Live from New York, it's the Beatles: The Beatles & "Saturday Night Live"

By Susan Petersen

Copyright 1997 Sumaree Promotions, used with permission
Thanks, Susan, for allowing us to use this.

Live from New York, it's . . . The Beatles!

Over the years, many entertainment impresarios have offered millions of dollars to get the Beatles to reunite. None were successful, but it didn't stop them from trying.

On April 24, 1976, "Saturday Night Live" producer Lorne Michaels made what would become a running gag on SNL with his offer of $3,000 to the Beatles to appear on the late-night comedy show. The camera then zoomed in for a close-up of a $3,000 check from NBC made payable to The Beatles. Having had no response from the Fab Four, a month later, on May 22, 1976, Michaels upped the ante to $3,200 - an extra $50 each, Michaels declared!

Paul McCartney has commented in interviews that he and John Lennon were watching the SNL broadcast from Lennon's apartment in the Dakota on the night when Michaels made his offer for the Beatles to reunite. McCartney reported that he and Lennon briefly toyed with the idea of going down to the NBC studios and taking Michaels up on the offer. Oh, what a show THAT would have been!

As a group, the Beatles never appeared on "Saturday Night Live," but Paul, George and Ringo have all appeared on the popular Saturday night television program individually.

George Harrison appeared on the November 20, 1976 episode of SNL. The previous day, November 19, Harrison recorded four songs for the broadcast: "Homeward Bound" and "Here Comes The Sun,"(duets with guest host Paul Simon), "Bye Bye Love" and "Rock Island Line." The first two songs made it onto the Saturday night broadcast. The "Homeward Bound" track was officially released on "Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal," a charity CD, in 1990. Other numbers are included on "Somewhere in Utopia." During the opening, Harrison and Michaels talked about the $3,000 offer, as Michaels explained to George that meant it was $3,000 for all four of them - that payment was only $750 for one person! An abbreviated version of this program aired on "The Best of Saturday Night Live" on Comedy Central.

Ringo Starr has been the only former Beatle who hosted SNL (so far!). He poked fun at himself on the December 8, 1984 SNL broadcast. At a memorabilia auction, Ringo was one of the items being sold! While a guitar pick used by John Lennon garnered $45,000 and a Paul McCartney toothbrush (a blue, medium bristle Oral-B) brought $110,000, Ringo was auctioned off for a measly $800! Skits included Ringo (wearing the jacket from his collarless Beatles suit) moving in with the family who bought him at the auction. In his new home, Ringo amused himself by snapping bubble wrap and watching "The Jeffersons" on TV.

Ringo's opening monologue hinted at a reunion with someone who just flew in from England. No, it wasn't a former Beatle - it was Billy Crystal as Sammy Davis, Jr. Ringo and "Sammy" sang each other's hits. The medley included "With a Little Help From My Friends," "What Kind of Fool Am I?,""Act Naturally," "I've Gotta Be Me," "Octopus's Garden," "Photograph," and "Yellow Submarine." These songs, and Ringo singing the theme song from "The Jeffersons" appear on a bootleg called "Rizz Off."

In another sketch, Ringo and wife Barbara Bach are welcomed by Crystal's "Fernando" - they looked mahvelous! Ringo also appeared in a sketch with Martin Short as Ed Grimley. Excerpts from this program have also been shown on Comedy Central.

Paul McCartney has appeared on SNL twice. He first appeared on the May 17, 1980 episode. During the "Weekend Update" segment hosted by Jane Curtin, Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) went through a litany of excuses for why McCartney was late for the live satellite feed from London. Eventually, Paul and Linda emerged in their nightclothes to talk with Father Guido. Highlights were an amusing Beatles medley sung by Fr. Guido over a bullhorn and Fr. Guido's constant questioning of McCartney on his marijuana usage. The episode also included the U.S. premiere of the "Coming Up" video.

McCartney's other appearance on SNL was on February 13, 1993 upon the release of his "Off The Ground" CD and as a kick off for his New World Tour that spring.

Following on the heels of Mick Jagger's appearance on SNL the previous week, McCartney appeared as "Jameson" the butler in a sketch with guest host Alec Baldwin and SNL regular Julia Sweeney. McCartney was the musical guest and performed "Get Out of My Way" and "Biker Like an Icon" from "Off the Ground" and "Hey Jude." These three numbers are available on a bootleg called "Big Mac's Live Tracks."

A highlight of the broadcast was McCartney as a guest on "The Chris Farley Show." Farley asked his typical questions such as, "Remember when you were in the Beatles and you were supposed to be dead, and there were all these clues and everything and everyone thought you were dead. That was a hoax, right?"

McCartney was the first musical guest on SNL to ever conduct an impromptu concert for the cast and crew during dress rehearsal. A jam of this rehearsal is available on a bootleg called "Paul McCartney: Saturday Night Live Rehearsals." The CD is reportedly from the videotape of the session that has been making the rounds in collector's circles.

Also making the rounds is a videotape which includes about 30 minutes of McCartney and Alec Baldwin taping promos for that week's SNL. This video also includes dress rehearsals of "The Chris Farley Show," "The Mimic," and rehearsals of the musical performances. If you enjoy behind-the-scenes material, this is a must-have video for your McCartney collection.

The NBC-TV Dallas affiliate, KXAS-TV, happened to be doing a series on "Backstage at Saturday Night Live" the week that McCartney was a guest and aired some behind-the-scenes footage as part of its 10 p.m. newscast. The station aired clips of McCartney's concert for the cast and crew, showing producer Michaels in the background, humming along as McCartney sang "Hey Jude." The footage included McCartney arriving at NBC Studio 8-H in New York while news anchor Mike Snyder was interviewing SNL regular Mike Myers. Both Snyder and Myers were taken aback by the interruption, and once the interview resumed, Myers admitted to being overwhelmed at meeting one of his idols.

"My parents are from Liverpool and I always thought that I was related to the Beatles," Myers said. "I just met him. What can I say? It's a great job."

In other SNL happenings, it has been reported that McCartney joined the SNL band onstage for "Blue Suede Shoes" at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett on August 20, 1992, while he was vacationing in the Hamptons on Long Island.

McCartney has also been satirized by former SNL regular Dana Carvey on several occasions. The comic who is known for his impersonations of George Bush, Ross Perot and Johnny Carson; the Church Lady and Garth Algar, has said that he got started doing voices by impersonating the Beatles when he was a youngster. So it was no surprise that McCartney would become one of his characters in SNL sketches. Even after leaving SNL, Carvey portrayed McCartney in some skits based on the Anthology on his own short-lived television program. On his HBO special a couple years ago, Carvey related a very-embellished version of his meeting McCartney at Lorne Michaels home.

Will we ever see Paul, George & Ringo together on SNL? Probably not, but just imagine the three of them together, turning toward the camera and saying, "Live from New York . . . it's Saturday night!"

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