Fred Armisen talked to PAPERMAG about Crisis of Conformity, his fictional ’80s hardcore punk/wedding band who appeared in “Band Reunion at the Wedding,” an early 2010 SNL sketch, and recently released a single for the song “Fist Fight” on Drag City Records. Click HERE to read the interview.
Well it took some digging but I found it online on some weird Czechoslovakian YouTube knockoff site. Here is FEAR’s legendary performance from “Saturday Night Live” in 1981. The story of how this insanity came to be begins with John Belushi.
Over the past few months, John had become one of the first punk-rock fans in America. He used to drag me to CBGB’s all the time. He knew all of those bands and loved them. He was a heavy-metal fan from the beginning, but back then that meant Allman Brothers and Zeppelin. Now it was FEAR.
The first score of the movie (Neighbors) was really, really weak. And then Tom Scott tried to do something and it just didn’t work. Then Bill Conti came in and did this comic, tinkly bells-and-xylophones score that wound up being in the movie. John was looking to put a little edge into the thing. He spent hours in the studio recording this punk song to use over the closing credits. I thought the FEAR thing worked when I heard it. But I wasn’t around for any of it. I was gone ‘til fall researching a movie.
There’s a moment where you’re so in the pocket that your choices are America’s choices. That’s the way it was with the Blues Brothers. The blues were nowhere, but John liked them, decided that everyone should like them, and everyone did. But toward the end the choices were getting strange, a little too aggressive. At one point he gave me a huge stack of his blues albums. He said, “I don’t want to listen to this shit anymore. Fuck this. All I’m going to listen to is FEAR and the Dead Kennedys.” It just felt wrongheaded.
John was one of FEAR’s earliest and most ardent supporters. He was obsessed with getting the band on the soundtrack to the movie “Neighbors,” even going as far to have FEAR record a session at Cherokee Studios produced by Steve Cropper and Bruce Robb. Yes. FEAR were produced by one of the Blues Brothers. Sadly the music never made it into the movie and those tapes are now lost.
To make it up to FEAR, Belushi lobbied to get them booked on “Saturday Night Live” by promising Dick Ebersol he’d make a cameo appearance on the same show. This was an offer Ebersol absolutely could not refuse.
At the time “Saturday Night Live” was in its seventh season, coming off of the disastrous 13 episodes of “Saturday Night Live ‘80” produced by Jean Doumanian. Ebersol had only recently taken over the show, so getting John Belushi to do anything would be a massive coup. FEAR were booked for the Halloween episode hosted by Donald Pleasence. It would be the fifth show with Dick Ebersol as Executive Producer.
John Joseph from the Cro-Mags was in the audience that night (along with Ian MacKaye). He explains what happened in this great YouTube clip: