Motown fit with satisfaction

February 03, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

Detroit -- Mick Jagger is, I think, 14 years older than I am, yet he is a symbol of enduring youth and I'm trying to figure out why AARP keeps sending me those Medicare supplement brochures. Doesn't seem fair.

I was a little kid when the Rolling Stones went on The Ed Sullivan Show and were asked to tone down their racy hit "Let's Spend the Night Together" for a 1960s national television audience, but they're still rocking and I'm barely still walking.

Maybe they made a deal with the devil - perhaps a little sympathy in exchange for a slower aging process, though Keith Richards must have been out of the room at the time.

Whatever the reason, they find themselves all these years later in the unlikely role of mainstream, non-threatening Super Bowl halftime headliners, following Paul McCartney in the short queue of big-time Baby Boom rockers who have been recruited to save the NFL from running afoul with the FCC after the Janet Jackson debacle of 2004.

Of course, if they picked anybody older, the only possible wardrobe malfunction would involve Depends.

The world has certainly turned over a few times since our parents feared that The Beatles and the Stones were going to be the end of Western Civilization as we knew it, but Jagger had a little fun with the obvious juxtaposition between the Ed Sullivan era and the current state of television decency in America during yesterday's Sprint Super Bowl halftime show news conference.

"Network television is always worried about how many times you say [an obscenity] on their broadcasts," Jagger said.

"We had a little crisis when they heard Aretha [Franklin] was going to strip during `The Star- Spangled Banner,' but I guess it will all be worked out on the night. Everybody needs to just calm down."

But which is it? Someone asked Jagger if the Rolling Stones have moved closer to the American mainstream or if the American mainstream has moved closer to the Rolling Stones.

"I think both," he said. "America has obviously changed since the first time we came here. It's virtually unrecognizable. The Super Bowl isn't the same as it was, either. We've grown along with America, but hopefully both of us still have our core values intact."

Is it me, or does Mick sound almost fatherly (in a Rolling Stones sort of way, of course)?

Jagger spoke for the group, with Richards piping up with an occasional one-liner. Band mates Ron Wood and Charlie Watts joined them on stage but never said a word. It clearly was the most anticipated media event of Super Bowl week.

Really, the only controversy stirred by the Stones was the decision by the NFL to book them instead of using halftime to showcase the many music legends of Motown. Jagger didn't tiptoe around that issue, either.

"The thing about the NFL," he said, "they make mistakes just like everybody, but they were quick to rectify it. Motown will be well represented with Aretha doing the anthem."

Franklin will perform the national anthem accompanied by New Orleans musician Aaron Neville. Stevie Wonder will play a 12-minute set in a pre-game show that also will feature The Four Tops. Smokey Robinson will perform in concert in downtown Detroit tomorrow night.

The absence of any Motown legends during the halftime show drew understandable criticism from Franklin this week.

"It was my feeling: `How dare you come to Detroit, a city of musical legends, and not ask one or two of them to participate,' " Franklin told reporters. "That's not the way it should be. Of course, they made that correction with no sweat."

Wonder, who was born in Saginaw, Mich., quickly dismissed any residual bad feelings during yesterday's Super Bowl pre-game show media conference.

"If we didn't want the Stones, we wouldn't be here," Wonder said before anyone even asked a question about the controversy. "We want the Stones."

The NFL obviously wanted the Stones, too, and didn't apologize for choosing a supergroup with worldwide appeal, though it's clear that the league didn't anticipate the local backlash. No doubt, the NFL felt like it had already done Detroit a big favor just by showing up.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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