WTF: Suzanne Somers introduces Wire to middle America (1987)

This isn’t a too-subtle-for-it’s-own-good Saturday Night Live sketch. This is the former Chrissy Snow, wearing black opera gloves and matching tutu, interviewing art-punk demi-gods Wire in 1987, on Joan Rivers’ old night time talk show. And all this time I thought Jimmy Fallon invented cult band talk show booking.

Wire, with zero U.S. top 200 albums to their credit, then or now. Suzanne, at the peak of her Vegas song-and-dance fame, temping as The Late Show‘s host after Rivers’ firing. Wire, introduced as “one of the hottest British rock groups in the world today,” touring a record that raced all the way to #87 back home. Suzanne, nailing every question like a pro! Wire…Suzanne…Wire…Suzanne…I feel like Letterman at the Oscars here. (Click on Suzanne below to watch the video.)

Perversely, Wire chose to play “Drill,” from a year-old EP. It’s a coolly seething, minimalist dance tune, if not exactly “Ahead” on the pop-catchiness scale. And this performance was n-o-i-s-y. Perfect for The Late Show viewing audience. (I’m smirking as I type this.) I’ll tip my hat to The Late Show booker, though. And you wonder whether a 13-year-old Jimmy Fallon was watching in Brooklyn. And dreaming big.

Get a load of drummer Robert Gotobed’s face during the interview segment.

SUZANNE TAKES YOU DOWN - Wire suffers a blonde moment: "I was trying to sing along, but I couldn't catch the words. Hahaha!"

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3 responses to “WTF: Suzanne Somers introduces Wire to middle America (1987)

  1. Lieber Gott I saw this [and made a cherished tape of the event] when it was originally broadcast and it remains the most astonishingly surreal music moment I’ve ever seen on television. When I saw the screen cap of Ms. Somers holding up the Wire LP on your header I just had to comment.

    Yes, it was loud. The thing that shocked me the most was the bleeding, knife edge ragged sound. I have never heard a live sound so overmodulated on television before. That just does not get allowed to happen! Serious men in suits usually prevent this from happening. I was thinking as it happened that “if it sounds like this to me – what is the audience hearing?” That was significant enough, and then came the interview! I wish Wire would upload their video if that event!

    As a young New Wave fan, I missed all of the classic TV moments. PIL on American Bandstand? Sorry – never watched the show. Who knew? Elvis Costello on SNL? I was visiting relatives that week and they lived so far out in the sticks, that they didn’t have an NBC affiliate to receive on their antenna! They only got two channels. But by gar, I was there the night that Wire blew Suzanne Somers’ mind [no big feat there] if not America’s and they certainly blew the eardrums of the Late Show audience!

    • I’m still early along in this blog, early enough I don’t really know what to do with the masthead. At one point I figured I’d simply fill it up with surreal postpunk screen caps until my own mug was squeezed out, but there’s precious little to rival the Somers-Wire summit! That Suzanne’s dressed like this for a second-tier talk show is funny enough, in a sort of Spelling-Goldberg “Big ’80s” kind of way. But for ‘Late Show’ to book a commercial crossover no-hoper like Wire? It’d be one thing were this 1983, with MTV in the ascendant and anything with an accent accorded visiting dignitary status. But all sorts of ships had sailed by 1987, and their beautiful racket is all sorts of wacky. I’d like to see Graham’s video too.

      I missed the classic T.V. moments at the time as well. YouTube’s helped. Anything with Tom Snyder is riveting culture-clash stuff (the Paul Weller/Joan Jett/Bill Graham/Kim Fowley episode is tremendously exciting; it feels like they’re at the dawn of something – and they were – but don’t know what to label it yet), because he tends to shelve just enough of his skepticism to get good material from his guests. And the guests’re game as hell, because they’ve all been infected with that bravura bug.

      Hail and well-met! I think we’re humming similar tunes.

      Enjoy OMD in Atlanta. This tour has the makings of a real feel-good story. Keyboard pop’s back in a big way and OM have the benefit of not being so shopworn as Depeche, Duran and EATB, simply by dint of staying away for 15 years (or 22, depending on perspective). McCluskey’s a joy to watch.

  2. This was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen on television. Possibly my favorite Wire song, and one that isn’t exactly middle-America friendly, being played on the Late Show, with friggin’ Suzanne Somers as the host. Yeah, I don’t think a lot of people saw that one coming; this is more bizarre than Jennifer Lopez presenting a Golden Globe to Trent Reznor. I wish I would have caught this when I was a kid, I probably would have hopped on the Wire train a lot sooner.

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