I've been re-watching the first five seasons of SNL. I came across seasons 1 through 4 at a thrift store and then my husband completed the set for me with season 5 (which is when the B's were on). So I guess I've got SNL on the brain. You know, the thing about that show, was that because it was live, in many ways you were part of it. You may not have been in New York; but you were watching it unfold in real time (at least on the East Coast). As a young teenager who dreamed of New York and showbiz and comedy; Saturday Night Live was a Godsend. Every week (and it was actually on every week) I could get away from the mean little shits of junior high school and hang out with my cool friends in Manhattan! At Rockefeller Center. Sure, the Not Ready For Primetime Players were a lot older than me; but it didn't matter. I had a very mature sensibility. I was precocious and I thought, sophisticated. Really, the show got me through the hell-scape of junior high. It may very well have saved my life. And then it happened. On January 26th, 1980 the B-52's were the show's musical guests. Teri Garr (another favorite) was the host. Of course I'd heard the song "Rock Lobster" and loved it but I had no idea what the band looked like and how they navigated spaces: the stage, the world.
I can't explain it precisely. There was something about them. I mean, yes, you knew they were going to be quirky simply because the music was. But it went beyond that. They were arresting. I remember getting goose-bumps watching them. This had never happened to me with a band before. There was something transcendently special about them. They had captured the zeitgeist in a bottle...but it was more than that. They weren't openly gay but there was a quintessential queerness about them. It wasn't obvious. It was like a vibration. We are different and you are different; but we're also the same. I think that's why they had appeal to nearly every demographic. You hear a lot of tales about that night. People recall that performance and having a sort of amazing WTF reaction (in the best way). I remember my mother was watching with me and my siblings and even she was enraptured.
They went on at just about the stroke of midnight; so technically, their performance straddled two time-spaces. They were born in the midnight hour. Very fitting.
I ran out and bought the album. It couldn't have been the next day (stores were closed on Sundays in Massachusetts in 1980); but it was certainly that week. To this day I get a little electric charge whenever I see the cover of that first album. They really did change my life. And they weren't just a flash in the pan. They still tour constantly. Which is a great thing for the world.
I don't know who it is or was that picked the bands that appeared during that era (I'm sure they had to get the okay from Lorne Michaels) but all I can say is, thank you that person and Mr. Michaels. You changed a lot of people's lives that night, only for the better.