See Rage Against the Machine Performance That Got Them Banned From 'SNL' | Revolver

See Rage Against the Machine Performance That Got Them Banned From 'SNL'

An act of protest didn't bode well with the late-night institution
Rage Against the Machine SNL 1996 screen

Rage Against the Machine have always been rabble rousers, but the political statement that got them banned from Saturday Night Live sounds positively prosaic compared to other acts of protest they committed in their heyday, like shutting down the New York Stock Exchange or sporting a "Free Mumia Abu-Jamal" shirt on live television. In 1996, the group were asked to perform on SNL in support of their new album, Evil Empire, but the producers of the show made the clueless decision to book the country's most publicly left-wing band the same night they asked billionaire Republican presidential hopeful Steve Forbes to host the show.

Always a band who lived up to their name, the quartet decided they'd not only perform two incendiary songs, "Bulls on Parade" and "Bullet in the Head," that directly confront the corporate elite Forbes was a part of, but they also chose to drape upside-down American flags over their amps as an additional act of sticking it to the sweater-clad one-percenter who introduced them before their set. As the story goes, SNL's producers freaked at the brazen act of protest, and they sent the crew out onstage to quickly rip down the flags before Rage started their set. 

By the time the band got out there, the flags were gone, but they still performed with the snarling fury that made them such an unparalleled force throughout the Nineties. They crushed it, but when RATM returned to the green room to cool off before their next song, they were told that they had to leave the premises immediately and wouldn't be playing "Bullet in the Head." 

According to the Los Angeles Times, the band weren't ready to leave just yet. Bassist Tim Commerford grabbed one of the flags, tore it to pieces and then ran into Forbes' dressing room and chucked pieces of the tattered pennant at his team as a big "fuck you." As one might expect, they were never invited back to the show. 

Unfortunately, that particular exchange wasn't filmed, but the band's fiery "Bulls on Parade" performance survives as an artifact of that wild night. Watch it below via Vimeo. 

Rage Against The Machine - Bulls On Parade Live On SNL (1996)

Rage Against The Machine - Bulls On Parade Live On SNL (1996)

Posted by Radio Arkana on Saturday, September 5, 2020