The Rolling Stones agreed to be censored during their performance at Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show, a National Football League spokesman said Monday.
The Super Bowl, America’s top-rated TV event, has been the subject of controversy since Janet Jackson ignited a furor over broadcast decency standards when she bared her breast during the 2004 halftime show in what was famously described as a “wardrobe malfunction.”
The Rolling Stones delivered their usual slick rock ’n’ roll performance with Mick Jagger stalking the stage, grinding his hips and pouting like a man half his age.
But during “Start Me Up,” the line “you make a dead man come” was cut short, and a barnyard reference to “cocks” in the new song “Rough Justice” also disappeared.
“The Rolling Stones were aware of our plan, which was to simply lower the volume on his microphone at those two appropriate moments,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Reuters. “We had agreed to that plan earlier in the week. The Stones were aware of it and they were fine with it.”
ABC, which aired the Super Bowl, said it had a 5-second delay in place but it was not used to censor anything during the broadcast. “If there were any alterations of lyrics it was done by the NFL,” said Mark Mandel of ABC Sports.
The New York Times said last week the Stones had agreed to tone down their language on other occasions in the past.
Back in 1967 the band appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on the same day as the first Super Bowl, which was then called the world championship game. They wanted to sing “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” but Sullivan insisted they change the lyrics to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together.”
“Jagger consented, reluctantly, but rolled his eyes while he sang,” the newspaper said.
McCarthy said the halftime show retained 98 percent of the overall audience who tuned in to watch the game, in which the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks 21-10.
With the Super Bowl played in Detroit this year, the choice of the Stones for the halftime show upset some locals who were pushing for Motown music acts and other home-grown talent.
But the uproar was quelled after organizers announced that Motown legend Stevie Wonder would headline the pregame show, and “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin was tapped to perform the National Anthem.
McCarthy said the only moment producers were caught unawares was when Stevie Wonder said a few extra words than what was expected. He made a plea for peace at the end of his set, saying: “Let us come together before we’re annihilated.”
“Surprised, yes. Concerned? No,” McCarthy said, commenting on the remark.