Radio, Radio - Elvis Costello
1977 Saturday Night Live appearance
The song made waves in the United States after Costello's appearance on Saturday Night Live. Originally, the Sex Pistols had been invited to perform on the December 17, 1977 broadcast (hosted by Miskel Spillman, an elderly woman who won SNL's "Anybody Can Host" contest), but problems with the Pistols' various criminal records made getting visas in time difficult, and so the invitation was extended to Costello and The Attractions, who were touring Canada and the U.S. at the time. Costello's album was only available on import (My Aim Is True, released in the UK in July). A reference to the Sex Pistols' manager Malcolm McLaren's inability to keep his band's performance schedule was made by drummer Pete Thomas who, during the performance, wore a shirt with the words "Thanks Malc", in reference to McLaren, ironed on.
Costello wanted to play "Radio Radio" on SNL. Columbia Records, however, was interested in having an already-established song performed on SNL, to increase interest in the band before the American release of My Aim Is True and This Year's Model. In the event, Costello began the SNL performance by playing "Less than Zero." However, after a few bars, he turned to the Attractions, waving his hand and yelling "Stop! Stop!," then said to the audience, "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there's no reason to do this song here," possibly referring to the fact "Less than Zero" was written as a reply to British fascist politician Oswald Mosley. However, SNL music director Howard Shore attributes the move to Costello's bucking pressure by his music company to play "Less than Zero" on the show. He then led the band in a performance of "Radio Radio." Costello did not appear on Saturday Night Live again until 1989 (one of only three people to have their ban from SNL lifted). This version of "Radio Radio" (fading into the "false start") can be found (in monaural) on Saturday Night Live: 25 Years of Musical Performances, Vol. 1.
Costello said later that the inspiration for the last-minute song change came from a similar episode years earlier, concerning Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix was on the BBC television show hosted by pop-star Lulu, and was supposed to play his hit, "Hey Joe." Hendrix started the song, stopped, said, "We’d like to stop playing this rubbish and dedicate a song to the Cream regardless of what kind of group they might be. I’d like to dedicate this to Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce." and then launched into a feedback-laden version of "Sunshine of Your Love" by the group Cream, which had just announced its break-up. The song ran far longer and louder than the show's producers intended, Hendrix said after a bit, "We’re being pulled off the air", and the broadcast was stopped.
On SNL's 25th anniversary show in 1999, Costello burst in on Beastie Boys — 'sabotaging' their performance of "Sabotage" — and they performed "Radio Radio" together.
There are many wonderful places in the world, but one of my favourite places is on the back of my horse.
- Rolf Kopfle