Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Saturday Night Live Christopher Walken More Cowbell

The sketch is presented as though it is an episode of VH1's Behind the Music documenting the band Blue Öyster Cult. It begins with what is said to be film from the 1976 recording session that produced the band's biggest hit, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper". The producer (played by Christopher Walken) introduces himself as "the Bruce Dickinson" and tells the band they have "what appears to be a dynamite sound." The band members are impressed at this compliment because of Bruce Dickinson's supposed high standing in the music industry.

The first take of the recording session begins soon after. The recording seems to be going well, but the band stops playing after a few moments because the cowbell part is rather loud and distracting. However, Dickinson feels quite differently and, to the surprise of most of the band, asks for "a little more cowbell" and suggests that the cowbell player, Gene Frenkle, "really explore the studio space this time."

Frenkle's exuberance in following this advice causes him to bump into his bandmates as he dances around the cramped studio, thrusting his pelvis wildly in all directions, and the band aborts another take. [Ferrell's knack at physical comedy is evident in this scene as his tight, 1970's style shirt rides up during the cowbell "exploration" and reveals a somewhat immodest midsection, but "Frenkle" plays right through, gut bouncing freely, clearly adding to the humor of the scene.] Dickinson enters the studio exasperated at wasting "two good tracks." Frenkle sheepishly agrees to tone down his performance in the spirit of cooperation. Dickinson warns Frenkle not to tone it down too much, as they're "gonna want the cowbell on this track." However, Frenkle passive-aggressively plays the cowbell very close to Eric Bloom's ear and fails to keep time with the rest of the band. Frenkle suddenly knocks over Bloom's microphone stand, ending the take prematurely. The rest of the band expresses frustration with Frenkle, but Dickinson remains focused only on getting more cowbell onto the track.

Gene Frenkle then makes an impromptu speech to the rest of the band. He declares that Dickinson's stature lends a great deal of weight to his opinion about the cowbell part, and that the last time Frenkle checked, they didn't have "a whole lot of songs that feature the cowbell" and therefore he would be "doing [himself] a disservice, and every member of the band" if he "didn't perform the hell out of this." At the climax of the sketch, Dickinson exclaims: "Guess what?! I've got a fever, and the only prescription... is more cowbell!" The band agrees to let Frenkle play the cowbell part his way. As the band begins another take, the sketch ends with a freeze frame on Frenkle with the superimposed message: "In Memoriam: Gene Frenkle: 1950-2000."

One of the highlights of the skit is seeing the cast (particularly Jimmy Fallon) completely lose it during the funniest section of the clip. Walken, always the professional, remains entirely in character and stone faced, urging the band to keep the cowbell in the track. But the others, including Chris Kattan, begin to laugh as Kattan grabs Ferrell's shirt violently and states "don't blow this for us, Gene!" Even Ferrell has an uncharacteristic chuckle during the skit, but Fallon can't keep a straight face enough that he needs to hide his laughter with a pair of drumsticks.

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