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Audience freaked: SNL
This is the big one. John Belushi, having left SNL for good in 1979, agreed to return to the show that made him famous for a quick guest appearance on one condition: L.A. punk stalwarts Fear would be the musical guest. Since it was 1981 and SNL was in the midst of a Piscopo-induced creative slump, then-head exec Dick Ebersol quickly agreed, and the rest is history. Belushi personally contacted Ian MacKaye to gather some punk pals to mosh during Fear’s performance to lend the proceedings some authenticity, and it worked: by the end of Fear’s three-and-a-half song set, the moshers had caused a credibility-boosting $20,000 worth of damages to the stage and equipment. Casualties included: some cameras, a piano, a ripe pumpkin, and Fear’s chances of ever appearing on SNL, or TV in general, again.
Artist: Iggy Pop
Audience freaked: Countdown (Australia)
Five years after the end of the Stooges, Iggy Pop appeared on the Australian Top of The Pops-style music show Countdown to “perform” (read: lip-sync) his song “I’m Bored”, and this was the result. Frantically jerking around like he was being tasered and generally coming across like gold-pants’d demon, Iggy left the Aussies completely bewildered. The best part? Most of the audience was comprised of teenage girls who were there to be serenaded by this guy.
Artist: The Vines
Audience freaked: Late Show with David Letterman
Remember when we all thought Craig Nicholls was the second coming of Cobain and Highly Evolved was going to herald rock’s rightful re-ascendance? Well, that sure, heh…wait for it...died on the vine. *Backboard shatters from my massive dunk*. When the unhinged Aussies played Letterman in August 2002, their performance highly devolved into incomprehensible screaming and tuneless riffing, leading to an awkward atmosphere and Letterman foregoing his customary handshake with the band.
Artist: The Who
Audience freaked: The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
Keith Moon usually did place a small explosive in his drum kit to set off during the finale of The Who’s concerts, but for their 1967 performance on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, he decided he needed a little something extra. At the request of Moon, a stagehand loaded his kick drum with three times the customary amount of explosives, and made The Who into a national phenomenon when the bomb went off during their then-shocking smashing of their instruments at the end of “My Generation”. The blast sent cymbal shrapnel flying into Moon’s arm and, rumor has it, eventually cost Pete Townshend 90% of the hearing in his right ear, though it’s more likely the hearing loss is due to, I don’t know, playing in an insanely loud rock band for decades.
Audience freaked: Top of the Pops
There are enough examples of exasperated artists mocking British chart program (sorry, “programme”) Top of the Pops and their enforced miming policy to make a whole other list, but special achievement in freaking goes to Kurt and co. for this 1991 appearance. Singing in a lounge-act baritone, languid strumming, and no attempt to convincingly mime make this ToTP ‘performance’ a triple threat. No one “takes the piss” better than Nirvana, “mate”!
Artist: Sinéad O'Connor
Audience freaked: SNL
You knew this one was coming. During the dress rehearsal performance of her cover of Bob Marley’s “War”, Sinéad held up a photo of a refugee child, but what she had mind for the real deal was uh, slightly more controversial. You know the rest so I’ll just hit the bullet points: Shaved head songstress, ripped up photo of Pope John Paul II, dead silence from the studio audience and a lifetime ban from SNL.
Artist: These guys
Audience freaked: Valley View Live
And finally, it’s nice to know some (admittedly terrible) bands are still taking their freaking-out-TV responsibilities seriously.
Some bands aren’t after logical things like fame, or an increased public profile, or lucrative endorsement deals. Some musicians can’t be reasoned, bullied, or negotiated with, no matter how many high-strung producers are ordering them around. Some bands just want to watch their goodwill, and chances to appear on TV again, burn. Here are seven of them, Master Wayne, and do enjoy.