From the musical smörgåsbord of episode 2 to the absolute lack of musical guests in episode 3…SNL was a work in progress. Even the name, Saturday Night, had yet to add the “Live”.
We do, however, get some music thanks to a few unlikely candidates. The first is host Rob Reiner. It’s almost as if Rob were goofing on Tony Clifton (in retrospect). Yes, a pretty decent lounge act by Reiner gives us a swing version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” with Howard Shore and his band backing up. [Not exactly Arturo Toscanini, Studio 8H’s famous former inhabitant, but pretty competent stuff from Shore.]
John Belushi tops Reiner with an impersonation of Joe Cocker. It’s really pretty outstanding!
Also in the musical, or dance, category are The Lockers (as in poppin’ and lockin’). Formed in part by Toni Basil (who would go on to have a hit with “Mickey” in 1982), The Lockers bring that inimitable breakdancing which one might witness (even to this day) on subway cars in New York City. It really is an astounding art!
And finally, the musical stand-ins are rounded out by one of my heroes Andy Kaufman doing a lip-sync of a very difficult, dialogue-peppered “Pop Goes the Weasel” recording (Roud Folk Song Index number 5249).
Though she appears only a small amount, Penny Marshall adds to the night’s fun festivities (she was Reiner’s wife).
“The Bees,” a running gag through the first three shows, finally score some points as Belushi gives a soliloquy while his slinky antennae list to and fro. Quite a genius juxtaposition!
We must remember that Al Franken was one of the original writers.
“The Land of Gorch” Muppet sketches continue (a bit I quite like).
But the real highlight of this episode is Albert Brooks’ film on heart surgery (as much as I hate to admit it). Brooks’ first two contributions to this series were painfully lackluster, but then he pulls the rabbit out of the hat with quite a jaw-dropping bit of humor.
All in all, these episodes are a joy to watch. What an American treasure!