|University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band, 1967|
The first Super Bowl halftime performance in 1967 featured two university bands performing the "Liberty Bell" marching set by John Phillip Sousa. If you have a few minutes, watch some or all of the video at the end of this post, and reflect on how the culture has changed.
It's really quite stunning.
Of course, in 1967, rock-and-roll and the "sexual revolution" were in full swing. But the "counter-culture" was just that. Most of the country was still very square. Listen to the announcer in that video. You can almost feel the collar and tie around his neck.
Today, Lady Gaga - the headliner for Super Bowl LI - isn't the counter-culture. She is the culture.
|Carol Channing, 1970|
So when did things change? Or to put it another way and focus on the Super Bowl, when did the halftime performance become such a freak show?
The answer may surprise you.
It was actually only quite recently.
Wikipedia has a detailed and fascinating historical rundown here.
For more than half of it's existence, until the early 1990's or arguably even until 2001, Super Bowl halftimes were quite G-rated.
|Up with People, 1980|
The 1990's brought in soul and country music - Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder, Clint Black and so on. The edgiest acts were New Kids on the Block and Michael Jackson.
Super Bowl XXXV in 2001 was pretty clearly when things changed decisively.
XXXIV in 2000 had featured Phil Collins in a Disney produced salute to the "Tapestry of Nations." XXXV in 2001 featured Aerosmith, 'N Sync, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly, and was produced by MTV as a tribute to "The Kings of Rock and Pop."
|New Kids on the Block, 1991|
From then on, there was no going back. "A Salute to Louis Armstrong," marching bands outlining the fifty states and Doc Severinsen had given way to "Bootylicious," costume malfunctions and Madonna.
Do not misunderstand what I'm trying to say here. Some of the modern rock-and-rollers are quite talented. And, yes, I actually like a few of them. At the same time, some of the pre-2001 music was pretty bad. The quasi-Christian "education" troop, Up with People was fairly widely panned. Even so, they managed to perform in five halftime shows in the late 1970's and early 1980's.
I'm not talking about the quality of the music so much as, for lack of a better term, the moral tone.
If that makes me sound like an Up with People groupie, so be it.
|Aerosmith and Britney Spears, 2001|
But back to Lady Gaga.
To steal a line from a set of rock and roll lyrics ironically written in 1967, Lady Gaga is a pornographic priestess.
She would probably call that a compliment.
You think you can just turn her off.
But you can't. Lady Gaga is the culture. And even if you go live in a bunker, your kids will probably smuggle in children's cartoon DVDs featuring rap soundtracks or sexual innuendos.
I don't know what the answer is.
|Lady Gaga, 2017|