While Saturday Night Live doesn’t carry as much cultural cache as it once did, it remains a bucket list for every artist to appear on the legendary NBC programme. Few musicians have more history with 30 Rock than Paul McCartney.
Famously each episode features a musical guest, in the shape of a solo act or a band, who will usually perform twice on the show. Most artists use the platform to showcase their brilliance to the nation, but when you’re McCartney — everybody knows that already.
Although he’s only performed there on three occasions, each time has been special. Additionally, there was almost a third time with The Beatles to add to the list, which sadly didn’t come to fruition.
The failed reunion almost occurred in 1976 when the show was in its first season. While the financial offer was derisory, Lennon and McCartney almost decided to turn up at the studio anyway but decided against the idea.
Speaking on Adam Buxton’s podcast, McCartney said: “As with all of these stories, it’s kind of true, but it’s not. I did visit John and Lorne didn’t actually come on the TV, Lorne was on the TV the week before, and John told me about it.
“He explained the thing to me, and John said: ‘We should go down there now, it’s live!’ and for five minutes we were like ‘Yeah, lets’ go down there, it’d be great, what a hoot!’ and then we went ‘No, let’s not’ and then we didn’t. So yeah, it’s kind of true but facts have been mangled to protect the innocent.”
Unfortunately, it never happened, and we were all robbed of Lennon and McCartney performing on stage together for one final time, which would have been the pinnacle of Saturday Night Live.
Although The Beatles have never graced the stage at Studio 8H, McCartney has still successfully left his mark on the programme, and these three appearances prove why he’s a legend of Saturday Night Live.
Paul McCartney’s ‘SNL’ appearances
‘Coming Up’ (1980)
The first time McCartney appeared on SNL was just a day after the release of McCartney II in May 1980. Although the show was still in its infancy, it was already the premier programme for musicians, and Macca decided to use it to launch the video for ‘Coming Up’.
The decision to premiere the video was innovative, years ahead of its time, and beamed ‘Coming Up’ into millions of homes across the United States.
Moreover, the appearance came just a few months after being busted for smoking weed in Japan. Before SNL aired the video, the singer featured in a hilarious skit which saw Macca ridicule his arrest.
‘Get Out of My Way’, ‘Biker Like an Icon’ and ‘Hey Jude’ (1993)
It took 13 years for McCartney to return to 30 Rock, and this time it was to promote the underwhelming, Off The Ground. The record is one of the lowest moments of Macca’s solo career, and the two tracks he aired from the project fell flat on Saturday Night Live.
However, McCartney managed to make sure the appearance on the show was rescued by taking a trip down memory lane to air The Beatles’ classic ‘Hey Jude’. While two-thirds of the performance was somewhat disappointing, his final act of the night made up for his earlier shortcomings.
‘Jet’, ‘Band on the Run’, ‘A Day in the Life’, ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and ‘Get Back’ (2010)
By the time McCartney’s third appearance rolled around in 2010, he had become more accepting of being a nostalgia act and leaning into the stellar output of his previous bands. Instead, he had nothing left to prove and just had an absolute ball on stage, which made for spectacular viewing.
As well as performing a greatest hits set, McCartney also took part in jovial skits throughout the night with the cast and guest host, Paul Rudd. The evening was a heartwarming celebration of his career and also allowed him to show off the lighter side of his personality, a facet that’s always refreshing to see.