Rhino Factoids: Sinead O’Connor Causes a Kerfuffle on ‘Saturday Night Live’
24 years ago today, Sinead O’Connor was in the midst of promoting her 1992 album AM I NOT YOUR GIRL? when she appeared on Saturday Night Live and made an unexpected political statement which, for better or worse, remains to this day one of the first things – if not the first – that people think about when they hear her name mentioned.
Given the success of her 1990 album I DO NOT WANT WHAT I HAVEN’T GOT, the world was anxiously awaiting word of what O’Connor’s next album would sound like, but she threw everyone a curveball when she announced that she was going to be covering a variety of jazz standards, along with her rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.” The end result was interesting, to be sure, but compared to its predecessor, the LP was most definitely unanticipated change of pace.
When O’Connor made her appearance on Saturday Night Live, she did the requisite two songs that most musical guests perform, but while her first selection was from her new album (“Success Has Made a Failure of Our Home”), the second was not. The decision to perform an acappella rendition of Bob Marley’s “War” was definitely something that seemed to come from out of left field, but the song choice was nothing compared to what happened afterwards: at the conclusion of the song, O’Connor took a photo of the Pope, tore it into pieces, and threw it at the camera, saying, “Fight the real enemy.”
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Needless to say, O’Connor’s actions had not been sanctioned by Saturday Night Live: no one on the show had any idea that she was going to take advantage of the live setting to cause a furor with the Catholic church. The timing of her actions was such that Lorne Michaels, executive producer of the show, was able to order that the “APPLAUSE” sign not be used at the end of the song. Later, he would say of O’Connor’s actions that there was “on a certain level, a betrayal,” but he also conceded that there was also “a serious expression of belief.” That said, O’Connor has never appeared on the show since, and it seems unlikely that it’s going to change anytime soon.