This is one of my favorite songs of all time. It's a perfect punk rock song - snotty and ugly and catchy and funny. It's just great.
FEAR was founded in 1977 by Lee Ving and Derf Scratch, and I Love Living in the City was their first single. Penelope Spheeris saw them in LA and put them in her seminal punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, where the band became infamous in footage where they picked fights with their own audience. John Belushi, an early adopter of punk rock, saw the movie and was turned into an instant fan; he tried to get FEAR on the soundtrack for his Neighbors but couldn't make it happen. Instead he promised to get them booked on Saturday Night Live. At this point Belushi was already off the show, which was recovering from the fabled disastrous 1980 season, but he promised to appear on the episode if FEAR was the musical guest.
What happened was legendary. It was the 1981 Halloween episode, and the stage was decorated with pumpkins. Host Donald Pleasance introduced the band: "They look very frightening, but they're really very nice." For the first time in the show's history the band played in front of a mosh pit, which included Belushi, Ian MacKaye and Tesco Vee, among other punk luminaries. FEAR launched into Beef Bologna and the pit went NUTS - kids were jumping on and off the stage, slamming hard, windmilling and generally acting like a bunch of awesome hardcore kids. After Beef Bologna, Ving said "It's nice to be here in New Jersey," drawing boos from the crowd. As the band set up for their next song the stage banter got weird, mixed with aggressive catcalling from the audience, which was beginning to get super rowdy. The punks were from a mix of cities and the New York and Washington DC kids were not getting along.
Next up FEAR played New York's Alright If You Like Saxophones, after which MacKaye called out "New York SUCKS!" and fights began to happen. John Josephs of the Cro-Mags was there, and years later he recounted his experience, saying that the moshing gave way to actual fighting, and some kid got his nose broken. As FEAR launched into Let's Start A War the show suddenly faded out to commercial; legend has it that MacKaye took the mic and shouted 'FUCK NEW YORK!' but it seems producer Dick Ebersol was able to get off the air before that went out to homes.
Watching the footage, which was impossible to find for years, is thrilling. This is the anarchic height of punk rock, a moment when people in Saturday Night Live's increasingly bourgeois audience must have felt like society was crumbling. It's absolute fucking madness, the kind of thing that makes you realize Robyn Thicke and Miley Cyrus are really just boring pantomimes of what is outrageous.
Hell, just watch it for yourself: