News of release of Saturday Night Live double CD
USA Today, 1999-08-24
- Edna Gundersen


'SNL' CDs mix stars, obscurities

By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY

Live from New York, it's 30 pop music highlights from the stage of Saturday Night Live.


In the past 25 years, the comedy-sketch show that spawned the Blues Brothers has   played host to 600 musical acts, ranging from cutting-edge to avant-garde to old-school. On Sept. 21, 30 of those segments become available for the first time on two CDs, sold separately.

While SNL milked music for laughs - remember Steve Martin's King Tut and Bill Murray's lounge-lizard shtick? - the show also spotlighted rising stars, legends and worthy obscurities. Volumes 1 and 2 of Saturday Night Live: The Musical Performances are split roughly between boomer favorites (Paul Simon, Sting, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, Billy Joel, Randy Newman) and Gen-X heroes (Nirvana, Neil Young, R.E.M., Beck, TLC, Mary J. Blige, Green Day).

Future volumes will present musical comedy and esoteric fare drawing from deep vaults containing jazz vocalist Betty Carter, punk poetess Patti Smith, rap act Public Enemy, country crooner Dwight Yoakam, tenor Luciano Pavarotti and saxophone great Ornette Coleman in his only network appearance.

"To launch the franchise, we decided to go for the throat, to feature some of the most familiar performances," says Michael Ostin of DreamWorks Records. He co-produced the CDs with SNL music talent coordinator Ryan Shiraki. "These two albums and the ones to follow will capture the best of the last three decades. They're little slices of musical history."

In SNL's early days, rock 'n' roll was considered inappropriate for television, and live pop was a boob-tube rarity. The show dared to deem rockers ready for prime time, with many acts enlisted at the urging of the cast. Al Franken persuaded dubious SNL producer Lorne Michaels to book the Grateful Dead, who submit Casey Jones on Volume 1. That collection also captures Elvis Costello, a last-minute replacement for the Sex Pistols, abruptly switching gears from the ballad Alison (sic), which was sanctioned by his label, to the rowdy Radio, Radio, a slap at the music industry.

SNL celebrates its 25th anniversary Sept. 26 with a 2-hour prime-time retrospective on NBC.

Copyright 1999 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.