On a very special episode of Lorne Michaels’ iconic late-night show, Saturday Night Live, the producer offered The Beatles the silly sum of $3,000 to reunite the band and perform three songs on the acclaimed show. It was a sketch that gathered a lot of laughs and almost did the unthinkable. However, a few weeks later, George Harrison arrived with a smile on his face to cash the cheque and at least deliver on one-quarter of the request.
Harrison arrived at Saturday Night Live‘s Studio 8 full of charm, of humour and, most importantly, plenty of songs. The singer quickly turned on his moniker of the ‘Quiet Beatle’ and took on two tracks accompanied by songwriting legend and the guest host of the episode, Paul Simon, as they dueted The Beatles track ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and Simon’s own number ‘Homeward Bound’. Below, we’re taking a look at their stunning performance and the hilarity that preceded it.
As part of the show’s famous opening monologue, producer Michaels once offered the Fab Four, who at the time had only just come out of a verbal sparring session over interviews and songs, a chance at an unprecedented reunion live on national TV. The idea was to ramp up some column inches with a skit that many found indecipherable with Michaels’ landmark deadpan delivery.
Michaels took to the stage and delivered a monologue offering the Fab Four their chance at $3,000. With a hidden smirk on his face, Michaels said: “‘She Loves You,’ yeah, yeah, yeah—that’s $1,000 right there. You know the words. It’ll be easy. Like I said, this is made out to ‘The Beatles.’ You [can] divide it any way you want. If you want to give Ringo [Starr] less, that’s up to you. I’d rather not get involved.” It was a joke which almost, unbeknownst to Michaels or the public watching at, saw Lennon and McCartney gatecrash the recording.
Legend has it that John Lennon and Paul McCartney were watching the show at Lennon’s Dakota apartment in New York City and were seriously considering going to the studio and making history. A few weeks later Michaels was again addressing the Fab Four with yet another offer.
Michaels said: “I was able to convince NBC to sweeten the pot. John, Paul, George [Harrison] and Ringo—we are now prepared to up the original offer to $3,200.” Still, even with such an increase on the offer, the Beatles remained quiet for months. Until the Quiet Beatle himself, the late, great George Harrison would break the silence and book himself a car to Studio 8H, ready to cash the cheque and provide one of the Fab Four for the show.
Harrison arrived off the back of a stunning run of releasing solo material, his guitar on his back and an open hand poised for the weight of the ‘handsome’ $3,000 cheque. Yet he was met (as part of a skit it must be emphasised) by Michaels with a disappointing revelation. “See, I thought you would understand that it was $3,000 for four people, and it would just be $750 for each of you,” Michaels told Harrison backstage with the audience watching on monitors. “As far as I’m concerned, you can have the full $3,000.”
“That’s pretty chintzy,” George Harrison replied. It was a fair assessment considering the wealth of TV gold Harrison was about to deliver alongside the show’s guest host for that evening, one half of Simon and Garfunkel, the brilliant Paul Simon.
The pair ran through four songs across the show and their performances are held loftily as some of the best in the show’s long and illustrious history. It’s very rare you get to see such a songwriting talent share the stage with another — but those tuning in on that night got just that.
Our two favourite songs of the evening come on the duo’s performance of the Harrison-penned Beatles classic ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and Paul Simon’s 1966 hit ‘Homeward Bound’. One special reason for that is that each star manages to make the other’s song more special with their performance, no small feat considering their respective stature.
On ‘Here Comes The Sun’ Paul Simon, as musically inclined a pop star as you will ever meet, effortlessly harmonises with The Beatles classic. By doing so, and with his unique vocal, he moves the track into a higher plain of ‘sweet and soulful’. It’s quite the leap of faith to take on a Beatles song on national TV, let alone with the writer of the song sitting beside you. But Simon was already a vet of the music scene by this point and took it all in his stride.
Then on ‘Homeward Bound’, another sixties gem, Harrison’s vocal contribution is a pure and otherworldly kind of beautiful and reaches far beyond the heavens to give the song a glowing halo of talent. It was such an impressive performance of the song it would go on to feature on Nobody’s Child: Romanian Angel Appeal, the 1990 charity album Harrison compiled with such care.
The two videos can be found below and see George Harrison every bit the consummate performer he promised to be after the band’s split. The Quiet Beatle was in the spotlight but decided to share it with Paul Simon. The performances are of the highest order and rank as some of SNL‘s finest too.
Watch below as George Harrison and Paul Simon duet ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and ‘Homeward Bound’ on SNL.