Looking for the Heart of a Saturday Night

The initmatable Mead Hunter, who loves music as much (or maybe even more) than theatre–an obsession I, of course, share–recently posted some classic pieces from television shows on his blog (to wit: “They don’t make ’em like this anymore”), which prompted a bunch of folks to chime in (so to speak) regarding other memorable themes, and yours truly wondered who wrote the wonderful Saturday Night Closing theme song.

No one answered, so I took a quick tour through Googleland and found it was Howard Shore, SNL’s original musical director, and the tune is “Closing Theme (A Waltz In A).”

It never stuck me before as being in 3/4 time. What did strike me about it was the flood of memories it triggered, a lot of good times nights, probably a little bent, hanging with your friends…looking for heart of a Saturday Night. There was a time when Saturday Night was so much a part of the social fabric of my comrades that parties stopped when SNL came on…or at least shifted their emphasis. Saturday night kept going after the show was over, but it was part and parcel of the booze…and whatever…and laughs and tail chasing and whatnot that makes up life in your 20s. I can actually remember slow dancing to the tune with this utterly beautiful…but that’s another story, and a long time ago. And I can remember swaying arm in arm with friends as the cast often swayed arm in arm. It was kind of a time when you felt invincible and did everything you could to test it.

I still watch the show now and again, but it seems to have lost some of its magic. I was there at the beginning…I remember watching the first episode with George Carlin as the host and thinking: my God…what is this? How could something this good get on television? And for a kid living in the Northwest sticks, it was a window into a faraway hipdom that introduced me to musicians like Elvis Costello and Talking Heads. You spent Saturday Night in front of the TV for 90 minutes then spent two hours at the record store the next day. Like Rolling Stone magazine in its heyday, it sewed the tribe together.

Time passes on, as do Not Ready for Primetime Players and, more sadly, friends. But music remains, which is another reason we love it–because it can transport you to the deeply buried television or movie house or photo album in your mind. So here you go…raise a glass…and let your cynicism ebb a bit and the memories circle woozily: neon, tequila, cigarettes, and ratty couch full of ratty friends, who you love very much.

Nostalgia may be a trap, but, taken in small doses, it’s not the worst of drugs….