Official Audio for Neil Young performing "Crime In The City" from the upcoming release 'Bluenote Cafe" From the Archives Performance series available November 13th. Pre-Order now.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Rockin' Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live Neil Young Rockin satnightlive_wide.jpg
Neil Young & CSP on Saturday Night Live, 1989

Neil Young will be musical guest on NBC's Saturday Night Live this weekend on Dec 17th. Yesterday, we took a look at the 1992 and 2000 appearances on Saturday Night Live.

Here's a memory of Neil's incredibly incendiary 1989 performance of "Rockin' in the Free World" which has been called "one of the most intense live television studio performances ever".

When Neil performed on Saturday Night Live, on September 30, 1989, the album Freedom was about to be released. Neil did a rare "3-fer" on SNL - performing 3 songs: "Rockin'", "The Needle And The Damage Done" and "No More".

Neil channels Elvis & Johnny Rotten
"Rocking in the Free World"

The following is excerpted from an analysis of the lyrics for Rockin' In The Free World:

On Saturday Night Live in September '89, Neil served notice that he was back with a vengeance with his legendary performance of 'Rockin'. Considered to be one of the most intense live television studio performances ever, Young seemed possessed as he throttled his Les Paul guitar and shredded its strings before the audience.

Wearing a Elvis Presley T-shirt, Young seemed to be bridging his 1970's classic "Hey, Hey, My, My" with the lyrics "The King [Elvis] is gone but not forgotten, this is the story of Johnny Rotten" with the end of the 1980's and the impending advent of the grunge-alternative music explosion.

Later, Young commented that he worked with a trainer before going onstage to work himself up to the encore intensity level when he normally performs the song after 2 hours on stage. Neil came on the set as if he had just performed the concert of his life and went from there. The song was selected as one of the best of Saturday Night Live musical performances of all time in broadcasts later in the 1990's for the 25th anniversary.

Critics were ecstatic about Young's return to form based on just the single broadcast and it marked a critical turning point in Neil's career. Jimmy McDonough writes in a Village Voice interview on the scene backstage before the live broadcast:
"With the September 30 appearance on Saturday Night Live, Young arrested any signs of rust - at least for the moment. Backed by Charlie Drayton, Steve Jordan, and longtime sideman Frank 'Poncho' Sampedro - a new band Young's tentatively calling Young, CS&P - he was all over the stage, jumping on the drum stand, lunging out of camera range, whipping off earsplitting solos that sounded like falling power lines. It was the loudest thing I've ever heard on TV, the lyrics to 'Rockin' in the Free World' barely audible. This is easily his best band since Crazy Horse.

Just the look on his face was enough. He really seemed insane.

YOUNG: 'Yeah, well I was. I don't like TV. Never have. It always sucks and there's nothing you can do about it. You can't just walk on and do 'Rockin' in the Free World,' or you'll look like a fuckin' idiot. To perform that song the way it's supposed to be performed you have to be at peak blood level, everything has to be up, the machine has to be stoked. To do that I had to ignore Saturday Night Live completely. I had to pretend I wasn't there.'

Most likely, tomorrow night's performance will be similar to the recent performances on the Conan O'Brien Show. Maybe "No Wonder"?

More on the song Rockin' In The Free World.

Lastly, for all of Thrasher's NYC buddies, bundle up, remember Postcards from Nashville and "Don't Be Denied"!!!

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At 12/16/2005 08:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, definitely need to get a blank video for this!

At 12/16/2005 09:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any site where we can download the video of the '89 SNL performance -- I remember it like it was yesterday -- Couldn't believe how great it was -- I told friends about it for years but have never been able to find it to show them.

H. Stern

At 12/17/2005 12:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember felling numb after he did RTFW. It was a very intense experience. I used to have that on VHS but the tape was lost or broken.. I can't remember.

At 12/18/2005 02:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

download it with bearshare or limewire....i have it on my comp from that

At 3/25/2006 10:07:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was blown away when I saw the NY on SNL that night in '89..I know that's a serious understatement..I was protecting a VHS copy for many years..A few years back, I tried to get a better copy..I never found one until, as a last resort, I wrote a letter directly to Lorne Michaels..I didn't expect a reply but somebody from his office called me and I ended up buying a "liscense", which was a new VHS cassette of the entire show for $150. A couple of years later, I got a friend to transfer the NY segments to a dvd. I'll keep tranferring it to whatever the current technology is for the rest of my life. That performance changed my life.

At 1/19/2008 09:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can download 1989 S.N.L. Niel Young's performance on Limewire if you subscibe to it.

At 1/04/2009 09:16:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried to find this on Limewire, it isn't there. When I first saw this performance, I was glued to the TV screen. It was the best rock performance I have ever seen. I gotta find this video.


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