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Beatles Rarity Of The Week – “Rock Island Line” (unused SNL performance, 1976)

Posted by on May 21, 2012 at 6:00 am.

Welcome to The Beatles Rarity of The Week. On November 20, 1976 Paul Simon hosted the Thanksgiving week episode of Saturday Night Live and recorded a few performances along with musical guest George Harrison.

With his new album Thirty Three and 1/3 due to be released in four days, George was eager to make the appearance as part of his efforts to promote it. A promo video clip was shown of George’s lead single “This Song” which had just been released on November 15th and also of “Crackerbox Palace” which would be the follow up single out in January 1977.

Not missing a great opportunity, Paul Simon and George performed a charming selection of Beatles/Simon & Garfunkel/fifties covers together. Both sat with acoustic guitars “unplugged style” before a highly responsive audience and performed these specific songs: “Here Comes The Sun,” “Homeward Bound,” “Rock Island Line” (a la Lonnie Donegan) and the Everly’s “Bye Bye Love.”

From this set, only “Here Comes The Sun” and “Homeward Bound” were televised on the show. This recording of “Homeward Bound” was included on the charity CD Nobody’s Child Romanian Angel Appeal released in 1990. In honor of a recent request, I am featuring the unreleased and untelevised performance of “Rock Island Line” for this week’s BROW. George begins with a few borrowed lines from The Beatles “Yesterday” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and the audience joins in with handclaps when he begins “Rock Island Line.” Since the recording originates from an unrestored 36 year old film source, the fidelity isn’t up to par with what most of us are used to, but nevertheless, I hope you find it an enjoyable listen.

George Harrison/Paul Simon - Rock Island Line

George Harrison and Paul Simon on SNL, 1976

George Harrison and Paul Simon on SNL, 1976

Special thanks go out to Carl Quatraro for requesting a performance from this union of two great artists.

Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, some music related to this post:

1) Nobody’s Child – Romanian Angel Appeal – Various – 1990 charity CD featuring Ringo Starr and the All-Starr Band, Traveling Wilburys and George Harrisons performance of “Homeward Bound” with Paul Simon from SNL.

2) More Amazon links for any of your favorite Beatles-related music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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Want to make a suggestion for a future Beatles Rarity of the Week? If so, I will do my best to deliver, so let me hear from you. To browse for ideas, check out this search-able listing of 9,967 Beatle-related recordings to choose from. Then let me hear from you here.

2 Comments

  • elliottmarx says:

    Charming indeed. I never realized that there were outtakes from the SNL sessions. Now with this performance, I have heard each of the Beatles sing this song. Hey, that brings up a potential question for Ask Happy Nat – what are some other songs that all four of the Beatles have individually performed/recorded?

  • happynat says:

    Okay Elliott. I’ll tackle that question on a future #askNat.

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