Music History That Wasn't: The National TV Debut Of The Plasmatics!
When I was a kid, Fridays were something special. Not only was it the merciful end of a long school week, it was also one of only two nights we kids might be allowed to stay up late...if we behaved. For a few Friday nights in the early '80s, we kids were also treated to more than a few valiant attempts at musical history courtesy of the short-lived TV show "Fridays".
"Fridays", of course, was ABC's attempt at "Saturday Night Live" and it was an admirable one at that, showcasing the talents of one Michael Richards, among others. While SNL had gotten decidedly un-funny as of late, with all of its big stars leaving one by one for Hollywood, "Fridays" was hip, edgy, and musically groundbreaking.
Too bad nobody saw it.
Imagine if the same number of people who had tuned in to see the Beatles on Ed Sullivan had turned to ABC on the night of January 16, 1981 and caught the national television debut of Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics.
Up to that point, while punk had exploded in the UK five years prior, the national media in the States had successfully stifled any such movement, giving only fleeting glimpses of its existence, but ABC was throwing open the flood gates, for one night anyway.
It was enough to make you almost forget the guitar player was wearing a tu-tu. After grunting a few lines, Wendy unleashes one of the best, and admittedly longest, sledge hammer solos in all of rock & roll. That poor TV never had a chance.
For their next tune, "Butcher Baby", Wendy comes out in short shorts, a black bra, and just enough whipped cream to make things interesting. She proceeds to cut a guitar in half with a chain saw before grunting a few "Oh yeah, Oh no!"'s before the band ends the tune and exits the stage. Ah, but its not over yet, as Wendy soon hits the stage with a gun and proceeds to destroy the band's instruments and light rig.
The commercial break gave us all a chance to pick our jaws up off the floor. The next day, I picked up the one and only copy I could find of New Hope For The Wretched at the mall and figured that, come Monday, I would be one of many young converts singing Wendy's praises.
"Did you see 'Fridays'?"
I asked one friend after the other and was greeted each time with a deadpan "No" or "What's 'Fridays'?"
The punk revolution had finally been televised in America. Unfortunately, most everybody missed it. Oh, some of us saw it and our lives were forever changed, but it would be another decade before America was finally able to embrace punk.
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