In 1977, Elvis Costello was unceremoniously banned from ever performing on Saturday Night Live again when his now-infamous performance of ‘Radio Radio’ would see him exiled for 12 years. However, in 1999, Costello was back in the headlines as he hijacked a very special Beastie Boys performance of ‘Sabotage’.
Costello’s original ban originated in 1977 he was scheduled to perform with his band, The Attractions, to give a rendition of their song ‘Less Than Zero’ from the debut record. However, after playing just a few bars of that track, Costello and his band switched into their anti-corporation song ‘Radio Radio’ in the ultimate act of punk defiance. Such an act of civil rebellion didn’t go down well with the bosses at SNL and he was banned for 12 years.
Costello, never one to conform to the norm, would again grab the headlines when making an appearance on the show’s 25th-anniversary episode of SNL on September 25th, 1999, with a raucous and particularly poignant collaboration with the Beastie Boys.
The acclaimed rap group Beastie Boys were scheduled to appear on the show to add a little extra grit to the NBC show with their performance of ‘Sabotage’. With Ad-Rock on guitar, Mike D on drums and MCA on bass, the group launched into a suitably rock-heavy rendition of the track.
The song would only last a matter of seconds before Elvis Costello seemingly bum-rushed the stage. Costello used the same speech which he used 22 years prior to end the song ‘Less Than Zero’: “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there’s no reason to do this song here,” he said before taking to the mic to begin singing his now-iconic track ‘Radio Radio’. Within seconds the Beastie Boys were providing ample backing as they clubbed together to create a memorable moment in television history.
While some viewers may have believed this to be a truly impromptu moment, the truth is that this was a scheduled walk-on to poke fun at the shows former stringent rules. A clever move by the SNL producers who not only offered up a moment worthy of remembering but also made fun of themselves while doing it. What could’ve been an extremely cheesy performance was actually a grand rendition of a brilliant track, sung by Elvis Costello and backed by the Beastie Boys.
What more could you want? Watch below to see both iconic Elvis Costello performances.