There have been lots of musicians who, in some way or another, decided to go against the grain during their opportunities to have a live set on prime time television. Lots of musicians don't like the way TV producers want them to behave or play music, and there's truly no defending against a musician lashing out or acting up once it goes live. Sometimes, when these musicians took to doing the unexpected, they either voluntarily or involuntarily incited outrage and even banishment from certain television stations. Here's a list of some of the most outrageous moments musicians have had on prime time television, many of them being comedic, and many being downright ugly.
Chances are, getting totally smashed before playing on national television generally isn't going to work out for you. The two songs The Replacements played were full of stumbling and incoherent guitar solos, and lots of missed verses. Maybe they were trying to be extra gritty, but I think they took it a little too far with some seriously sloppy guitar work and missing pieces to the song. This got the group banned from SNL despite the song not being totally botched and in some ways still sounding interesting. Especially appreciable is the way the band awkwardly tries to half-fall down in some kind of weird attempt to keep up an already sloppy stage presence.
In a strange acapella performance of Bob Marley's "War," Sinead O'Connor ripped up a picture of the pope in front of the camera after stating, "fight the real enemy." Her performance, alongside some bizarre stage props was only met with a really empty silence, as confused onlookers truly had no reaction to truly dignify such an alerting and confusing presentation.
After sitting down for an interview he paid absolutely no attention to and frantically sat finicking with his chair and staring off into the distance, Iggy got onstage at an Australian music channel doing a segment featuring his new single, in which he was to sing along to his own pre-recorded voice. The only time he uses the microphone is as a prop which he shoves in is pants after about a minute. He is the embodiment of being disengaged with the crowd around him as he weirdly jitters uncontrollably paying no attention to pretending to cater to his television presence.
I think The Vines get through about one verse of the song "Get Free" before frontman Craig Nicholls does a weird somersault which possibly detunes his guitar. He spends the rest of the song botching the verses and banging on his strings playing complete dissonance and shrieking like a pterodactyl. His bandmates seemed to be good sports, and carried on throughout the antics until the song's completion, at which point Nicholls trashed the set and Letterman sat uncomfortably with a reluctant smile, trying to disregard what just happened and move on as quickly as possible.
Apparently, John Belushi was a punk rock fan, and would only make a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live if the band Fear played. Inevitably, this led to a mass of mashing punks who caused what SNL producers would define as pandemonium. After two songs out of Fear's set were played, one of which has quite possibly the worst audible saxophone solo ever shown on live tv, Fear's set was cut short by simply fading off the air. Apparently, the studio room was not fit for that kind of crowd, and some equipment got destroyed, which was ultimately the last straw for Fear's presence on any live TV show.
Guns n' Roses
I feel bad even acknowledging any arrangement which doesn't include Slash as Guns n' Roses. At the MTV Video Music Awards in 2002, Axl Rose first had a high-profile demonstration of the fact that he's really lost it. Yes, his vocal style in the 80s was tough to master and required some major strain on the vocal chords. At about a minute into "Welcome to the Jungle," Axl is totally out of breath and can't even carry a note. But it's gotten really bad, and this cover was 14 years ago. Axl Rose sounds like an amateur singer doing a really bad impression of Axl Rose. If Axl hasn't been doing some serious vocal training to restore his abilities, there will definitely be an element of dread going into the Guns n' Roses reunion.
Public Image Ltd.
On American Bandstand, Johnny Rotten didn't even try to mime the lyrics to his pre-recorded songs after giving it less than a quarter of an effort from the get-go. He invites the audience onto the stage as he dances around aimlessly, wandering around both on and off the stage surrounded by a ton of joking fans, dancing without even opening his mouth as the pre-recorded track goes on.
It's one thing when an artist pulls one on the TV producers by refusing to mime, but it's a whole other level of ridiculous when the fake vocals get botched, exposing what's often pretty easy to depict as faked in the first place. With the amount of production costs going into every show, it's pretty crazy that something so seemingly simple could go wrong, but I suppose it was bound to happen eventually.