Sat, Feb 04, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Stones prepare to rock Super Bowl XL

AMERICAN BAND STAND When the first Super Bowl was played in January of 1967, it was known as the world championship game and the halftime music was performed by renowned university marching bands

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , DETROIT, MICHIGAN

Members of the Rolling Stones talk with photographers during a news conference in Detroit, Michigan, on Thursday. The Rolling Stones will be the halftime entertainment at Super Bowl XL. From left: drummer Charlie Watts, guitarist Ron Wood, singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards. Marching bands from the universities of Michigan and Arizona performed at the first Super Bowl in 1967, just as the Stones were taking off.

PHOTO: AP

When the Super Bowl began in 1967, pro football stood for marching bands, crew cuts and cold beer. When the Rolling Stones began earlier in the same decade, they represented a different kind of music, a different sort of hairstyle and different types of refreshments.

It would have been difficult to imagine then -- or even 20 years ago -- that the Stones would be the halftime entertainment at any Super Bowl, but they will perform three songs in 12 minutes on Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL at Ford Field.

So what does the intersection of these two entertainment juggernauts say about American popular culture? Have the Stones moved closer to the values of the mainstream or has the mainstream moved closer to the values of the Stones?

"I think both, really, to be perfectly honest," Mick Jagger, their lead singer, said on Thursday at a news conference in the Renaissance Center. "America's obviously changed since we first came here. It's almost unrecognizable and it's very hard to imagine what the United States was like 40 years ago. We've definitely grown with the American culture changes."

Jagger spoke seriously, for the most part, but flashed a wry smile toward the end of his comparison between the British-born rock band and the US.

"Hopefully, though, both of us still have our core values intact," he said, drawing laughter from the large audience.

Although Jagger was with band members Keith Richards, Ron Wood and Charlie Watts, most of the questions were for Jagger, with Richards occasionally offering humorous quips. For audiences of a certain age, it was a little like watching one of those old Rat Pack shows, this time with Jagger in the role of Frank Sinatra and Richards as Dean Martin.

Reflecting on Janet Jackson's bare breast at the Super Bowl two years ago, someone asked whether the Stones would try something "provocative and edgy." Richards replied: "Got any ideas?" One might be the song Sweet Neo Con, a politically charged cut from their current album A Bigger Bang that is harshly critical of US President George W. Bush.

But even if they were to consider Sweet Neo Con, the NFL would not permit it, according to Charles Coplin, the NFL's senior director for broadcasting.

"No, it would not be acceptable," Coplin said. "Yes, we have veto power over certain songs in the set list. But we also understand that these guys are artists, and we try and allow them to be so."

That understanding was tested last September when the Stones performed, on tape, two songs for the NFL kickoff show before the first game on ABC. In the first verse of Rough Justice, when Jagger sang lyrics that amounted to a pornographic pun, the words were censored with silence.

Fred Gaudelli, who is producing the Super Bowl for ABC, said the entire telecast -- not just the halftime show -- would be delayed five seconds, a policy enacted after the incident with Jackson.

He said four members of the network's standards department would monitor the telecast in New York and that any of them could obliterate words or images with the push of a button. "It's not an easy job," Gaudelli said.

Jagger said the network should not be concerned about what the Stones will sing, although no one is publicly divulging the song titles beforehand. "They needn't worry about it," Jagger said. "Calm down more and take life as it comes." He underscored his remark with a blunt obscenity, to humorous effect.

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