the shooting -- the judge was biased against him, and the Home Secretary should have given him a reprieve.

At any case, I can't believe Elvis didn't stop the song after a couple of bars and switch to another, more accessible song for Americans off the same album. He must not have been as passionate about capital punishment as he was about an octogenarian British fascist.


Feste said...

Playing the wrong song and cancelling the show are the continuation of politics by other means augmented by narcosis all around, but maybe it's not all drug-cultural or politics, because maybe Odin did create and administer Amanita mushrooms to his theologically drug-charged hallucinating Norse soldiers, conducting whatever furious military music they heard - the band and the music always wins, because the band packed up and was gone, but the music has never stopped.

David said...

Oh the eyes on that woman with the microphone.

Etienne said...

Hey - I won the powerball tonight!

Well... $7... Matched 3 balls.

Land of soap and water,
Hitler's having a bath.
Churchill's looking through the keyhole,
Having a jolly good laugh

Hitler has only got one ball
Göring has got two but they're small
Himmler has something sim'lar
But poor old Goebbels has no balls at all

Etienne said...

Hendrix music sucked. It made no sense unless you were on LSD or Smack. At least that's what I figured, having done neither myself.

I'm glad his "friends" finally killed him. Put the poor bastard out of his misery.

Just think how great his life would have been if he had learned Slovenian polka. The only danger there is choking on kraut and links.

Feste said...

Ivanhoe, but Hitler has two.

loudogblog said...

I'm old enough to remember when Elvis Costello was called "the angry young man." He did Radio Radio again on SNL with the Beastie Boys. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22wwbTQYKxc

eddie willers said...

The Experience was the best trio in the history of rock.

Except for Cream...or maybe The Who since Daltry only sang. (a tamborine doesn't count)

As to Elvis Costello, I never got him, but liked "Alison"...especially as sung by Linda Ronstadt.

And I got a kick out of him and Burt Bacharach in the Austin Powers movie.

Laslo Spatula said...

Nirvana did a reverse switch at the 1992 MTV Music Awards...

“Kurt wanted to play the tune ‘Rape Me’ and was adamant about it...

"“Kurt wanted to play the tune ‘Rape Me’ and was adamant about it. The MTV people were upset. We were being asked from all corners not to. I thought we should play something off Nevermind, do the gig, and leave. Easy, right? No. Kurt was very stubborn and refused to play another tune. There was quite a swirl around this issue.

I went back to the trailer and had a still-warm beer. Yuk, but I drank it anyway. To resolve the song controversy, we said we were going to do “Lithium,” but we decided among the band to pull a prank and play a few chords of “Rape Me” at the beginning. Even though the issue was resolved, the back and forth between their people, our people, us and them, or whoever—it was draining.”

This may be the point where Cobain started to die.

I am Laslo.

furious_a said...

I remember watching the EC SNL episode and being blown away. After that I watched the show for the music acts.

"Best trio?" What about Rush or Green Day or The Police or ZZ Top?

Laslo Spatula said...

Jimi Hendrix's rhythm section is the reason why I don't listen to Jimi Hendrix.

Effete jazz pretensions, ill-advised drum fills, a sound not unlike someone spastically shaking a coffee can full of nails and screws.

Everything I dislike about Ginger Baker, but somehow done worse.

Imagine "Voodoo Chile" but with, say, the rhythm section of Led Zeppelin. Or the Who.

Might then be worth listening to more than just the first twenty-odd seconds; what an epic riff, that.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

Tying together Kurt Cobain and Led Zeppelin: a joke I found on the Internets...

What's the difference between Kurt Cobain and John Bonham?

It took 42 shots to kill Bonham.

There could be a rim-shot after that joke, but Mitch Mitchell would fuck it up.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

Mason Gorge, The White Jimi Hendrix...

I have an afro, I play guitar left-handed, and I can solo some Wah-Wah psychedelic jams, so all of a sudden people started calling me 'The White Jimi Hendrix'. Now, I mean no disrespect to Jimi, but this SUCKS...

I understand how people want to describe newer artists by naming better-known stars, and I'm okay with that. But why does it have to be about my race? Don't get me wrong: I have no problem being compared with a black man, but it is like my own racial identity is being stolen, you know...?

I'm PROUD to be a white man with an afro, playing guitar left-handed, and soloing some Wah-Wah psychedelic jams, but it's ME, you know? If I played cello would people be calling me 'the White Yo-Yo Ma'...?

Frankly, I find all of this attention on my race disturbing: I could be green, and I would still rock an afro, play guitar left-handed, and solo some Wah-Wah psychedelic jams, you get me...? Still, I guess I have it better than the singer in my band: people call him 'the Male Stevie Nicks'...

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

Lemmy from Motorhead was once a roadie for Jimi Hendrix.

Lemmy was famous for his huge collection of Nazi and Confederate memorabilia.

Thus: Jimi Hendrix associated with people who collected Nazi and Confederate memorabilia.

Makes you rethink some things, doesn't it?

I am Laslo.

Jim Grey said...

Thanks for linking to these; they were both great.

Laslo Spatula said...

A Google search for "did jimi hendrix sleep with white women?" brought up the following:

Kathy Etchingham: Life as Jimi Hendrix's 'Foxy Lady'

From the photograph she was indeed a pretty 'foxy lady', in that British Sixties way.

"Etchingham discovered that Hendrix was an "experienced and imaginative" lover who could make sex more romantic than she'd ever known it before..."

"Etchingham spent the night at a friend's and Hendrix missed her so much that he sat down to write one of his biggest hits, The Wind Cries Mary. Mary is Etchingham's middle name and the guitarist would sometimes use it to wind her up..."

Dude was a player.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

"Rolling Stone called him a "Psychedelic Superspade"

Rolling Stone was not always so Woke.

I am Laslo.

frank sakamoto said...

Enjoyed seeing Jimi. I keep a couple hours of selected live cuts on my iphone. How great it would be had he lived and could have jammed with Clapton at a Crossroads Guitar Festival. He sure could make a lot of noise with only two other band members.
fbsakamoto

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Why would he be banned? This hints at something about SNL. Or the miusical guests effectively commercials that the record labels pay to be on the air? Did SNL not get paid because he played the wrong song?

rhhardin said...

Hoffnung 1956, orchestra and pianist disagree about which piano concerto they're playing.

dustbunny said...

Oswald Mosley was married to one of the infamous Mitford sisters, Diana. Other sisters included Jessica, a communist who wrote 'The American Way of Death', Unity who was in love with Hitler and shot herself when England declared war and Deborah who became The Duchess of Devonshire and in addition to raising chickens., was related to JFK by marriage. And Churchill was their cousin. Back when English aristocrats still knew how to do eccentricity with style.

mgarbowski said...

"Why would he be banned? This hints at something about SNL. Or the miusical guests effectively commercials that the record labels pay to be on the air? Did SNL not get paid because he played the wrong song?"

No. Lorne Michaels just liked to be in control. Which is not that obsessive a demand given how hard it must have been to produce a 90 minute live TV show with a bunch of performers who took pride in their non-conformity. Still, a 1-year ban was a bit extreme.

Bill Peschel said...

Mgarbowski, despite Lorne Michaels insistence on doing a live show, he hated anything that made it exciting to watch a live show, like what Elvis did.

Michaels is an incredibly small-minded man. Getting Ford's press secretary on and deliberating concoting the most anti-Ford pieces to use against him is another example. Setting intolerable working conditions on his employees, where they write and trash thousands of sketches over the course of a season, shows he doesn't know shit about comedy, considering how many sketches bomb over the course of a show.

Ann Althouse said...

"Why would he be banned? This hints at something about SNL."

It's a live show. It has to be regimented. The musical guests are given a nice platform. The producer expects cooperation in the coordination and respect for the need to plan. These rock and roll bad boys must have been a continual problem.

Darrell said...

The Elvis Costello thing looks fake--something pre-arranged with the band. He doesn't tell them what to play next, or lead them in to it with a few chords.

Doug said...


"Best trio?" What about Rush or Green Day or The Police or ZZ Top?

What about The Jam? What about Dinner, Desi, and Billy?

Doug said...

That should be"Dino, Desi and Billy"

Crimso said...

"How about, uh, 'girl you couldn't bite my wire'"

Earnest Prole said...

Oswald Mosley was married to one of the infamous Mitford sisters, Diana. . . . Back when English aristocrats still knew how to do eccentricity with style.

Watch this documentary on the Mitford sisters -- trust me.

Fernandinande said...

You got the first mainstream African-American musician who is articulate and bright and clean-cut and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man!

Laslo Spatula said...
Jimi Hendrix's rhythm section is the reason why I don't listen to Jimi Hendrix.


His backup band was not very good.

[Lemmy from Motorhead]. Makes you rethink some things, doesn't it?

Well, not really. The only guy I've ever known who had any Nazi stuff is Jewish. He inherited it from his dad, who, I'm pretty sure, was also Jewish - and rich, too, like Jews are supposed to be, so it's pretty cool stuff.

Fernandinande said...

"There's a bathroom on the right."

madAsHell said...

It took 42 shots to kill Bonham.

Kurt Cobain had two blue eyes. One blew this way, and the other blew that way.

Robert Cook said...

Blogger Laslo Spatula said...
"Jimi Hendrix's rhythm section is the reason why I don't listen to Jimi Hendrix.

"Effete jazz pretensions, ill-advised drum fills, a sound not unlike someone spastically shaking a coffee can full of nails and screws."


That's why BAND OF GYPSIES is Hendrix's best album...a different rhythm section. Buddy Miles is a serviceable, not great, drummer, and, but Billy Cox on bass--an old Air Force buddy of Hendrix who played with him at the time, brings a deep, soulful element to the music. Noel Redding wasn't a bassist but a guitarist who was hired to play bass, (supposedly because Hendrix liked his look).

wildswan said...

I believe that to make America Great Again we need to have great art and we could have it in music. Just start training in music as we train in literacy and math (used to). Train from kindergarden in theory and history of music so that a group develops that is good at music, knows the tradition, has a similar cultural background. Then, American music takes on the tradition and we have at last great art from America. Look at above comments, consider similarities and differences, consider causes. Isn't it clear?

Jupiter said...

At the very start of that clip, he's playing the intro from The Beatles "I Feel Fine". Just kind of tossing it into the mix of Hey, Joe.

Shawn Levasseur said...

"despite Lorne Michaels insistence on doing a live show, he hated anything that made it exciting to watch a live show, like what Elvis did"

When you have a live network show, keeping to the clock is critical. A sudden, last second change, made without the knowledge of the production staff, throws that all out of whack, But suddenly they had to scramble to figure out how work around this change. Rather than cause havoc in trying to rework the network and affiliates' schedule on the fly, or cut other segments, they cut off Elvis.

Elvis being banned wasn't Lorne being petty. He simply knew he couldn't trust Costello with the live network stage.

Time obviously has healed those wounds, as Costello was back on SNL, including a planned reenactment of the song switch. (Green Day was the scheduled musical guest, and on one song they were suddenly interrupted by a stage-crashing Elvis who then led the band into playing "Radio, Radio")

Michael in ArchDen said...

I had always heard that NBC was upset about "Radio, Radio" because they own plenty of stations, and of course, the song is critical of the corporate nature of radio. The fact that he was invited back to play it intentionally certainly eweakens that argument.

Robert Cook said...

I'm sure NBC didn't care in the least about "Radio Radio" as a song. They know people won't stop listening to radio because of the lyrics of a song, (to the extent people even listen to or understand the song lyrics, as many don't). It had strictly to do, as as already been said here, with Lorne Michaels being furious at Costello's abrupt halting of one song and starting a new one that hadn't been timed to the second, which shattered the careful, second-by-second schedule for the live program. Anything that might interrupt the airing of all commercials that have been paid for and scheduled is disastrous. (Television shows are merely the bait to get viewers to sit through the primary programming: advertisements. I knew someone who worked for a while in production for a daily NYC news program, and she said that even seemingly minor errors, such as when commercials are cut off abruptly, result in people being fired.)