Music and Popular Culture

Five musical acts that should have played the Super Bowl

It’s impossible to predict what will happen once a Super Bowl gets underway.

Some games are cliffhangers that go down to the final seconds on the clock. Others are blowouts, so the only drama involves the commercials on our television sets, not the action on the field.

But there is one thing we can predict. Regardless of the score, the Super Bowl halftime show will feature some of the most popular entertainers in the world.

Over the years, artists such as Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Madonna have provided halftime entertainment at Super Bowls. This year’s game will feature performances by Katy Perry and Lenny Kravitz.<!-more->

I’m a football fan and a music fan. Like many Americans, I look forward to the game, the halftime show and everything else that makes Super Bowl Sunday special. But I can’t help feeling a tinge of disappointment that some of my favorite recording artists never had an opportunity to showcase their talents before an audience of more than 100 million TV viewers (in addition to thousands in the stands at the game itself).

My musical tastes tilt heavily to the late-1960s and the early 1970s, a time when the Super Bowl was in its infancy and the halftime entertainment was limited to marching bands, choral groups and an occasional vocalist. It was not until the 1990s that popular recording artists became a staple of the halftime shows. But what if that custom had begun with the very first Super Bowl in 1967? Here are the acts I would have liked to have seen in the first five years of the big game.

Super Bowl I (1967): Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan? A folk singer at the Super Bowl? I know what you’re thinking, but let me explain.

First of all, it’s wrong to characterize Dylan as a folk singer – or as anything else for that matter. In fact, that was a message he was delivering at this very time when he stunned the folk music world and added a full-blown electric band to his performances. Granted, it would have been 18 months since he first went electric – to a chorus of boos – at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, but in the ensuing time he continued to snub his nose at angry folk purists and embarked on a world tour backed by the Hawks, a group that later became The Band.

Dylan’s defiance of tradition is one reason why he would have been perfect for Super Bowl I. For years the NFL and the upstart AFL had been bitter rivals. The game marked the first time teams from the two rival leagues played against each other. To put it into today’s context (well maybe not exactly), try to imagine Bill O’Reilly and Al Sharpton joining forces to start their own political party.

Dylan’s iconic stature also would have made him an appropriate choice. The significance of this game was no place for an artist with a less impressive resume.

Of course, Dylan was not making concert appearances at the time. After a 1966 motorcycle accident near Woodstock, N.Y., he became somewhat of a recluse, fueling speculation and rumors about his physical and mental condition. His surprise appearance at George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 was a major news event. A performance at Super Bowl I, coming just a few months after the accident, would have had a similar, if not greater, impact.

Most importantly, however, Dylan would have rocked the Los Angeles Coliseum, where the game was played. Controversy aside, the musicians Dylan chose to back him up – the Hawks and folks such as Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield – played exciting rock’n’roll. Just listen to the musicianship in some of those performances that elicited the boos.

Had Dylan and an all-star band performed at Super Bowl I, the talk around the water cooler the next day might very well have been the eclectic halftime show, not the Green Bay Packers’ easy and expected 35-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Super Bowl II (1968): The Doors


The late 1960s were the Psychedelic Era, a time of love, drugs and rock’n’roll. Bands such as Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead rose to popularity, but truth be told, their music was well suited for crowds of tripping hippies, not for raucous football fanatics.

The Doors, though, were a different story. By January 1968, the band already a few hit singles and two popular albums. Their songs, such as “Break on Through” and “Love Me Two Times,” had the ability to rile up a crowd. They had not yet recorded “Roadhouse Blues,” but try to imagine that type of energy in a performance at the Orange Bowl, the site of Super Bowl II.

In Jim Morrison, the band had a photogenic and controversial leader. By 1968, he already had ticked off Ed Sullivan by refusing to remove the word “higher” from the group’s performance on the Sullivan show. And just a month before Super Bowl II, he was arrested during a performance in New Haven and charged with inciting a riot, indecency and public obscenity.

Given Morrison’s unpredictability, coupled with the popularity of the band, booking the Doors for Super Bowl II’s halftime show would have created considerable interest, spirited debate and a strong sense of anticipation. It’s unlikely Jim Morrison and the band would have disappointed.

Super Bowl III (1969): Cream


The prospect of a British band headlining the halftime show at America’s championship football game may have rubbed some people the wrong way in 1969, but Cream was no ordinary British band. It was comprised of the leaders of three popular bands whose talents gave the band its name since they were considered “the cream of the crop.” Who better to play a Super Bowl than a super group?

By 1969, Cream had three popular albums and loyal fans on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite their roots in Great Britain, the band was heavily influenced by American blues and included songs by Robert Johnson and Willie Dixon along with original compositions such as “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room.”

Wheels of Fire, released in the summer of 1968, became the first platinum-selling double album and still was extremely popular in January 1969 when Broadway Joe Namath boldly (and accurately) boasted that his New York Jets would defeat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

Although Cream already had broken up and played its farewell concert in November of 1968, an invitation to make a Super Bowl performance its swan song might have convinced Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton to remain together for a few more weeks. And if we were lucky, that performance would have been more reminiscent of the band in its heyday than Cream’s actual farewell tour and album, which left audiences and music critics disappointed.

Super Bowl IV (1970): Jim Hendrix


Jimi Hendrix was many things – a guitarist, singer and songwriter, but most significantly he was an innovator. He did things with a guitar that never had been done before – and his influence on musicians still is apparent nearly 45 years after his death.

By January 1970, the Jimi Hendrix Experience had established itself with three platinum albums. The group disbanded in 1969, and Hendrix was exploring new musical avenues with projects such as the Band of Gypsys album and the Cry of Love tour.

In addition to his riveting live performances and creative guitar work, Hendrix was a man who knew how to seize the moment. Never was this more evident than when he closed the historic Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969. As the culmination of an epic counterculture event, he played the most unlikely song, “The Star Spangled Banner,” in a manner that never had been done before – and it was the perfect set choice.

Give him the stage at Super Bowl IV and who knows what might have happened? Perhaps one more legendary performance before his life came to close later in 1970.

Super Bowl V (1971): The Who

Actually, the Who did take the stage at a Super Bowl – Super Bowl XLIV in 2010 – and Rolling Stone included that performance on its list of the 10 best Super Bowl halftime shows. But only two members of the band’s classic lineup were still alive to perform – and those two, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, were in their mid-60s.

In 1971, the full lineup was in force, and the Who was enjoying perhaps its greatest years of popularity. During this period, the band recorded and released the groundbreaking rock opera Tommy and provided one of the more memorable sets at Woodstock. They followed that with Live at Leeds, a record considered one of the best live albums in rock history.

All of this could have played out at Super Bowl V, and perhaps we would have caught a preview of Who’s Next, which was released later in 1971.

* * *

Dylan, the Doors, Cream, Hendrix and the Who. That’s quite a lineup, even when spread out over five performances.

Katy Perry and Lenny Kravitz are unlikely to disappoint this year, but let’s hope Super Bowl XLIX gives us something more memorable – like a game that keeps America entertained from start to finish.

CATEGORY: ArtsWeek

Our favorite lyrics: S&R describes why we love certain lyrics, if not necessarily the song

CATEGORY: MusicPopularCultureOver the years I’ve come to a realization – some of my favorite songs have really stupid lyrics, and some of my favorite lyrics are in songs I’m not a big fan of or, in at least one case, I can’t stand. As a result, I put the following question to my fellow Scrogues: what are some of your favorite lyrics?

I’ve collected their responses below. Enjoy, and feel free to add your own in the comments.

Brian Angliss
While I enjoy Led Zepplin, they were never my favorite band. But anyone who puts a reference to The Lord of the Rings in a song is allright by me. From Ramble On,

T’was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum, and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her, her, her….yeah. (source)

In the last few years, I’ve come to greatly enjoy goth-influenced, techno, and industrial music. And one of the acts I’ve come to enjoy greatly is Assemblage 23. There’s one song on the album “Storm” that is very hard for me to listen to, as amazing as the lyrics are. Here’s the opening verse from 30kft:

Hello, if you’re there pick up the phone
I’m calling from thirty thousand feet above you
The captain’s just informed us that our plane is going down
So I’m calling for one last time to say I love you (source)

I’ll leave off with some of lyrics from what may well be my favorite song that I almost never listen to. Some songs just hit too close to home, in ways both good and bad:

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home dad?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then (source)

Lex

In the season of boll weivel speakin evil in you ear
And pile of manure fertilizing all your fears
Yabadaba do all the way to Shangra La
Here it is with the rock and roll outlaw

Cause it’s just silly word play, otherwise I could just nominate all of the Clutch catalog for my favorite lyrics.

Lisa Wright

you’re just an empty cage girl if you kill the bird

it’s sooooo lame and cliche, and i cant believe that i am owning up to this, but the lyric has been something that i have held on to ever since i heard it when i was 14 or so.

Otherwise
Mine’s no better. Lyrics to Volunteers of America by Jefferson airplane, and the immortal, “let’s go on a picnic honey, we’ll have so much fun. You can handle the hotdog baby, I can handle the buns.” By wet willie (a regional band who got big for awhile)

saint in the city by springsteen. “rock hard look of cobra, born blue and weathered but burst just like a supernova, I can walk like brando into the sun, and dance just like a casanova…”

Alex Polombo
Call me out for being lame if you want, but “God give me style, God give me grace” sort of stuck with me from Coldplay.

Sam Smith

All the light that shines on you
Is from a dying star
The star’s been dead a billion years
Now it’s shining off your car
To light your way……

-Jeffrey Dean Foster, “Summer of the Son of Sam”

Reach out and touch me now
Aphrodite said
You aren’t the only one
with armies in your head

– Fiction 8, “Hegemony”

You’ve never dared where the angels tread
You think there’s time for heaven when you’re dead
But here’s the thing that the angels stole
A demon helix with a consecrated soul

– Fiction 8, “Winter Rain”

Now, maybe we should disqualify those last two since I wrote them….

I have argued – loudly and vehemently – that lyrics are almost never poetry. They’re simply different forms, and I don’t mean to denigrate lyrics in saying that. Painting isn’t dancing, but that doesn’t mean painting is useless. I say this as a guy who has done both.

Occasionally, though, lyrics DO stand as poetry. Like here, with Marillion’s “Pseudo Silk Kimono,” with the words by Fish:

Huddled in the safety of a pseudo silk kimono
Wearing bracelets of smoke, naked of understanding.
Nicotine smears, long, long dried tears, invisible tears.
Safe in my own words, learning from my own words,
Cruel joke, cruel joke.
Huddled in the safety of a pseudo silk kimono
A morning mare rides, in the starless shutters of my eyes.
The spirit of a misplaced childhood is rising to speak his mind,
To this orphan of heartbreak, disillusioned and scorned,
A refugee, refugee.
(Safe in the sanctuary, safe)

Mike Sheehan
John Lennon, Roger Waters, Randy Newman, Warren Zevon, Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, and Andy Partridge wrote more than a few of my favorite lyrics, as I enjoy clever imagery, ambiguity, innuendo, sarcasm, and (preferably scathing) social satire. Bernie Taupin can get tiresomely overwrought but “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” is still a brilliant, liberating anthem. I love Van Dyke Parks’s words in “Surf’s Up” though I don’t really understand them (nor does Brian Wilson himself, I reckon). But there is one song and one album in particular whose lyrics still deeply impress me every time I hear them.

Grace Slick, “Do It the Hard Way.” She absolutely belts this one, written and recorded in the late 1970’s as she was struggling with alcoholism. You really have to hear her tear through the last two verses, with lines like:

She said, “I’ve got to make ’em all think I’m winning, so I’ll just tell ’em lies.
That way I can make sure that no one ever knows just exactly what I mean.
Then I can beat the drums and yell it to the skies:
‘I’m the queen of the nuthouse… I’m the queen!'”

Donald Fagen, the entirety of ‘The Nightfly.’ In Steely Dan, Fagen’s lyrics typically featured saucy double-entendres, clever drug references, amusing cynicism, etc. On his first solo LP, Fagen fully bared his sentimental teenaged soul, which longed for the idyllic late 1950s with the invigorating threat of the Cold War and the promise of the Space Age. The gorgeously recorded album is laden with wry reflections on the awkward audacity of youth, to wit:

Do you have a steady boyfriend?
‘Cause honey I’ve been watching you
I hear you’re mad about Brubeck
I like your eyes I like him too
He’s an artist, a pioneer
We’ve got to have some music on the new frontier.
(from “New Frontier“)

You’d never believe it
But once there was a time
When love was in my life
I sometimes wonder
What happened to that flame
The answer’s still the same
It was you… you… it was you
Tonight you’re still on my mind.
(from “The Nightfly“)

Mexico City is like another world
Nice this year they say
You’ll be my señorita
In jeans and pearls
But first let’s get off this highway.
(from “Maxine“)

On that train, all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
90 minutes from New York to Paris
(More leisure for artists everywhere)
A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
We’ll be clean when their work is done
We’ll be eternally free, yes, and eternally young.
(from “I.G.Y.“)

Cat White
From left field:

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

“This Land Was Made for You and Me,” Woody Guthrie

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older
Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long
And wouldn’t it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Tony Asher

I see skies of blue….. clouds of white
Bright blessed days….dark sacred nights
And I think to myself …..what a wonderful world.

“Wonderful World,” Louis Armstrong

Open a new window,
Open a new door,
Travel a new highway,
That’s never been tried before;
Before you find you’re a dull fellow,
Punching the same clock,
Walking the same tight rope
As everyone on the block.

“Open a New Window,” *Mame*, Jerry Herman
*Mame *was my first musical–I was 14. As I have gotten older I marvel at what a formative experience that 5 months was on my attitudes, outlook, and path in life.

Jim Booth
Hey! I want in on this “let’s promote our own lyrics” thing….

But seriously:

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Bob Dylan, “Mr. Tambourine Man”

And this:

My hypothesis is that I exist, let’s test this.
Raise your fist if you experience consciousness.
Now let me hear you say cogitamus ergo sumus
Or if you’re not down with that say hell yes.
So thinking is being and knowing is seeing
Or hearing or smelling or tasting or feeling
Or otherwise dealing with external stimuli
Wonder why I’m alive. Hey you up in the sky,
I’m guessing if I can hear myself when I speak
So can that person looking back at me and listening
Which means I need a system of epistemology
To know what to call my LP, you follow me?

“Experimental Railroad” Doco

Frank Balsinger
I’m in with 2…first, something positive. This is of those cases where I think the video actually does add something by way of clarity. As to why it’s one of my faves, it strikes a certain mystical chord with me

Peter Gabriel, Sledgehammer

You could have a steam train
If you’d just lay down your tracks
You could have an aeroplane flying
If you bring your blue sky back

All you do is call me
I’ll be anything you need

You could have a big dipper
Going up and down, all around the bends
You could have a bumper car, bumping
This amusement never ends

I want to be your sledgehammer
Why don’t you call my name
Oh let me be your sledgehammer
This will be my testimony
Show me round your fruitcage
‘cos I will be your honey bee
Open up your fruitcage
Where the fruit is as sweet as can be

I want to be your sledgehammer
Why don’t you call my name
You’d better call the sledgehammer
Put your mind at rest
I’m going to be-the sledgehammer
This can be my testimony
I’m your sledgehammer
Let there be no doubt about it

Sledge sledge sledgehammer

I’ve kicked the habit
Shed my skin
This is the new stuff
I go dancing in, we go dancing in
Oh won’t you show for me
And I will show for you
Show for me, I will show for you
Yea, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I do mean you
Only you
You’ve been coming through
Going to build that powerr
Build, build up that power, hey
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
Going to feel that power, build in you
Come on, come on, help me do
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, you
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
I’ve been feeding the rhythm
It’s what we’re doing, doing
All day and night

Then something negative, this one from Legendary Pink Dots. I think Ed Ka-Spell does a lovely job of summing up most of my angst.
Damien

Seven seas he sailed on
With cannons blazing in the night
He had shiny medals
For his eyes in Kryptonite (with lasers)

With every nail he hammered
Came the rush of flying hands
They pasted fliers
They planted flags
We watched him hover higher (higher)

Crucifix and lyrics
Holy holy sense surround
Lord, he never touched the ground

From state to state he wandered
He could have been the boy next door
You could feel that patriotic roar
Come pouring through the cracks of our existence

He took the fear away with whitewash
And scorched earth
Majorettes and cool disciples
Cigarettes and red hot bibles
And the buses ran on time

Slaves of Kali Hari-karied
On bayonets in poison ivy
We held this torch up high
Can you see? Can you see?

All the girls he never had
And all the boys who stood and laughed
And all the dopes and
All the dealers, sheilas, peelers, squealers, feelers

Come watch me fall
Watch me drown
I’m kneeling in your mirror.
See me cower in the corner of your room.

Watch me desecrate the contents of your tomb

Nota Bene #114: Big Star

“The radio makes hideous sounds.” Who said it? Continue reading

The Best CDs of 2009: the Album of the Year, and the Band of the Decade

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Tournament of Rock – Legends: The Rolling Stones vs David Bowie

Results: We’re stunned. In perhaps the biggest upset so far, The Police led virtually wire to wire (although the margin was never more than a few votes) and dismissed the man who invented folk rock. The numbers: #4 The Police 55%; #1 Bob Dylan 45%. The Police advance to the Great Eight. Dizzamn.

Up next, our search for the greatest band of all time stays in the Budokan region for a throwdown between two of the most influential acts in history. Ought to be fun.

#2 The Rolling Stones: Listen #3 David Bowie: Listen

Continue reading

Tournament of Rock – Legends: Bob Dylan vs The Police

Update 2: The poll is closed. For some reason PollDaddy is having technical issues and as a result you can still vote. However, we have a final tally as of 11 am MST and no further votes are being accepted. Sorry about this.

UPDATE: As much as we love The Police, we never expected this match to be so close. But here it is – 8am, neck-and-neck. We’ll leave the polls open until around 11, so if you haven’t yet voted, please step into the booth…

______________________

Results: Can it ever be an upset when the favorite wins? Honestly, even though they’re seeded higher, it has to be a bit of a surprise that The Clash managed to beat “the voice of Generation X.” Or maybe it isn’t… The numbers: #2 The Clash 55%; #3 Nirvana 45%. I don’t klnow about the Casbah, but The Clash will be rocking the Great 8. Continue reading

Tournament of Rock – Legends: the Clash pod

Results: Wow. Total lack of drama in this one. Dylan runs off and hides. The numbers: #1 Bob Dylan 86%; The Smiths/Morrissey 7%; The Doobie Brothers 7%. Dylan advances to the Sweet 16.

Let’s mosey our quest for the greatest band of all time over to the Red Rocks region and see if we can find some competition there. Ah – here’s a good one. “Punk icons face a two-front battle vs. Classic Rock mainstays.” This ought to be fun.

Continue reading

Tournament of Rock- Legends: the Bob Dylan pod

dylanResults: In a pod that pretty much encapsulates everything we’ve come to expect of ToR voters, the ’60s Classic Rock hero wins (narrowly), the popular ’80s band takes second and the critically acclaimed contemporary artist finishes dead last. Anybody see a trend? The numbers: #5 Neil Young 39%; Devo 37%; #4 Radiohead 24%.

Our quest for the greatest band of all time now slides over to the Budokan region. In this pod we meet our first #1 seed, a folk-rock legend who once released a Live at Budokan album. Continue reading

TunesDay: that new old sound

If you pay attention to my music entries, you may have noticed a recurrent theme. It seems a lot of the bands I hear these days, many of which I really like, remind me of bands from the past. Like The Mary Onettes:

I recently tripped across one such example, Sweden’s The Mary Onettes. They can’t seem to make up their minds whether they want to be The Church, Echo & the Bunnymen, or maybe something along the Joy Division/New Order continuum.

And The Flaws:

In a nutshell, The Flaws are [Joy Division] meets The Killers with a smattering of Johnny Marr. Continue reading

The Scholars & Rogues Manifesto: what are we doing here?

It has been alleged that Scholars & Rogues is not, strictly speaking, a political blog. Sure, we write about overtly political issues and devote our share of time to things like media policy, energy and the environment, business and the economy, and international dynamics. Yes, we were credentialed to cover the DNC, but we don’t really do hard, insider, by god politics. Daily Kos is a political blog. Firedoglake is a political blog. Little Green Footballs, The Agonist, Politico, The Seminal – these are real poliblogs.

S&R, on the other hand, writes about music. About literature and poetry. About art. Education. Sports. Culture and popular culture. The Ramsey case and what it tells us about the state of media. And now that the election is over, S&R is writing about politics less than ever.

So really, what is S&R? Continue reading

Music lyrics, even great ones, are not poetry: Hegemony, part 1

How often have you heard someone call a rock musician or a rapper a poet? As a poet and a lyricist, let me assure you that they’re not the same thing.

Reach out and touch me now
Aphrodite said
You aren’t the only one
with armies in your head

We’re fond of calling our great rock stars poets. Dylan is a poet. Springsteen is a poet. John Lennon was a poet. Jim Morrison (*gag*) was a poet. And so on. Certainly the first three (have) produced some marvelous words, but as a poet – forgive me if I call myself a “real” poet here – I’ve never quite been willing to accord their work the status of poetry. This isn’t necessarily a slam – their work isn’t architecture, either. Continue reading

TunesDay: America singing 2: goodnight, Irene, goin' down to the crossroads…

Most music historians explain the origins of rock music as the gradual blending of Southern blues (both Mississippi Delta based acoustic style and Chicago electrified) with country/western music as codified by Nashville. This over facile explanation has always seemed insufficient – hence the plethora of “(name your)-rock” divisions within rock music – like “rockabilly” (pictured at left being performed by its foremost practitioner).

This week we talk about blues. And about two giants to whom rock, that most “rebellious” of music, owes just about everything….

Huddie Ledbetter’s catalog reads like the history of both folk and rock (Hey, that would be be “folk-rock,” wouldn’t it?). But no one thinks of Leadbelly, as he’s more commonly known, as anything but a blues man. Continue reading

The inaugural Scholars and Rogues Interview (and our newest Scrogue): Graham Parker

The mid-1970s were a wonderful time for music lovers. For starters, exciting and innovative new music was popping up all over the place. And when it did, it actually got played on the radio.

The UK was especially fertile ground during this period, as scores of punk and New Wave acts emerged (many from the “pub rock” scene) in the most dynamic explosion of music since the British Invasion. One of the most outstanding of these was Graham Parker, who in 1976 released not one, but two instant five-star classics – Howlin’ Wind and Heat Treatment.

While some of his contemporaries (most notably Elvis Costello) became wildly famous, arguably nobody in rock history has posted a more enduring legacy of critical success. Continue reading