NY Times on Stones' Superbowl
Date: February 3, 2006 16:39
February 3, 2006
It's Halftime and They Like It, They Like It, Yes They Do
By JOE LAPOINTE
DETROIT, Feb. 2 — When the Super Bowl began in 1967, pro football stood for marching bands, crew cuts and cold beer. When the Rolling Stones began earlier in the same decade, they represented a different kind of music, a different sort of hairstyle and different types of refreshments.
It would have been difficult to imagine then — or even 20 years ago — that the Stones would be the halftime entertainment at any Super Bowl, but they will perform three songs in 12 minutes on Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL at Ford Field.
So what does the intersection of these two entertainment juggernauts say about American popular culture? Have the Stones moved closer to the values of the mainstream or has the mainstream moved closer to the values of the Stones?
"I think both, really, to be perfectly honest," Mick Jagger, their lead singer, said Thursday at a news conference in the Renaissance Center. "America's obviously changed since we first came here. It's almost unrecognizable and it's very hard to imagine what the United States was like 40 years ago. We've definitely grown with the American culture changes."
Jagger spoke seriously, for the most part, but flashed a wry smile toward the end of his comparison between the British-born rock band and the United States. "Hopefully, though, both of us still have our core values intact," he said, drawing laughter from the large audience.
Although Jagger was with band members Keith Richards, Ron Wood and Charlie Watts, most of the questions were for Jagger, with Richards occasionally offering humorous quips. For audiences of a certain age, it was a little like watching one of those old Rat Pack shows, this time with Jagger in the role of Frank Sinatra and Richards as Dean Martin.
Reflecting on Janet Jackson's bare breast at the Super Bowl two years ago, someone asked whether the Stones would try something "provocative and edgy." Richards replied: "Got any ideas?" One might be the song "Sweet Neo Con," a politically charged cut from their current album "A Bigger Bang" that is harshly critical of President Bush.
But even if they were to consider "Sweet Neo Con," the National Football League would not permit it, according to Charles Coplin, the N.F.L's senior director for broadcasting.
"No, it would not be acceptable," Coplin said. "Yes, we have veto power over certain songs in the set list. But we also understand that these guys are artists, and we try and allow them to be so."
That understanding was tested last September when the Stones performed, on tape, two songs for the N.F.L. kickoff show before the first game on ABC. In the first verse of "Rough Justice," when Jagger sang lyrics that amounted to a pornographic pun, the words were censored with silence.
Fred Gaudelli, who is producing the Super Bowl for ABC, said the entire telecast — not just the halftime show — would be delayed five seconds, a policy enacted after the incident with Jackson.
He said four members of the network's standards department would monitor the telecast in New York and that any of them could obliterate words or images with the push of a button. "It's not an easy job," Gaudelli said.
Jagger said the network should not be concerned about what the Stones will sing, although no one is publicly divulging the song titles beforehand. "They needn't worry about it," Jagger said. "Calm down more and take life as it comes." He underscored his remark with a blunt obscenity, to humorous effect.
Jagger joked that Aretha Frankin would disrobe while singing the national anthem on Sunday, putting network executives in "a bit of a crisis." Franklin and Stevie Wonder spoke at an earlier news conference about how some of Detroit's African-American artists felt snubbed when the Stones were invited to fill the premier slot. Wonder will sing in the pregame show.
"I know there's been a lot of controversy about halftime," Wonder said. "I don't have a problem with the Stones." Franklin added: "I love the Rolling Stones."
It is the second consecutive year for British rock royalty at halftime. Last season's performer was Paul McCartney, a contemporary of the Stones.
Don Mischer, the executive producer and director of both shows, said McCartney and the Stones are "buttoned-down business people," although they approach their work differently.
"Paul is more predisposed to planning everything in great detail," Mischer said. "His music was selected months ahead of time. The Stones feel it more. They're more of the moment. There is more spontaneity and this desire to kind of keep options open and let's see how things feel."
Referring to the intersection of the Stones and the Super Bowl, Coplin, the N.F.L. executive, said: "Popular culture changes. The event has changed in terms of its magnitude. You're just seeing an event that has evolved and a band that has evolved."
Certainly the demographics overlap now more than in the past. Michael Cohl, the tour manager for the Stones, said the band's core audience consists of males over the age of 40, although, he added, they are not a majority and that people of both sexes ages 15 to 70 have attended the current tour.
But the Stones' audience does not include all of the players in the Super Bowl. Seattle defensive end Bryce Fisher, 28, said of the Stones: "I don't follow them at all. They're a little bit before my time."
Jimmy Williams, 26, a Seattle cornerback, said he heard who was playing, but couldn't recall. "Is it Bon Jovi or who? Is it U2?" he said. When someone said, "Rolling Stones," Williams replied: "Rolling Stones! Yeah. I got a big shirt in my room with the big tongue on it. So I was like 'That's a big rocker band.' I know a little about their music. I don't know the names of their songs."
Sometimes, titles and lyrics change, and one example shows how the Stones, along with the Super Bowl and popular culture in general have come full circle. When the first Super Bowl was played on Jan. 15, 1967, it was called the world championship game and the halftime music was performed by the marching bands from the universities of Michigan and Arizona.
But the Stones were also on TV that day, a few hours later, on "The Ed Sullivan Show." They wanted to sing "Let's Spend the Night Together," but Sullivan insisted they change the lyrics to "Let's Spend Some Time Together."
Jagger consented, reluctantly, but rolled his eyes while he sang. A videotape of the telecast seems to reveal him mumbling one chorus as "Let's Spend Some Night Together." At the end of the sloppy performance, the tape shows Jagger and Sullivan solemnly shaking hands and exchanging what can be best described as cold smiles.
In answer to a general question about Sullivan on Thursday, Jagger said: "You just never knew. They used to say, 'Mr. Sullivan may want to shake hands with you at the end of the show — or he may not!' " While Jagger spoke, Richards did an impression of Sullivan's stiff demeanor.
Asked if they were nervous about performing at the Super Bowl, Richards said, "Trembling in my boots!"
Jagger added: "Yes, really worrisome. What are we going to play?"