Elvis Costello – Radio Radio

When I heard the organ in this song it hooked me. I haven’t posted much of Costello partly because like the Replacements…I got sidetracked in the late 80s away from him and since I started blogging I’m rediscovering him again.

I was 10 years old walking in our old drug store and I heard this artist I never heard before over the speakers…the song they were playing was Alison. The drug store sold records also and they had Elvis’s debut album propped up for viewing. The name threw me because this “Elvis” was a small skinny guy with glasses…that is when I found his music.

Radio Radio was made more famous by the Saturday Night Life performance.

Radio Radio was released as a single in 1978 and peaked at #29 in the UK. It was on the US version of the album This Year’s Model and it peaked at #30 in the Billboard Album Charts, #21 in Canada, and #4 in the UK.

Costello was slated to play his current UK single “Less Than Zero,” on Saturday Night Live in 1977. Costello launched into a few bars of “Less Than Zero,” but then turned to his band and told them to stop. He then apologized to the live audience, saying, “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but there’s no reason to do this song here,” and broke into a full rendition of “Radio Radio,” which had not yet been released.

Lorne Michaels…the God of Saturday Night Live was not pleased.

Costello was banned from Saturday Night Live. It has been said that the corporate brass at NBC (which owned radio properties) objected to the lyrics of “Radio Radio,” but others say it was because Costello went off-script, which was a no no to Lorne Michaels. That was one rule Michaels wanted the cast to know…they were not the Carol Burnett show and they were not to go off script or laugh.

Costello later claimed he was inspired by Jimi Hendrix, who in 1969 stopped a performance of “Hey Joe” on the show Happening for Lulu and launched into the Cream song “Sunshine Of Your Love,” earning him a ban from the BBC.

On Saturday Night Live’s 25th anniversary show in 1999, Costello parodied the incident when he interrupted the Beastie Boys while they were playing “Sabotage,” leading them in a full version of “Radio Radio.”

Elvis Costello: “Before I got into show business, I thought radio was great, So I wrote a song about celebrating it – the thrill of listening to it late at night. This was my imaginary song about radio before I found out how foul and twisted it was.” 

From Songfacts

In this song, Costello is protesting the commercialization of late 1970s FM radio. Radio stations would become more and more consolidated over the years, and their playlists tightened up considerably. Eventually, deregulation led to a few companies owning the majority of American radio stations, which led to automated stations. Tom Petty sang about this on his 2002 track “The Last DJ.”

This song is a takedown of radio, but it started out as a loving tribute. Costello wrote the first version of the song as “Radio Soul” when he was in a band called Flip City. They recorded a demo in 1974, but the song was never released.

In “Radio Soul,” Costello sings lovingly about radio, without any trace of vitriol:

I could sail away to the songs that play upon that radio soul
Radio soul
It’s a sound salvation

When he reworked the song in 1977, he changed the title and completely flipped the meaning, reflecting his newfound take on the topic.

On December 17, 1977, Elvis Costello & the Attractions appeared on Saturday Night Live as last minute replacements for the Sex Pistols, whose various criminal records had made getting visas in time difficult.

Costello’s ban was lifted in 1989 when he returned as musical guest, performing “Veronica” and “Let Him Dangle” without incident. His 1977 act of defiance became part of Saturday Night Live lore, and is often recounted in retrospectives of the show’s history. 

Bruce Springsteen was an influence on this song, musically and lyrically. The Springsteen ethos is more apparent in the “Radio Soul” version, with the theme of escaping to a better place through the power of music.

In the ’10s, Costello started performing the “Radio Soul” version of this song, explaining that it resonates with him far more than “Radio Radio.” He has clearly mellowed out.

Costello performed the early version of this song, “Radio Soul,” at the Apple iTunes Radio announcement event on September 10, 2013. Introducing the song, he explained that radio was very important to him, since his father was singer for a radio dance band.

The 1999 SNL return and parody of the original event.

The 1977 SNL infamous appearance

Radio Radio

I was tuning in the shine on the late night dial
Doing anything my radio advised
With every one of those late night stations
Playing songs bringing tears to my eyes
I was seriously thinking about hiding the receiver
When the switch broke ’cause it’s old
They’re saying things that I can hardly believe
They really think we’re getting out of control

Radio is a sound salvation
Radio is cleaning up the nation
They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don’t give you any choice ’cause they think that it’s treason
So you had better do as you are told
You better listen to the radio

I wanna bite the hand that feeds me
I wanna bite that hand so badly
I want to make them wish they’d never seen me

Some of my friends sit around every evening
And they worry about the times ahead
But everybody else is overwhelmed by indifference
And the promise of an early bed
You either shut up or get cut up, they don’t wanna hear about it
It’s only inches on the reel-to-reel
And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools
Tryin’ to anesthetize the way that you feel

Radio is a sound salvation
Radio is cleaning up the nation
They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don’t give you any choice ’cause they think that it’s treason
So you had better do as you are told
You better listen to the radio

Wonderful radio
Marvelous radio
Wonderful radio
Radio, radio
Radio, radio
Radio, radio
Radio, radio
Radio, radio
Radio, radio
Radio, radio
Radio, radio

Classic TV Episodes – SNL – Steve Martin/Blues Brothers

This Emmy-nominated episode has acquired a reputation as the best of all Martin’s hosting gigs. Its not my favorite episode…I do like it though… but it’s probably one of the most important in the show’s history.  It was a turning point for SNL. It went from a cult hit to a major player in the ratings during this period. Many people have picked it as the best episode.

Saturday Night Live has always been hit or miss in any era. The difference in the 70s is they would take more chances and Lorne made sure everyone had a chance in the cast.

The show introduced a lot of comedians and some unknown musical artists like Redbone and others that would not have gotten coverage on a network show.

Related image

 

 

Saturday Night Live: Steve Martin/Blues Brothers

The Cast: Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Bill Murray, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner, The Blues Brothers, and Don Pardo

The host for the episode is Steve Martin (his fifth appearance), and the musical guest is The Blues Brothers (their second appearance). The skits for this episode are as follows: Concert promoter Don Kirschner presents footage of an old club performance by The Blues Brothers. For his opening monologue, Steve Martin talks about the inspiration for his comedy ideas, then does a magic act that ends with him tackling and beating a member of the audience.

The Festrunk brothers prepare their apartment for the two girls they believe are on the way, but their neighbor Cliff tells them they’ve been stood up. Medieval doctor Theodoric of York treats a series of patients by draining their blood. A man and woman catch each other’s notice in a crowded club, and dance together romantically as the rest of the club freezes in place around them. During the Weekend Update, Jane Curtain and Dan Aykroyd debate abortion, Jane reports on Carter’s energy policy and a new nasal contraceptive, and Dan berates Garrett Morris for short-changing him on the weed he bought. Steve performs a song about King Tut. The Nerds Todd and Lisa prepare their science fair projects. The Blues Brothers perform “I Don’t Know”.

 

Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live

If you want to know why and how Saturday Night Live came to be…this is the book. It covers the first 10 years of the show but is primarily about the first 5 years and the one terrible year after the classic cast left. It was written by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad and they interviewed practically everyone connected with the show and it is surprising on how objective they are throughout the book.

Working on the show was/is not for the thin-skinned. It was rough and no one was spared…not even the stars at first. The book goes into detail about how the show started a pattern of work that continued through the decades. The troubles the female writers went through trying to do their job. The endless drugs that fueled many of the all-night writing sessions.

The atmosphere could be very sexist, insulting and aggressive. Michael O’Donoghue was the key writer and gave SNL the edge but he could be difficult. When he left the show he was missed. When the original cast, writers, and Lorne Michaels left, Jean Doumanian took over the show for a year. Things didn’t go well, to say the least. The book details the transition then to Dick Ebersol.

The show went from an ensemble show trying new ideas to a star-driven formulaic show under Ebersol. Maybe the show was destined to do that anyway and it would never be the same again.

I’ve read a few books on SNL but as far as the creation and original cast…this is the one to go to.

 

 

 

Saturday Night Live

It started out as Saturday Night… Saturday Night Live title belonged to ABC for a show hosted by Howard Cosell who was out of his league. ABC let Saturday Night have the Live part after Cosell’s show was over.

Who was the best cast through the years? This is a question that is debated over and over again. The people arguing usually picks the cast they grew up with. I grew up with Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo. Personally, I always thought the original cast was the best and it wasn’t even close. John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Chevy Chase (though I liked his replacement better…Bill Murray), Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris and my favorite overlooked cast member Laraine Newman.

Why do I like the original cast the most? They tried new things and went out on a limb. Some of the skits succeeded some didn’t but they were different from anything on TV at that time…and also at this time. That cast pushed the envelop to use a worn-out phrase but in this instance it is true. Lorne Michaels guided the show and even the musical guests were usually hip bands and artists unknown to the general public and some are legendary now. No way would Michaels ever dream of that now…he usually gets whoever is the most popular to draw in the ratings. He could not do what he did in the 70s anymore because of ratings…and it is sad. Michaels also used the complete ensemble. It was not the Eddie Murphy and the Joe Piscopo show of the early eighties. It was about getting an unknown cast and building them and all of them having a shot…not a star-driven show that gave all the best bits to the stars.

A lot of the skits are now famous… Ackroyd’s Bassomatic, the Samurai, the uncomfortable but funny Word Association with Richard Pryor, The Mr. Bill Show, Weekend Update, Roseanne Rosannadanna, Land Shark, Bag of Glass, The Wild and Crazy Guys, the Coneheads, The Lounge Singer, Mr. Mike, The Blues Brothers and many more.

The writers for the show were not in the Carol Burnett comedy vein..they were not in the current SNL vein either. The style was more aggressive, especially with Michael O’Donoghue. He was a comedy trailblazer with National Lampoon and added dark humor to SNL. Other writers were Franken and Davis, Rosie Shuster, Alan Zweibel, Marilyn Miller, Anne Beatts, Herb Sargent, Tom Schiller and also Ackroyd and Chase.

The two members that didn’t get as much publicity as the others were Newman and Morris and are not as well remembered today. Newman and Ackroyd were the best character actors on the show…they could play anyone.  That cast tried to test all the limits. SNL has turned into just another comedy show through the years. The original group also did some serious skits along with comedy and trips into the bizarre (See Mr. Mike). …It separated the original from any other cast.

There were other great casts but none resonated like the original to me. It was also the timing of when they debuted…and look at the talent in that cast…

The host each week was usually under the radar actors, writers, musicians and sometimes athletes. You usually didn’t see A-list actors but if you did they were carefully chosen. The one big mistake was Milton Berle…how he got to host I don’t know but that is the only show of the first five years I will try to avoid… He was that bad.

I like the feel of underground the first five years had but you can only be that for so long…popularity takes over. Those first 5 great years (the first four were great…the fifth good) set the foundation that holds to this day…just without the daring and danger…in other words, it has become vanilla like the rest of the world.

Cheers to the show that introduced Acapulco Gold to a television audience.

SNL2.jpg

The Bassomatic…something you cannot explain with words.

The best Star Trek parody…