Monday, February 6, 2017

When Super Bowl Halftime Performances Weren't Freak Shows

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
Until 1990 it was mainly marching bands, Disney tributes and Hollywood personalities from another age, like George Burns or Mickey Rooney.

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


  1. The "Answer" is stop wasting your time on a pointless head banging spectacle like the "Super" bowl and go for a walk and breath some fresh air.

  2. Or spend that time reading aloud to your kids or playing a board game. Americans put entirely too much time, energy, and money in to sports & entertainment. And we are surrounded by idiots with college degrees who prove that!

  3. The game was a terrific game. And even though the halftime was sort of a freak show, it was so much better than I expected – there was nothing obscene about it! and Lady Gaga actually said a few words to honor America and point up when she said "one nation under God"! It's probably the best we can expect for a long time.

    1. This Land is Your Land is commie protest song by Woodie Guthrie. That's why Springsteen loved it so much. And Born This Way advocates disordered lifestyles.

    2. I would claim (just my opinion) that what started as a commie protest song is now thought of by most as a classic and even patriotic bit of Americana. Like it or not, some of the best American folk music was created by commies or quasi-commies. The intentions of the creators were often questionable. But I think their music is bigger than their intentions. And of course, the creators are dead (most of them) anyway. Again, just my opinion.

    3. Born this Way is pro-LGBT or pro-LGBTQ or pro-whatever-the-PC-approved-alphabet-soup-of-the-day is. No question. I assume the song has now become a sort of anthem, not least because it's kind of catchy. We'll see if it survives as long as Woody's songs. Somehow I doubt it...

    4. The game was a crummy blow-out for three quarters and the cheater Brady stunk like the bottom of a monkey's cage until the fourth ("forf" as most NFL linebackers pronounce it) quarter and the Cheatriots won because Shanahan called for 8 step drop passing plays rather than run plays when the Falcons got to the Cheatriots 22 yard line late in the game.

      The Cheater Brady is not the best QB ever. He just happens to play in an era where the D Backs can't lay a finger on a player and it is BORING the ewe the Cheatriots play with nearly every play being a rub route 5 yard pass or a dump off to a running back.

      Otto Graham was a much better QB than Brady, to say nothing of Montana.

    5. O, and as for ESPN or the NFL putting on the breaks, forget it.

      Sports, Porn, and Drugs are the bread and circuses of this Empire.

  4. I would argue that the King of Pop (Michael Jackson) grabbing his crotch helped to usher in the pornographic nature of these shows. And we all know how it turned out for him. But really, it's up to the powers that be at the NFL to put the brakes on, but they have become progressive freaks as well. ESPN too.

  5. Sports seriously began to market themselves as family entertainment in the 1990s. About the time this phenomena hit pro sports, I began to tune out. The level of play in the NBA, NFL, MLB over-all was on the down turn. And an NFL game lasting 3 + hours, when the actual time playing the game is actually less than 15 minutes practically destroyed Sunday afternoons.

    Sorry, but I missed out on the slut fests known as Super Bowl shows. Lady GaGa I heard has real musical talent. And Mata Hari, I heard could dance. So what? She was still a whore that spied for Germany From what I understand, Conservatives are actually thanking Lady GaGa for not singing some seditious song, or fornicating on stage. Go figure

  6. Bear Dowwwwn Arizona!
    Bear Dowwwwn Red and Blue!
    Bear Dowwwwn Arizona!
    Hit 'em hard let em know who's who!

    Sorry, I'm an alumnus. Wooo, go Cats!