Saturday Night Live: The best, worst and most controversial performances

Categories: Lists

Five Most Controversial Saturday Night Live Performances

5. Replacements (January 18, 1986)
The Replacements were notorious for not giving a shit during shows. They could either blow you away with the performance of a lifetime, or be so wasted they'd vomit and pass out halfway through the first song. Hitting several bottles of champagne before their SNL debut, the band gave each cameraman the chore of avoiding them mouthing obscenities into the lenses, while Bob Stinson looked snappy in Paul Westerberg's wife's onesie. After a bumbling yet stunning performance of "Bastards of Young" -- where Westerberg yelled "fuck" into the microphone and Stinson stumbled and dropped his guitar -- the band swapped clothes with one another and returned, barely sober enough to get through "Kiss Me on the Bus." Afterward the band joined the ranks of those banned from ever playing SNL again.

4. Elvis Costello (December 17, 1977)
Fortune found Costello in 1977 when the Sex Pistols, originally slated to perform SNL that night, had trouble with their visas due to criminal incidents in England earlier that year. The Buddy Holly sycophant happened to be touring Canada at the time and was happy to fill in. At the request of NBC, he began his performance with his debut hit, "Less Than Zero," though Costello famously stopped his band a few bars in saying "I'm sorry, Ladies and Gentleman, there's no reason to play this song," then launched into "Radio Radio" a song about commercialism controlling pop music. A thinly veiled reference to the Sex Pistols anti-monarchy songs being banned from airwaves can be heard in the lyric "they don't give you any choice/Cause they think that it's treason." Twenty two years later, halfway through a Beastie Boys performance of the song "Sabotage," Costello interrupted the Jewish rappers by saying "I'm sorry Ladies and Gentleman, there's no reason to play this song," and the four of them then launched into "Radio Radio."

3. Rage Against the Machine (April 13, 1996)
When the geniuses at SNL paired Billionaire Republican Presidential candidate Steve Forbes with anti-corporate rap-core band Rage Against the Machine, a predictable incident forced the set list, traditionally comprising two songs, to be cut in half. SNL producers took issue with the band's upside down American flags, a common stage prop for any RATM show, during rehearsals earlier in the week. The band agreed to take them down, then twenty seconds before show time on Saturday night, roadies unrolled flags over the band's amps and a minor panic ensued. The SNL crew was victorious in removing the flags, the band performed, and then was rushed out of the building by security. The second performance of "Bullet in the Head," was abandoned, as was the typical hugs and waves goodbye at the end of the show -- which is too bad: it isn't every day you get to see the world's most recognizable billionaire hugging the world's most recognizable anti-capitalist rock band, all broadcast on a network owned by General Electric.

2. Fear (October 31, 1981)
After seeing the band on the iconic documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization, John Belushi successfully lobbied to get Fear a guest spot on the 1981 Halloween episode of his former show. Ratings were poor that year and producers didn't know what to expect from this obscure L.A. punk band. After corralling the legion of chain and razor wearing punk fans in an upstairs room for the first performance (where they smashed sinks and tore wires out of a piano), Belushi spoke on their behalf once again, saying if they were allowed to dance before the band, he would join them. The mess of punks slam danced, invaded the stage and crowd surfed before the cameras, eventually devolving into a riot of camera smashing and pumpkin throwing. The producers cut to commercial, but the band played on, with Minor Threat's Ian Mackay hopping on stage to shout "fuck New York!" into the microphone. When security couldn't contain the crowd, the NYPD was called in, who chased the punks into the streets, where they easily blended into the costumed Halloween crowd. In the end, damages to the studio totaled $20,000.

1. Sinead O'Connor: October 3, 1992
In 1992, long before Bill Maher was casually snapping jokes about priests molesting Justin Bieber, Sinead O' Connor was martyring herself before a live audience by claming Pope John Paul II was responsible for child abuse. Performing an a cappella version of Bob Marley's "War," O' Connor finished the song by holding up a picture of his holiness, shouting the words "fight the real enemy!" while tearing up the image and hurling it toward the camera. No applause followed. Days later protesters steamrolled copies of her CD's in New York, and when Sinead attempted a performance at Bob Dylan's 30th Anniversary Concert in Madison Square Garden, she was booed off the stage. In 2002 the Irish singer was asked if she regretted sacrificing her career as a pop sensation for the incident, she responded "hell no!" Years later, after cases of priests molesting children had swept the globe like wildfire, documents surfaced that proved that the deceased Pope John Paul II had, in fact, been working behind the scenes to protect the pedophiles.

Page down for SNL's Five Worst Performances.


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7 comments
SterlingForbes
SterlingForbes

John was actually not too messed up, he was being a dick. Also, they played Stone Cold Bush, not Give it Away.

Jim Beam
Jim Beam

Where is the Fear video?  Thirty years later and the media is still afraid to post it.  nbc has done a good job at keeping off the internet.  They weren't an obscure punk band in the LA area and were frequently played on the Rodney on the ROQ show and New Wave Theater.

backbeatmod
backbeatmod

 @6f3e51b5f10e18ab8f3294d8c8ed8c7c:disqus See Most Controversial on page three.

edwardtmartin
edwardtmartin

I am at a loss as to why everyone is so dissatisfied with Lana Del Rey.  I played the video posted with this article, minimized the browser immediately, and then listened to the song without watching the video. I think she is unique, different and original. 

The whole flak surrounding her reminds me of other artists who try to do their own thing, get annihilated by critics at the time, then only to be glorified years later. I am especially reminded of the reception Bob Dylan received at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, where the reaction was mixed at best, and yet now is considered a seminal moment in the history of rock and roll.My question for you is why does Del Rey have to be a Britney Spears, a Madonna, or even worse, a Lady Gaga, in order to satisfy your in-the-box thinking? She is stilted and damned rigid, without a doubt. But why does she have to be gymnast or a bombastic style-over-substance performer (like the above mentioned ladies)? Why can't she just come out, be nervous, and sing a great song? (Which she did).  To compare her to the other disasters in this article (Ashley Simpson certainly deserves every ounce of criticism she receives) is a disservice to Del Rey, and an insult to music listeners everywhere.  And more than anything else, it shows a desire to hop on the bandwagon of what people these days are calling 'haters' - people who judge and criticize without any detailed, rational explanation of their disapproval, without suggestions as to how they could improve. If you don't like her music, fine, why not explain what makes it so bad? But just to say she was ruled by nerves and Brian Williams thinks so too, and his opinion was posted on a gossip website and thus is somehow validation, means nothing to me, nor does it to any intelligent music listener. And it certainly adds nothing to any conversation regarding music criticism. We have become so accustomed to people looking better than they sound that we hear nothing  when someone sounds better than they look. It is completely obvious to me that the MTV generation has finally and completely taken over the dialogue of modern music. Get over your visual prejudices and start listening instead. You may be surprised by what you hear.

Carrie Nations
Carrie Nations

I think what the article is getting at is that LDR simply didn't earn her place on SNL. No, she's not the worst ever. But how she ever got on the bill is baffling and depressing, and points more to SNL capitalizing on the internet backlash surrounding her than it does her actual talent. I think the article is suggesting that she IS style over substance, that she's a flash-in-the-pan pop product that should be beneath the esteem of an SNL appearance (wait, does SNL still have esteem?). Some of her songs are embarrassingly bad; one or two are pretty catchy; and the rest are boring and unmemorable, to roughly quote a super-sharp line from Pitchfork's review, "the musical equivalent of a faked orgasm." In my opinion, the ultra-manufactured image is an obvious overcompensation for her musical unoriginality. 

XangDeee
XangDeee

You did indeed pick some real winners. Wow, very cool indeed.Total-Privacy dot US

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