40 Years Ago: George Harrison Tries to Collect from Lorne Michaels on ‘SNL’
Subscribe to Ultimate Classic Rock on
Seven months after Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels offered the Beatles $3,000 to reunite on his show, George Harrison tried to take him up on it. The Nov. 20, 1976 episode featured Harrison as the musical guest, and he also showed off his comedic chops in a sketch where he confronted Michaels about getting paid.
In the cold open, Harrison confronted Michaels about the money, only to be denied. “I’ve come all this way,” Harrison deadpanned. “It’s $3,000. That was the deal!”
“You see, I thought that you would understand, you know, that it was $3,000 for four people, that it would just be $750 for each of you,” Michaels said. “I mean, as far as I’m concerned, I mean, you could have the full $3,000. But the network…”
After Harrison called NBC “chintzy,” Michaels then offered $250 to the “quiet one” for saying the show’s catchphrase and Harrison was happy to oblige, declaring, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”
The host that week was another pretty famous musician, Paul Simon, who opened the show by singing “Still Crazy After All These Years” while wearing a turkey costume. For the show, Harrison and Simon planned some acoustic performances, which they would deliver as a duo. While covers of “Rock Island Line” and “Bye Bye Love” were rehearsed but went unaired, unique versions of “Here Comes the Sun” and “Homeward Bound” did make the broadcast. They’ve since become enshrined as two of SNL’s best musical moments, with Paul and George collaborating on gorgeous versions of ’60s classics and even singing verses of the other’s composition.
Watch George Harrison and Paul Simon Play “Here Comes the Sun”
Harrison also used the show to promote his upcoming album, Thirty Three & 1/3, with two videos directed by his pal Eric Idle. The Monty Python member would later work with Harrison, Simon, Michaels and several SNL cast members on the Beatles mockumentary The Rutles.
During the rehearsals, Sen. Al Franken, who was a writer on the show at the time, had a little fun with the former Beatle, although Harrison didn’t get the joke. Recent cast member Seth Myers related the backstage story when he was on Howard Stern’s radio show in 2015.
“George Harrison was playing piano, right? … And so everybody was just coming out of their office to listen,” Meyers said. “And then Franken knew it was George Harrison, but Franken came out of his room and just yelled, ‘People are trying to work, keep it down!’ And George Harrison stopped and that was the end of it. It’s a great joke, but it’s such a bummer outcome.”
Saturday Night Live resuscitated the Beatles-reunion joke in the ’90s, when Paul McCartney appeared as a musical guest on the program. In that show’s cold open, Michaels could be seen talking to Paul about his cut of the $3,000. “I just assumed George would have given you the money,” Michaels explained.
See George Harrison and Other Rockers in the Top 100 Albums of the ’70s