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Saturday, December 17, 1977

Elvis Costello gets banned from Saturday Night Live: December 17, 1977

Originally posted December 17, 2011.



Saturday Night Live made its name in the 1970s not just for its live sketch comedy, but for musical performances. For the December 17, 1977 broadcast, the Sex Pistols were scheduled to perform. Their criminal records complicated the process of getting them visas in time so Elvis Costello & the Attractions were invited instead. Ironically, one would have assumed no one was more likely to provide controversy than the Pistols, but Elvis proved them wrong.

Costello wanted to promote his upcoming new single “Radio Radio”. However, the powers-that-be wanted an already established song from his repetoire. Lorne Michaels, the show’s producer, also didn’t want them to perform the song because of its anti-media message ZM which criticized “the commercialization and payola of the airwaves.” RS Costello seemingly obliged, kicking into a performance of “Less Than Zero”. However, he’d barely started the song when he turned to his band yelling “Stop! Stop!” and then informing the audience, “I’m sorry ladies and gentleman, there’s no reason to do this song here.” He then launched into “Radio Radio” instead.

The move got Costello banned from the program for more than a decade. Michaels was not a fan of such spontaneous changes and was reportedly infuriated that it put the show off schedule. ZM Costello has said the move was inspired by a Jimi Hendrix performance on BBC television in which he was supposed to play “Hey Joe” but opted for a cover of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” instead. That broadcast was stopped when it ran “longer and louder than the show’s producers intended.” WK

Costello finally appeared as a musical guest again in 1989 and also in 1991. For SNL’s 25th anniversary in 1999, the Beastie Boys were beginning a performance of their song “Sabotage” when Costello interrupted them and they played “Radio Radio” together.

Click here to see the 1977 performance of “Radio Radio”





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Friday, December 16, 1977

Saturday Night Fever premiered in U.S. theaters: December 16, 1977

Originally posted December 16, 2011.



This 1977 drama told the story of Brooklynite Tony Manero, played by John Travolta. He lived with his unsupportive parents and worked a dead-end hardware store job. However, his weekends were devoted to dancing at the local discotheque.

British writer Nik Cohn provided the inspiration for the movie with his 1976 New York magazine article “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night”. Cohn was a newcomer to the United States and a stranger to the disco lifestyle. Unable to grasp the subculture which he was expected to write about, he fabricated the article based on a Mod acquaintance. WK

The movie has been largely credited with popularizing disco around the world. It made Travolta a household name and the soundtrack, which prominently featured the Bee Gees, was one of the best-selling albums of all time. In fact, the film was the first example of cross-media marketing with a single being used to promote the film before its release. WK

The film was considered by many critics to be one of the best movies of 1977. It was featured in The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made and in 2010 was selected to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. Travolta earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.




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