Did the world's greatest
rock 'n' roll band meekly censor itself during the Super Bowl halftime show
the Rolling Stones silenced by "the man" in the form of network broadcasters
and NFL officials still reeling from the notorious "Nipplegate" incident
during Janet Jackson's performance in 2004?
On Tuesday, the lost
lyrics remained as controversial as some of the referees' calls, and it was
difficult to tell who did what to whom and when.
During the Stones'
three-song set at Super Bowl XL, Mick Jagger suddenly went mute during the
last word of a line in their opening number, "Start Me Up," which uses a
crude euphemism for sex.
In the next tune, "Rough
Justice," from the band's recent album "A Bigger Bang," the same thing
happened during the last word of the first verse, which is built upon a
rather hoary blues metaphor about roosters, baby chickens and foxes.
conversation, the two words are completely non-controversial. But in these
particular lyrics, context is everything.
In my review of the show
on Monday, I noted Jagger refrained from singing the words, and I made the
comparison to the group changing the lyrics to "Let's Spend the Night
Together" when it appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1967. During that
performance, Jagger changed the chorus to "Let's spend some time together,"
but he looked into the camera and rolled his eyes in disgust.
Tuesday, the band's
spokeswoman, Fran Curtis, launched a PR campaign to convince fans that the
Stones had not censored themselves at the Super Bowl.
"Mick sang all the
lyrics," Curtis said. "NFL/ABC censored them. The Rolling Stones thought the
censorship of their songs by the NFL/ABC was absolutely ridiculous and
NFL spokesman Brian
McCarthy responded that the group knew in advance that the more than 90
million viewers wouldn't hear Jagger sing those two words.
"The plan all along was
for the NFL to simply lower the [volume of Jagger's] mike at those two
particular moments," McCarthy said. "That was something that the Stones were
aware of as it was discussed in the week leading up to the Super Bowl."
Retorted Curtis: "The
band objected strenuously, thought the censorship was absurd, but in a very
tense situation decided to go ahead with the show." Pressed for details
about exactly how the band objected and when the decision to go ahead
occurred, Curtis did not respond by deadline.
whether the Stones objected to the plan to mute the two allegedly offensive
words, McCarthy said, "If they had a problem or not, that's something you
should talk to [them about]. But they were aware that it was going to
One thing is certain:
ABC had nothing to do with any of this. A network official said that while
the halftime show was on a five-second delay, it wasn't utilized during the
show. And in any event, ABC wasn't responsible for the show; it was all a
production of the NFL.
linger. Can the Stones legitimately complain about censorship if they knew
in advance that they would be censored and chose to perform anyway? And does
the NFL think that another controversy is warranted for two non-curse words
used as dumb double entendres familiar to every sixth-grade boy in America?
Don't ask me: I'm still
trying to figure out why there was such a big fuss about a two-second
glimpse of Jackson's right nipple.