Powered by i.TV
July 24, 2014

'SNL' Musical Guests: Best 'Saturday Night Live' Performance Videos

by Michael D. Ayers, posted Nov 6th 2009 2:00PM

Since its debut in 1975, 'Saturday Night Live' has been synonymous with bringing pop music to the late-night, weekend masses. Now in its 35th season on NBC, 'SNL' has indeed become the holy grail for musicians.

Over the years, many memorable performances have graced the 'SNL' stage. In this list, we select the 7 best. Some were energetic, some were raw and emotive, some were quirky and fun.

But mostly, they were all daring for broadcast television at the time.

Since its debut in 1975, 'Saturday Night Live' has been synonymous with bringing pop music to the late-night, weekend masses. Now in its 35th season on NBC, 'SNL' has indeed become the holy grail for musicians.

Over the years, many memorable performances have graced the 'SNL' stage. In this list, we select the 7 best. Some were energetic, some were raw and emotive, some were quirky and fun.

But mostly, they were all daring for broadcast television at the time.

Sinead O'Connor (October 3, 1992)
Love it or hate it, Irish singer Sinead O'Connor churned out one of the most -- if not the most -- historic performance on 'SNL.' Doing an acapella version of Bob Marley's 'War,' she replaced a few of the lyrics with accusations of the Catholic Church's involvement in sexual abuse cases. At the very end of the song, O'Connor matched the lyric "evil" with a photo of Pope John Paul II, and promptly tore it up. [Watch the Video on YouTube]

Nirvana
(January 11, 1992)

The seminal grunge band Nirvana made their 'SNL' debut with 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' on the same day that their CD, 'Nevermind,' reached number one on the Billboard charts. The performance ushers in that raw, hard rock sound that was missing on this show for most of the '80s. At the same time, this performance effectively served as the introduction of Nirvana to mainstream America. [Watch the Video on YouTube]

Paul Simon and George Harrison (November 20, 1976)
In this classic performance, two of pop music's most accomplished songwriters teamed up for sparse, acoustic renditions of each other's tunes. Simon backed Harrison on 'Here Comes The Sun,' and Harrison returned the favor on Simon's 'Homeward Bound,' giving it a slightly bluesy feel towards the end. Simon was hosting the show that night, but it was the pairing of these two songs -- back to back, no less -- that was one of the series' first musical gems.


Elvis Costello and the Beastie Boys (September 26, 1999)
For its 25th anniversary special, 'Saturday Night Live' booked the Beastie Boys to perform their anthemic hit, 'Sabotage.' But after only a few bars in, their set was literally sabotaged by Elvis Costello, who ordered the band to launch into his own song, 'Radio, Radio.' The performance not only paired two pop giants; it also parodied Costello's infamous 'SNL' debut in 1977, in which he abruptly switched from 'Less Than Zero' to 'Radio, Radio,' much to the dismay of his record label and Lorne Michaels.


The Blues Brothers (November 11, 1978)
Originating from an 'SNL' sketch starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, the Blues Brothers morphed into their own band. And in 1978, these soul revivalists churned out a high-energy, explosive performance of 'Soul Man,' which solidified them as not just parodies, but musicians that could be taken seriously. While their authenticity is probably something still up for debate, there's no denying that these two had some serious dance moves. [Watch the Video on YouTube]

Frank Zappa (December 11, 1976)

It's hard to imagine someone like Frank Zappa gracing the 'SNL' stages these days. But the '70s, well, that was a different story. In this performance of 'I'm The Slime,' his head was superimposed in the kick drum, while lyrics were taught to the audience on a blackboard. This is one of the creepiest, silliest and campiest performances in 'SNL' history. But at the same time, it kept true to Zappa's very anti-establishment outlooks. [Watch the Video on YouTube]

Arcade Fire (February 24, 2007)
There's nothing like a good, Who-esque guitar smash -- and that's exactly what the Arcade Fire did on their first 'SNL' performance. As the song 'Intervention' was winding down, Win Butler took the time to remove his acoustic and sent the splinters flying. While it's a slightly redundant concept, it still made for quite an entrance, giving the song an exclamation point that is hard to come by on late night TV these days. [Watch the Video on Internet DJ]

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

1 Comment

Filter by:
oliversarmy

nice list -thanks. how bout a part II?

March 07 2011 at 12:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Follow Us

From Our Partners