They say anything can happen on live TV but really, it can't. It’s all pre-scripted, pre-planned, and predictably boring. But every once in a while, something goes horribly wrong and it’s amaaaazing. An A-list celeb drops an F-bomb, some football player hangs accidental dong in a locker room shot, or Kanye West reminds America what George Bush thinks about black people. Musicians, who are often inherently not ready for prime time, have been particularly skilled at fucking up their on-camera time. Here are a few who have fucked up so badly that they’ve gotten themselves banned from TV.
Banned from: The Ed Sullivan Show
Nowadays, you can turn on HBO and see ten thousand beheadings and some elf girl fellating her dragon cousin or whatever they do on Game of Thrones. But back in 1967, there were a lot of cool things you weren’t allowed to say or do on television—one of those being advocating drug use. So right before the Doors were scheduled to perform “Light My Fire” on The Ed Sullivan Show, one of the producers came into the band’s dressing room to tell them to change the lyric “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher” to something decidedly much lamer. (Probably something like “Girl, we couldn’t possibly eat anymore candy! Mmm, girl, I just love candy so much!”) Jim Morrison yes’d the producer to death and then just went out and sang the original damn lyric anyway, drug reference and all. Not to mention he was wearing tight leather pants and you could totally make out a dongprint. Ed didn’t even shake the band’s hands after the song and just cut directly to a commercial for Purina Dog Chow. The producers, who had apparently planned on having the Doors back for six more shows, instead told them they were never welcome back again. Morrison then went on to become a super famous rock star before doing a bunch of drugs and dying (ironic!) and later appeared in Wayne Campbell’s dreams alongside a weird naked Indian.
Banned from: Saturday Night LiveIn 1996, billionaire Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes was booked to host SNL alongside notoriously politically-vocal musical guest, Rage Against the Machine. To quote an oft-forgotten Adam Sandler sketch: Who are the ad wizards who came up with that one? Twenty seconds before airtime on their first song, Rage unveiled two upside-down American flags hanging from their gear which the NBC staff scrambled to tear down. After performing a flagless “Bulls on Parade,” the band was removed from the building and did not get to play their second song, “Bullet in the Head,” and since it was 1996, their time was likely replaced by that godawful Mary Katherine Gallagher skit.
Rage Against the Machine
Banned from: MTV Music Awards
In 1996, a time in Metallica’s history when most of their fans were still crying over the members cutting their hair, the band was invited to play on the MTV Music Awards in Europe. Apparently, they were not happy with the directions from MTV execs so instead of performing their song “King Nothing” like they were supposed to, they ripped through the two most offensive punk songs they could think of: The Misfits’ baby rape-filled “Last Caress” and Anti-Nowhere League’s “So What,” which contains two different kinds of c-words. (We’re talking “cock” and “cunt,” people!) MTV scrubbed Metallica’s performance and references to Metallica from future broadcasts and probably would’ve used that Men In Black mind eraser vibrator thing on viewers if they could have.
Banned from: Saturday Night LiveEverything seemed to go reasonably well in the Replacements’ first SNL segment in 1986. They played “Bastards of Young” without too many problems. Sure, a little sloppy and Paul Westerberg can be seen possibly mouthing the word “fuck” at the audience, but by Replacements standards, not bad. But in the 30 or so minutes before their second segment, the band must’ve played the time-honored backstage game called Let’s See How Much Free Booze We Can Drink And Also Swap Clothes While We’re At It. They slurred words, forgot verses, and stumbled over each other. Oh, and Bob Stinson took a shit in an ice bucket in their greenroom. Take that, Justin Bieber! They also got host Harry Dean Stanton drunk on vodka—hosts are strictly forbidden from consuming alcohol. The group was banned from SNL, though Westerberg did return as a solo artist in 1993 and gave a boring ol’ well-behaved performance—Lorne Michaels was said to not realize Westerberg was a Replacements member until a couple of days before the show and tried unsuccessfully to stop it. He probably installed a child lock on that liquor cabinet though.
Banned from: Saturday Night LiveTelling Cypress Hill not to smoke weed is like telling Jimmy Fallon not to ruin a sketch by making direct eye contact with the camera while giggling the whole time. According to DJ Muggs, he was told repeatedly not to light the joint stashed behind his ear. Told so many times in fact that he got sick of hearing it, pulled it out, and lit it up right after being introduced by Shannen Doherty. “Yo, New York City, they said I couldn’t light my joint but we ain’t goin’ out like that,” he said. And just like that, Cypress Hill’s chances of ever performing on the show again went up in… uh, some sort of airborne vapor mixture of particles created by the process of incomplete combustion.
Banned from: Piers Morgan LiveSelf-involved actual British blowhard Piers Morgan once banned self-involved pretend British blowhard Madonna from his show, Piers Morgan Live, which isn’t even on TV anymore because it got canceled because no one watched it so who gives a shit.
Banned from: Saturday Night LiveThis one is a wet dream for rock historian dorks who hang out in record stores on Friday nights. The Sex Pistols were scheduled to appear on Saturday Night Live in 1977, but due to visa complications, they had to cancel their performance. So the show replaced them with 23-year-old Elvis Costello to play his single “Less Than Zero” off of his debut album My Aim is True. Less than ten seconds into the song, Costello stops playing, looks at the camera, and says, “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, there’s no reason to do this song here,” and jumps into “Radio Radio” which he later said was a tribute to when Jimi Hendrix changed up a song midway through. As you probably guessed from the show’s title, Saturday Night Live is a live show, which means they’ve got every second of airtime accounted for. So when Costello decided to fuck up the show’s whole schedule, it pissed off Lorne Michaels so hard that he reportedly flipped Costello off for the rest of the performance. Costello was banned from the show for over a decade, before being invited back in 1989 and 1991. The Beastie Boys later paid tribute to Costello's notorious incident on the show’s 25th anniversary show in 1999 when they were stopped midway through the intro to “Sabotage” by Costello himself who repeated the now infamous line before leading the band through “Radio Radio.”
Banned from: Saturday Night LiveUntil the modern golden age of the internet, where every single second of TV airtime is broken down into gif form and Tumbled to death, FEAR’s 1981 performance on SNL was the stuff of music history legend, the lure of it being passed down by word of mouth around punk rock campfires for decades. The story goes: John Belushi, who was a big fan of punk and a CBGB regular, lobbied to get FEAR on SNL’s Halloween show. And then the rest of the plan just sort of fucked itself from there. Many punk rock notables showed up for the performance, including Ian Mackaye and John Joseph (who tells a hilarious, John Josephy version of it). The punks did insane amounts of damage to the greenroom, and then terrified everyone in the audience and at home when they rushed the stage, and launched themselves off of everything that wasn’t bolted down. It was five minutes of pure insanity and largely the reason your mom wouldn’t let you go to punk shows as a teenager.
Banned from: MTVThere’s some debate as to whether or not Fucked Up is actually banned from MTV. In 2007, the Torontonians made an appearance on MTV Live in Canada (introduced as “Effed Up”) and shit got pretty wild. Much like FEAR’s SNL performance, the audience went extra hard on their moshing/stagediving because hey, gotta ham it up for the camera. After the damages were done, MTV Canada supposedly started cracking down and banned moshing. But since MTV seems to never learn their lesson (see: that goddamned JWoww and Snooki show), they had the band back on to play in their tiny bathroom for some reason. The band was accommodating to the tight setting and was even kind enough to leave a fresh arrangement of potpourri as a thank you gift. Nah JK, they fucking destroyed the place—ripped ceiling tiles out, spraypainted the walls, and almost killed a bunch of people. Frontman Damian Abraham says they’re “still technically banned from the building.”
Banned from: Saturday Night Live
After performing an acapella version of Bob Marley’s “War” on SNL, Sinead O’Connor famously held up a photo of the pope and tore it to pieces. The audience did not applaud, possibly because they were shocked by the brash political statement on live television but possibly also because who the fuck wants to hear an acapella version of a Bob Marley song?
Banned from: Saturday Night LiveUnlike Justin Timberlake, who is well-liked enough among the cast to have been invited back to both host and perform on SNL close to 7,000 times, Frank Zappa got one shot and blew it. Zappa lacked the qualities of a good host, namely, showmanship, comedic timing, preparedness, likeability, looks, and the basic ability to read a fucking cue card. But then again, it’s Frank Zappa. Not sure what Lorne Michaels was expecting there.Dan Ozzi has not been banned from TV. The US Post Office, Takawood Summer Camp, and three different Denny's, but not TV. Follow him on Twiter - @danozzi--You like stuff about TV? Oh man, we've got so much stuff about TV:Tonight's Musical Guest: How 'Late Night with David Letterman' Books Its Acts10 Ideas for TV Shows Starring Glenn DanzigWhatever Happened to Predictablity? Pondering the TV Songs of the 80s