There is a long-chartered history of big stars being banned from Saturday Night Live, either through so-called foul-mouths or other such antics. Prince was a star accustomed to a bit of controversy, but through a quirk of fate on this occasion he evaded the dreaded prohibited performer’s list.
The Purple One was appearing on the show to perform his anti-war pro-party groove ‘Partyup’. The song itself was derived from a lick created by a young upstart Morris Day. Prince offered a young Day a deal of either $10,000 or help to get a record contract. Day chose the latter and went on to form The Time.
Prince took Day’s groove and layered it with the line, “Fightin’ war is such a fucking bore.” When performing the song on SNL, he worked his way around this tricky censorship hurdle by simply blurting the F-word out, in a barely veiled blur of words. Fortunately, for Prince’s sake, the expletive went unnoticed at the time.
What saved him, in the long run, was the fact that Charles Rocket – the late American actor known for being an SNL favourite promoted as “a cross between Bill Murray and Chevy Chase” – blurted out an F-bomb far more bluntly. His headline stealing utterance of “I’d like to know who the fuck did it,” spared Prince’s non-existent blushes and he was allowed to reappear on the show several times thereafter.
The episode goes down in history as the only time that the F-bomb was dropped twice in a single SNL episode. Rocket’s gag was related to perhaps the largest global TV craze of all time, the Dallas saga of, “Who shot J.R.”. In the 1980s everyone wanted to know the answer and clearly, Charles Rocket wanted to know so fucking much that it cost him his job.
Perhaps it was because Prince’s F-bomb was relating to something more artistically profound than J.R., or that he blurted out with an emphasised attempt at disguise, or maybe it’s because after this 1981 appearance he went on to be too big of a star to ban, but he escaped the wrath that Rocket faced and lived on to reappear.
You can see the footage from the incident, below.