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Stuck in Time: The Ancient English Band The WHO Is Playing at Half Time at the Super Bowl

Could CBS have picked a more dated (and less diverse) musical act?

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I’m not suggesting all African Americans would agree, but how about a lineup featuring Beyoncé, coming off a great night at the Grammys, and Jay-Z for starters? The people who put on the show might actually still be playing it conservative because of the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake moment. (Remember how Jackson was scapegoated, while Timberlake was not?)

Is CBS Courting Bad Vibes with The Who?

There are some odd vibes behind CBS's choice of The Who for the Super Bowl. The network already has a strong commercial link to The Who. While older fans will be treated to some classic music from their youth, younger football fans may think they have stumbled into the opening of a "CSI" episode -- three of CBS’s "CSI" series use The Who tracks ("Who Are You,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again" and “Baba O’ Riley") as their theme songs. And sure enough, we'll be hearing them
on Sunday.

Townshend told Billboard: "We're kinda doing a mashup of stuff...A bit of 'Baba O'Riley,' a bit of 'Pinball Wizard,' a bit of the close of 'Tommy,' a bit of 'Who Are You,' and a bit of 'Won't Get Fooled Again.' It works -- it's quite a saga. A lot of the stuff that we do has that kind of celebratory vibe about it -- we've always tried to make music that allows the audience to go a bit wild if they want to. Hopefully it will hit the spot."

It remains to be seen if the beer-drinking boomer set still has it in them to "get a bit wild."

Perhaps more disturbing is the confusion floating around the question of why Townshend was in the UK's sex offender registry. A child-abuse prevention organization says Pete Townshend should not be allowed to perform with The Who at the Super Bowl halftime show because of his 2003 child-pornography arrest, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. In 2003, Townsend, 64, was arrested after visiting child porn Web sites. He denied being a pedophile, claiming he was visiting the sites to research his autobiography. Subsequent evidence showed he had not downloaded any images and had contacted child protection agencies beforehand. It's all a little fuzzy.

And adding a little more of the macabre, this year is the 30th anniversary of The Who concert in Cincinnati, where eight people died, crushed while trying to get into a concert.

In the end, showcasing The Who sends a collective message that the old white guys still rule, if not in the presidency, at least in the Super Bowl. And their approach is to play it extremely safe to the point of irrelevance. Maybe that’s why U2, the most popular band in the world, will not be up there. They might say something about human rights. There is no chance anything like that will come out of Pete Townshend’s mouth. If you want to go nostalgic, why not have Stevie Wonder, who has a great fan in Barack Obama?

So, like Ravenworld, I may very well take a walk at halftime, or put on some music that suggests we have grown up and don't need to hang out in the past.

Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.

 
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