Elvis Costello Recalls ‘SNL’ Stunt That Got Him Banned: ‘I Just Wanted Them to Remember Us’
Elvis Costello told Apple Music's Zane Lowe in an interview Monday (Jan. 25) that he just wanted to be remembered after the iconic Saturday Night Live stunt that got him banned from the late-night show.
Elvis Costello told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe in an interview Monday (Jan. 25) that he just wanted to be remembered after the iconic Saturday Night Live stunt that got him banned from the late-night show.
On Dec. 17, 1977, Costello and his band The Attractions performed “Watching the Detectives” and a few bars of “Less Than Zero,” a song his label wanted him to perform on the show, before he made a swift decision to switch up the setlist. “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but there’s no reason to do this song here,” the performer announced before launching into “Radio, Radio.” Failure to communicate the change in song, which criticized the commercialization of broadcasting, to SNL producer Lorne Michaels led Costello to be banned from the sketch comedy series until 1989.
“We did end up on Saturday Night Live,” Costello told Lowe. “And I just wanted them to remember us. I didn’t really have anything against the show. I was more pissed off at being told what to play by the record company than I was NBC, truthfully. I can’t remember whether I said what I was going to do, but I think I just said, ‘Watch me.'”
Costello has previously claimed he copied the onstage stunt from Jimi Hendrix. On Jan. 4, 1969, the iconic guitarist halted his band midway through their performance of “Hey Joe” to play a surprise rendition of “Sunshine of Your Love” during a Cream tribute on Lulu’s show.
The English singer-songwriter added “Watching the Detectives” and “Radio, Radio” to his Apple Music Alternative Essentials playlist, which can be streamed here.
Watch highlights from Costello’s Apple Music interview below.