The 10 Most Rock 'N' Roll Moments in 'Saturday Night Live' History
Having been a cultural institution for almost 40 years now, there's no denying Saturday Night Live has been virtually intertwined with our culture since its inception. Not just for its musical guests, but for the edgy atmosphere of a live show where anything could happen, SNL definitely had its share of rock 'n' roll moments.
From great musical performances to timeless sketches, and that hilarious way they would interrupt the last sentence of the opening ... live from New York, it’s the 10 Most Rock 'N’ Roll Moments in Saturday Night Live history!
10. Who knew The Beatles were funny?
The Scene: Three Beatles have appeared on Saturday Night Live over the years. George Harrison was the first, performing “Here Comes the Sun” and “Homeward Bound” with SNL-regular Paul Simon in 1976 (He also famously turned down Lorne Michaels’ offer of $3,000 to convince The Beatles to get back together); Ringo Starr appeared as a non-musical guest in 1984 -- and Paul McCartney has made multiple appearances, starting in 1993, when he got to play three songs (Hey, he’s freakin’ Paul McCartney!), including a show-stopping rendition of “Hey Jude.” But the real highlight of that episode was Chris Farley’s hilarious interview with McCartney, which included the line, “Remember when you were with The Beatles?” -- three times!
Why was it was rock ’n’ roll? First there’s McCartney’s explanation of the last line of “The End” from Abbey Road -- and then there’s Farley’s “AWESOME,” whispered reaction.
09. Frank Zappa hosts Saturday Night Live
The Scene: Frank Zappa hosted Saturday Night Live. Let that sink in for a moment. Zappa hosted SNL in 1978 for the first and last time. His off-beat sense of humor and insistence on pointing out to the audience that he was reading from cue cards made sure he was never invited back. In fact, at the end of the show, most of the cast members (minus John Belushi, of course) chose to stand some distance away from Zappa.
Why it was rock ’n’ roll? Because ZAPPA HOSTED SNL. And because you’ll notice a theme that pissing off Lorne Michaels does wonders for your ranking on this list.
08. Rage Against the Machine vs. Steve Forbes
The scene: Rage Against the Machine were all set to perform two songs on an episode of SNL but ended up having their set cut short, thanks to the presence of then-presidential candidate and billionaire Steve Forbes. The ever-politically-minded RATM protested the presence of Forbes with two upside-down American flags (considered a disrespectful use of the flag) hung on their amps by producer Brendan O’Brien. Stage hands were ordered to remove the flags as the first song, “Bulls on Parade,” began.
Why was it was rock ’n’ roll? Say what you will about the politics of Rage Against the Machine, but pissing off “the man” is a cornerstone of rock ‘n’ roll.
07. Cypress Hill light up
The Scene: As Cypress Hill took the stage to perform their second song of the night, “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That,” all seemed to be going smoothly at first – that is until DJ Muggs lit up a joint on stage (Kids, if you don’t know what a joint is, go ask mommy or daddy. Tell them Guitar World sent you). If that wasn’t bad enough, after the song, the band trashed their instruments and, you guessed it, were banned from performing on the show again.
Why was it was rock ’n’ roll? Because a rap group went all Pete Townshend on their instruments.
06. Lots of people said “fuck”
The Scene: This happened too many times to give the honor to just one band, but sneaking the F-bomb passed the censors is always fun. The Replacements were banned after Paul Westerberg yelled out “fuck” during a performance of “Bastards of Young” in 1985 (Of course, the fact that the band showed up to the concert wasted didn’t hurt). System of a Down (“B.Y.O.B.”), Metallica (“Fuel”) and The Strokes also all snuck one past the FCC, but none of those bands drew the scorn of Lorne Michaels enough to merit banning.
Why was it was rock ’n’ roll? Because it’s rock ‘n’ fuckin’ roll, that’s why.
05. Sinead O’Connor disses the Pope
The Scene: One of the most infamous moments in Saturday Night Live history featured Sinead O’Connor “desecrating” a picture of the Pope on live television. During an a cappella version of Bob Marley's "War," which O’Connor intended as a protest of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, the singer pulled out a photo of Pope John Paul II and tore it down the middle. To this day, NBC refuses to allow for any usage of the footage from the show. Of course, thanks to YouTube, you can check it out below!
Why was it was rock ’n’ roll? Because when it comes to sticking it to “the man,” it doesn’t get much bigger than the Pope.
04. Aerosmith enter Wayne’s World
The Scene: If you have no familiarity with Wayne’s World, go to the store, buy the movie and watch it real quick. We’ll wait. … Back? Good. This was a particularly eventful episode of the show for Wayne and Garth, as Garth’s cousin Barry, an Aerosmith roadie played by none other than Tom Hanks, has promised the guys that he would be getting the band to appear on the show. Barry makes good on his promise, with “America’s rock band” showing up to answer questions on drugs, booze, Steven Tyler’s lips and … Eastern European socioeconomics? Rock ‘n’ roll!
Why was it was rock ’n’ roll? Because WAYNE’S WORLD! WAYNE’S WORLD! PARTY TIME! EXCELLENT!
03. Fear destroy everything
The Scene: Saturday Night Live decided to invite one of the heaviest, meanest punk bands in all of New York City to perform on their show, and they expected it to go off without a hitch. They had this one coming. Fear were banned from the show after their fans destroyed the set with their slam dancing. Rumor has it Fear also bussed in “dancers” for the show.
Why was it was rock ’n’ roll? Because of the general bratty attitude that made punk so much fun, and because it was the only mosh pit in SNL history.
02. Christopher Walken has a fever…
The Scene: In a fictitious Behind the Music parody, Will Ferrell plays Gene Frenkle, the cowbell player for Blue Oyster Cult, who are all set to record their smash single, “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” with famed producer Bruce Dickinson (played by Christopher Walken). During the sketch, Ferrell’s character gets a little carried away with his cowbell playing, much to the chagrin of his band mates and much to the delight of Dickinson. Nothing we could write could possibly express the hilarity that ensues -- and believe us, we tried -- but fortunately, you can watch the video below and see for yourself.
Why was it was rock ’n’ roll? Because we have a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell.
01. Elvis Costello just won’t play by the rules
The Scene: When you think controversy, Elvis Costello probably isn’t the first name to pop into your head. Back in ‘77, Costello was scheduled to play Saturday Night Live -- albeit as a last-minute replacement for the Sex Pistols. He had wanted to play “Radio, Radio” on the show but was pressured by his label and the folks at SNL to play a tamer number (i.e. one that wasn’t critical of mass media). Costello and the Attractions took the stage that night as planned, but made it only a few bars into “Less Than Zero” before Costello stopped the song and told the audience, “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there’s no reason to do this song here,” before leading the band into “Radio, Radio.” If you’ve been paying attention, you know what comes next: Costello was banned for life from the show.
Fast forward to 1999 for the show’s 25th anniversary, and the Beastie Boys take the stage to perform their hit, “Sabotage.” Shortly after starting the song, the hip-hop group are interrupted by who else but Elvis Costello, who once again apologizes to the crowd before launching into “Radio, Radio,” with the Beasties acting as his backing band. Costello is only three people to have their SNL bans lifted.
Why was it was rock ’n’ roll? Pissing off Lorne Michaels? Check. Sticking it to "the man"? Check. Doing it in those glasses? Number one!