Despite the protests of some children's advocates who need to get their facts straight, Pete Townshend will be playing at this weekend's Super Bowl Halftime Show, dusting off The Who hits for a stadium full of jocks. Townshend is a famous non-jock. If he weren't playing, the man wouldn't be within 100 miles of football stadium. Ah..the majesty and irony of rock.
For this fellow non-jock (the closest I got to a football field in high school was my stint as the water boy; make no mistake, water boys get all the chicks), the halftime show is the only reason for me to watch the Super Bowl. I know the halftime performers' names long before I can recall the teams playing.
The Super Bowl Halftime Show is part Thanksgiving day parade, part Vegas spectacle, and part post-modern vaudeville. The halftime show has also come a long way from the days of marching bands and middle America schlock. Anyone remember Carol Channing's "Tribute to Mardi Gras in 1970? No? Be thankful you have The Who this year, that's all I'm saying.
As you put the beer on ice and prepare to kick the women out of the house, here are few halftime highs and lows to get you ready for Super Sunday. Someone please tell me who wins the game. I'll be tuning out once The Who leaves the stage.
LOW: Up With People (1982)
After nine years of marching bands and aging jazz musicians, the Super Bowl intelligentsia decided to get hip. They invited the motivational-musical group Up With People to make their half-time show debut in 1976 with a "Tribute to America's Bicentennial." The relationship lasted off and on for ten years. My favorite? The uber-white Up with People getting funky with their "Salute to the 1960s and Motown." Apparently, they've never been to Detroit nor seen a hippie.
HIGH: Michael Jackson (1993) Odds are strong that Michael Jackson never cared much about football until he was asked to perform at the Rose Bowl for Super Bowl XXVII. His performance marked the first time audience numbers increased during the halftime show. Jackson capped his appearance with 3500 children asking to heal the world. The King of Pop's Super Bowl high would be followed by a serious low when he would be accused of child sexual abuse later in the year.
LOW: "Tapestry of Nations" (2000)
Perhaps all the rock bands were booked this year. Or perhaps Y2K fears prevented kept anyone with rock cred from flying to the Georgia Dome. Or maybe, Disney just wrote the biggest check. Whatever the reason, the Super Bowl XXXIV Halftime Show was tragically transformed into a ten-minute commercial for Walt Disney World featuring Edward James Olmos, Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, and Toni Braxton. The circle of life runs through the 50-yard line.
HIGH: U2 (2002)
Less than five months after 9/11, U2 turned the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans into a place of worship. As the Irish band played their final song, "Where the Streets Have No Name," a giant banner was raised behind them displaying the names of the 2973 people who died during the 9/11 attacks. U2 used the banner during that year's Elevation Tour but this televised version had added resonance and turned a mere sports game into massive statement of unity and resilience - something New Orleans would need three years later when Katrina hit.
LOW: Janet Jackson & Justin Timberlake (2004)
Janet Jackson's Super Bowl XXXVIII appearance brought the words "wardrobe malfunction" into the mainstream. Who new that a partially exposed nipple shown for nine-sixteenths of a second would cause such a mess. CBS paid $3.5 million in fines and fees and Timberlake was forced to make an apology on the Grammy Awards the following month. As for Jackson, all the hoopla couldn't save her album "Damita Jo," which sold far less than her previous efforts.
HIGH: Prince (2007)
Three years later at Super Bowl XLI, no one seemed to care about Prince's phallic guitar. Guess a man stroking his ax is different than a woman showing a portion of her breast of less than a second. It's so hard to follow the rules of the game. Guess that's why I don't watch football. (Note: audio stripped from video because Prince don't play that YouTube game. Still you can see his guitar while it gently weeps).