Arch Music News

Elvis Costello reflects on being banned from 'Saturday Night Live' in 1977

M_ElvisCostello630_CreditRayDiPietro_123120
Credit: Ray Di Pietro

Elvis Costello is looking back at one of his bigger controversies — getting banned from Saturday Night Live.

The rocker spoke to Apple Music’s Zane Lowe on Monday about the infamous stunt that resulted in him being ejected from the late-night comedy show.

Costello reflected on the December 17, 1977, incident, where he and his band The Attractions were ordered to play “Watching the Detectives” and his debut single “Less Than Zero” on SNL.

After playing the latter song for a few seconds, the 66-year-old Rock & Roll Hall of Famer remembers animatedly cutting off his band and telling the audience, “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but there’s no reason to do this song here” before diving into a rendition of “Radio, Radio” — a move that directly defied the wishes of his label and NBC executives.

“Radio, Radio,” as described by Costello, is an anti-radio song that protested the medium for becoming more profit-driven and less about celebrating artists and their music.

“I just wanted them to remember us. I didn’t really have anything against the show,” the two-time Grammy winner told Lowe. “I was more p***ed 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.'”

The move resulted in SNL producer Lorne Michael banning Costello.  The rocker remained on the blacklist until 1989, and later returned for an anniversary special that was taped in 2000, where he parodied his infamous “Radio, Radio” stunt alongside the Beastie Boys.

Costello released his latest studio album, Hey Clockface, this past October.

By Megan Stone
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.