Halftime back to where it once belonged: Really boring


February 7, 2005


There was a time when Paul McCartney was a heck of a lot edgier and a lot more "dangerous" than Janet Jackson.

In 1967, Macca spoke glowingly about psychedelic drugs in the English press. "LSD opened my eyes," he said. "It made me a better, more honest, more tolerant member of society, brought closer to God."

The cutest Beatle was also an enthusiastic advocate of decriminalizing marijuana, and between 1972 and 1976, he was busted for possessing pot four times.

Rounding out the unholy trinity of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, McCartney crooned about doing the nasty in the most vivid of terms, from "Why Don't We Do It in the Road" by the Beatles to "Eat At Home," a song from his 1971 solo album "Ram" that raves about the joys of oral sex.

But all of that is ancient history, and it happened long before the 63-year-old musical legend became "Sir Paul" and the No. 1 poster boy for Baby Boomer nostalgia.

This sanitized, defanged and -- let's face it -- thoroughly boring McCartney was clearly the one that the NFL wanted to provide the music at halftime for Super Bowl XXXIX on Sunday, the better to dispel charges that America's most popular spectacle of violent sport isn't "family friendly."

Television and radio are still frantically readjusting broadcast standards in the wake of the $550,000 fine levied against CBS following the seconds-long glimpse of one of Jackson's breasts during last year's half-time show. Nipplegate prompted a heavy-handed crackdown by the FCC that is still picking up steam, and this year, the efforts to avoid the slightest hint of controversy seemed a lot more strenuous than any exertions that the Eagles and the Patriots were making on the field.

Even the big-budget TV commercials tried to outdo one another with shows of "good taste," rather than the usual jokes about sex and farting. But good taste and good rock 'n' roll rarely have much in common, and McCartney's much-hyped four-song performance was about as gripping as those late-night infomercials for packaged CD or video collections of "The Hits of Yesteryear."

The freshest tune was no less than 32 years old, while the hoariest will turn 40 later this year. Sure, "Live and Let Die" and "Drive My Car" are classics. But we've all heard them a thousand times more than we ever needed to in this lifetime, and the fiery playing of Paul's young band didn't stop them from being tired oldies.

With "Hey Jude" and "Get Back" completing the set list, that made for three songs by the Beatles and one by Wings, with no hint that McCartney has done anything of merit for the last three decades. Come to think of it, though, we should probably be glad that he didn't croon "Freedom," the wretched and simplistic sing-along that he penned in homage to 9/11.

The most risque that Sir Paul got at Alltel Stadium was when he ripped off his jacket -- a smooth move with no evidence of a wardrobe malfunction -- and led the crowd in shouting, "You gotta give the other fellow hell!" during "Live and Let Die."

This tune seemed like an odd and callous choice at a time when America is at war, but it was custom-made for the fireworks that shot skyward during the bombastic choruses, and it's doubtful that anyone but a rock critic bothered to the think about the lyrics for even a second.

Actually, it's doubtful that anyone but a rock critic stayed put in front of the TV at half-time, though plenty of folks probably joined in the "Na-na-na" refrain of "Hey Jude" from the kitchen as they loaded up on chips and dip. At least they didn't have to worry about missing much.