On April 24, 1976, Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels appeared on SNL, which was still in its infancy, and offered the Beatles the whopping (and beautifully ludicrous) sum of $3,000 to regroup and perform three songs.
“‘She Loves You,’ yeah, yeah, yeah—that’s $1,000 right there,” Michaels said. “You know the words. It’ll be easy. Like I said, this is made out to ‘The Beatles.’ You [can] divide it anyway you want. If you want to give Ringo [Starr] less, that’s up to you. I’d rather not get involved.”
As legend has it, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were watching SNL at Lennon’s New York City apartment that night and seriously considered showing up on the set.
Sadly, Lennon and McCartney—who rarely (as in, never) hung out—decided they were too tired to blow a few million minds, and the greatest missed opportunity in rock history became just another “What if?”
On May 22, Michaels addressed the Beatles once again via SNL: “I was able to convince NBC to sweeten the pot. John, Paul, George [Harrison] and Ringo—we are now prepared to up the original offer to $3,200.” That didn’t work either.
However, a few months later, on November 20, 1976, to be exact, Harrison appeared on the show play a few songs, collect that original $3,000 check—and jokingly haggle over money with Michaels.
“See, I thought you would understand that it was $3,000 for four people, and it would just be $750 for each of you,” Michaels told Harrison backstage as a frantic studio audience watched via monitors. “As far as I’m concerned, you can have the full $3,000.”
“That’s pretty chintzy,” Harrison replied.
Anyway, we don’t know—or care—how much Harrison actually took home that night. We do know he performed and/or ran through at least four songs with the show’s host, Paul Simon, two of which of aired on national TV. Below, you can watch as Harrison and Simon, guitars in hand, trade vocals on the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound.”
Although the show has hosted hundreds of musical guests over its 40 years (including, more than once, McCartney and his band), the Harrison/Simon duets are considered two of the absolute best of the bunch, and for good reason.
There’s something intimate and beautiful about the performances—and I’ve always been a fan of the bluesy riff Harrison plays at the tail end of “Homeward Bound.” Enjoy!