In the past decade there’s been a mind-blowing amount of work done toward the goal of getting every piece of pop-cultural ephemera ever produced documented, uploaded to the Internet, and commented on (either nostalgically or snarkily) by hundreds or thousands of anonymous strangers, but obsessive types know there are still some major gaps in the collection. For instance, until very recently the LA punk band Fear’s 1981 appearance on Saturday Night Live—by far the strangest musical booking in SNL history and one of the most legendary televised musical performances of all time—was strangely impossible to track down in complete form online.
This was probably no accident. The show in question was created during the few years that series creator Lorne Michaels was estranged from the show, and the notoriously controlling producer has induced an institutional amnesia when it comes to that period. There’s also the fact that it’s one of the few brief moments in SNL history where the people nominally running the show had absolutely zero control over what was going on in front of their cameras, and the results included a minor onstage riot and a follow-up meeting between then producer Dick Ebersol and the presumably very unhappy NBC president, Grant Tinker.