Wednesday, February 20, 2013

SNL under pressure to halt video release?

In 2005, Saturday Night Live released a highlight reel of their tumultuous run during the 1980s. While it was interesting to hear from the cast members and writers from that era of the show’s history talk about the politics and drama going on at the landmark program, it was a brief clip of Queen’s Under Pressure that caught my ear when it was rebroadcast the other night on NBC.

I own the five-disc, 25th Anniversary box set of SNL’s musical numbers which contains Crazy Little Thing Called Love from 1982. What was missing from that box set was Queen’s encore performance from that 8th-season episode, Under Pressure.

A lot of Googling only resulted in a grainy, poor quality clip of UP from that show. The conspiracy theorist in me is beginning to think that someone is intentionally going out of their way to restrict the commercial distribution of that performance for some reason. Having watched the entire low-quality video, it’s obvious that Freddie’s voice wasn’t in full-on working mode so perhaps Queen Productions lobbied SNL to have it removed from any official release — either as part of the music compilation discs or from the Season 8 episode altogether.

The clip that the In the ’80s program aired only showed the band at the start of the song and Freddie’s voice was sounding as it should; it’s only when the higher notes kick in later in the song that he intentionally avoids them. I read somewhere that Freddie was up the night before having a loud argument with a “boy toy” of his and the performance suffered for it the next morning. Whatever the case, was his singing so bad that Queen Productions would want to banish it from seeing the light of day in its entirety? It seems that way. But then SNL goes and teases us with a high quality clip of that performance that we can’t buy anywhere?

What’s even more strange is what this Amazon reviewer says of the five-disc DVD set:

What? Queen performed four songs from that episode? Since when did SNL feature four songs by their musical guests? That would be pretty sweet if that was the case. (Damn, I wish they’d release that episode on DVD.) Even without four songs being played, seeing the band  co-mingle with the SNL cast members at the end to say goodbye would be worth the price of admission.

Apparently, when Vanilla Ice was the musical guest on SNL in 1991, he did not make a fan out of Dennis Miller who played the real intro to Under Pressure before his Weekend Update segment and even said “I love Bowie.”  Thank you, Dennis.

The other Queen-ish sighting on the SNL in the ’80s program had to do with the departure of Lorne Michaels as executive producer and his interim replacement, Jean Doumanian for the 1980-81 seasons. Politically, the move was controversial and threatened the loyalty of long-time SNL fans, but the changes she brought to the cast and crew did not signal the end of the TV series as everyone thought. Her appointment generated a lot of media scrutiny, however, as this newspaper article showed:

Not only does the story title contain the word “queen,” the illustration could easily be a recap of Queen II and Innuendo. Fairies? Court jesters? A white queen? An evil black queen? Land of the fireflies? Down in the dungeon with Peaches? (Sorry, different album.)

Maybe this is where Roger got the idea to use Grandville drawings for the Innuendo album. Or maybe the illustrator of this image drew inspiration by listening to Queen II uninterrupted for a few weeks straight.


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