When the Rolling Stones
performed on his show in 1967, Ed Sullivan was wary of giving network air
time to such lewd hell-raisers, and he famously made them change the lyrics
of "Let's Spend the Night Together."
There is no small irony in
the fact that four decades later, rock's one-time baddest of the bad boys
are viewed as safe, non-controversial entertainment for half-time at the
Super Bowl, which is still reeling from a glimpse of Janet Jackson's breast
This year, the show got
all the controversy out of the way long before kick-off. After pundits
pointed out that the median age of the Stones is 62, the NFL abandoned its
plan to ban anyone over 45 from dancing in the middle of the tongue-shaped
And when other critics
wondered why the producers tapped a bunch of Brits rather than homegrown
talent from one of America's greatest music cities, Aretha Franklin quickly
was recruited to sing the national anthem, with Aaron Neville and Dr. John
helping her out and giving a nod to hurricane-battered New Orleans.
As for the Stones, they
delivered a succinct but fiery three-song set that found them doing much
more than simply going through the motions.
"Start Me Up" was a
predictable opener, and you knew they had to close with "Satisfaction." But
if you remember what the song is really about, the latter takes on added
resonance in the midst of the year's biggest orgy of advertising excess.
"When I'm watchin' my
TV/And that man comes on to tell me/How white my shirts can be ... I can't
get no satisfaction," Mick Jagger sang with a bit more sneer than usual.
And the tune ended in a wonderfully raucous jam with Ron Wood and Keith
Richards playing a minute of sheer punk-rock dissonance and clatter.
In between, the Stones
bettered Paul McCartney at last year's show by playing an actual recent song
-- "Rough Justice," the strongest from the 2005 album "A Bigger Bang" -- and
they even poked a little fun at themselves.
"Here's one we could
have played at Super Bowl I," Jagger said in introducing "Satisfaction,"
originally released in 1965.
The group's biggest
cop-out was something that only a hardcore Stones fan noticed, but it was
undeniable: Jagger emphatically went mute and cut off the last word of the
one mildly licentious line in "Start Me Up." (You know, the one about the
Well, at least the
Stones are consistent: They were willing to bend for Sullivan in '67, and
they happily censored themselves in 2006, lest they offend anyone watching
Super Bowl XL -- several hours of men violently hurling themselves at each
other in the name of good, wholesome family entertainment.