Saturday Night Live didn’t get Prince to be the musical guest often — but often enough that the show is scuttling tonight’s planned repeat for a salute to all of his previous musical performances.
That’s a big deal, too. Prince always kept his SNL appearances off the show’s YouTube channel. He didn’t even let Hulu host the performances too long. (Sadly, you can see that demonstrated via the dead link at the last time we made a big deal out of Prince on SNL.)
Tonight’s show is also a big deal because it’ll be one of the few times that SNL acknowledges its disastrous 1980-1981 season. That was the season after all the original cast members left and NBC hired producer Jean Doumanian to bring in an all-new SNL ensemble. Some future stars were on the show (like Eddie Murphy and Gilbert Gottfried), but most people prefer to remember the musical guests from that time.
That included Prince guesting on February 21, 1982, with a wild rendition of “Partyup.” SNL will have to show that footage, even if Prince got upstaged by cast member Charles Rocket dropping an f-bomb and getting most of the cast fired during a parody of the TV show “Dallas.” (The host was Charlene Tilton, then a big sex symbol as a “Dallas” regular.)
Prince spent the rest of the ’80s and ’90s turning down SNL appearances. That was smart — but he came back on Feb. 4, 2006. A lot of people who’d been ignoring Prince were impressed by “Fury” and “Beautiful, Loved and Blessed.”
Prince fairly rushed back with a return on November 1, 2014, at the request of host Chris Rock. He stopped the show with an eight-minute set cramming in “Clouds,” “Marz,” and “Anotherlove” from his new albums Art Official Age and Plectrum Electrum.
That’s the show where Hulu yanked the video, but you can see it again tonight. It should make for some very special television— even if the tribute will probably be padded by Fred Armisen’s long stretch of impersonating Prince. We can’t remember who else might have done that on SNL over the years.
And since there’s still no existing (legit) SNL footage, here’s Prince on the short-lived comeback of The Arsenio Hall Show. He was probably the highlight of that show’s entire run, too….