Jim Croce once crooned a melody that began “If I could save time in a bottle.” Ironically, through his participation in a fatal plane crash, he did, at least in terms of his own career. Unlike Bob Dylan, Jim Croce remains forever young. Of course, in the case of Bob Dylan, a seemingly senile – as in unintelligible – folk singer from the beginning, age simply doesn’t matter.
The same, unfortunately, does not apply to the band performing under the name “The Who.” CBS did the surviving members a disservice by airing commercials with clips from their heyday. I certainly didn’t expect to see a reprise of their guitar-smashing gyrations of an earlier generation. Still, the oh so apparent erosion of time stunned me. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend appeared less a classic rock act and more a Simpsons parody of a has-been group doing one more reunion tour. They couldn’t cover up the wooden movements of their atrophied muscles, but I held out hope they’d at least lip sync to their younger voices.
The half-time show immediately took on the eerie aura of a NASCAR race. You know what I mean. It’s the unspoken expectation of the possibility of a horrific wreck. Only in the case of The Who, it was the morbid wonder which one of the sexagenarians would keel over first. After all, they wouldn’t have been the first act to have died on stage. (Comedian Dick Shawn famously suffered a fatal heart attack during a performance. The audience thought it was part of the act.) While nothing happened to The Who, I’m sure the NFL had the defibrillators at the ready.
When the Beatles broke up after Life Magazine had named them Band of the Year, I thought it was a brilliant marketing move. I just knew they’d get back together again once the cries of their fans got loud enough. Alas, it was not to be, and the band remains forever frozen in our memories, their young rebellious faces untarnished by age. Paul McCartney might be getting on in years, but he’s just Paul McCartney, he’s not the Beatles.
In the end, the Beatles break-up was a brilliant marketing move. By quitting at their peak, (many consider their final album Abbey Road* to be their greatest) the Fab Four has been bottled up for all time to admire. Regarding the remnants of The Who, well, all I can say is that maybe Keith Moon got the timing just right. As far as the next classic rock Superbowl halftime act, you can be sure I won’t be fooled again.
* Although Let It Be was released after Abbey Road, the Beatles recorded most of Let It Be prior to recording Abbey Road and many therefore consider Abbey Road to be the Beatles true final album.