Add Rage Against the Machine to the list of rockers, including Elvis Costello and Sinead O’Connor, who have butted heads with “Saturday Night Live.”
The L.A. rock band with radical political views saw its recent booking on the NBC-TV show as an opportunity to make a high-profile statement against a U.S. political system it believes is geared to the wealthy -- right under the nose of guest host Steve Forbes, the billionaire publisher and former Republican presidential hopeful.
“We knew that he was going to be making a statement--it was going to be all about how charming to have a billionaire telling these jokes and promoting his flat tax,” says Rage guitarist Tom Morello. “And we wanted to stand in sharp juxtaposition to that by making our own statement.”
NBC, however, aborted the protest. A pair of U.S. flags hung upside down by the band from amplifier grilles were ripped down by stagehands about 20 seconds before the group’s performance of “Bulls on Parade,” Morello says. Afterward, as band members waited in their dressing room to perform “Bullet in the Head” later in the show, “Saturday Night Live” officials asked them to leave the building.
This so enraged the band that bassist Tim Bob shredded a U.S. flag, charged into Forbes’ dressing room and threw the pieces at Forbes’ entourage.
“ ‘Saturday Night Live’ censored Rage, period,” Morello says, “and they could not have sucked up to the billionaire more. The thing that’s ironic is, ‘Saturday Night Live’ is supposedly this cutting-edge show, but they proved that they’re bootlickers to their corporate masters when it comes down to it. They’re cowards.”
A “Saturday Night Live” official reacted angrily when asked to respond to Morello’s comments, dismissing the band’s actions as a publicity stunt.
But the official response from the show was more gentlemanly.
Said Lorne Michaels, longtime “SNL” producer: “We really enjoyed having Rage Against the Machine on our show.”