Brow Beat

Prince, Paul McCartney, and the History of the Post-SNL Jam Session

If you honored Washington’s Birthday by staying off the Internet, you might have missed the videos that trickled out from the very star-studded after-party following Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary special on Sunday night.

There was Paul McCartney with Jimmy Fallon and Taylor Swift, tearing through “I Saw Her Standing There”:

And Paul McCartney with Swift again, doing a duet on her “Shake It Off”:

And then Prince on stage with Fallon, Chris Rock, Martin Short, Bill Murray, Haim, and Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, performing “Let’s Go Crazy”:

Was this the best SNL after-party ever? If you’ve followed the inner workings of SNL at any point over the last 40 years, you’ve heard stories of these kinds of legendary bashes before. According to legend, when the show is over, cast members pile into limos and head over to Buddakan or Dos Caminos or Asellina or some other semi-secret bar or restaurant. (For this extra special occasion, it was the Plaza Hotel.) There they angle for face time with Lorne, schmooze with fellow cast members, and cozy up to various special guests (McCartney is a veteran of the post-show bashes)—and, on rare occasions, they might get invited to form a one-night-only supergroup with some rock stars.

But though Sunday night’s debauchery was clearly epic, this isn’t the first time the post-show festivities have turned into a jam session. In the early days, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd used to host less-glamorous gatherings at a dive they called the Blues Bar. There, according to original cast member Laraine Newman, you might find the Blues Brothers jamming with James Taylor or Keith Richards. These wild and purportedly drug-fueled parties continued for years. The best after-party Jon Lovitz could remember, when he was interviewed for a January 2014 New York Times article on the post-show ritual, was at a 1990 gathering where Belgium’s Technotronic played their club hit “Pump Up the Jam.”

While there’s a strong consensus that the parties have been more tame during the last decade or two—especially since early ’00s cast member Horatio Sanz left and took his “after-after-parties” with him—Sunday night’s jam is not without competition even from more recent years. After the 25th anniversary show, Aykroyd sang with a loosely assembled band that included Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Paul Schaffer, and … Gary Busey:

It’s not just on anniversaries. After the 2012 season finale, the Foo Fighters performed as the house band at Rockefeller Center with Mick Jagger (on the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You”), Amy Poehler (on Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation”), and Kristen Wiig (with backup singers Jason Sudeikis and Andy Samberg, on Jett’s “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll”):

Last year, Prince also threw an intimate after-party and jam session of his own, where he was—at least according to the New York Post’s Page Six blog—“still dancing” at 6 a.m. While the after-parties these days may be fueled by nostalgia for SNL’s wilder years, there’s no doubt that things can still get pretty weird.