Pop icons crave Super Bowl exposure

Tonight, the British Invasion rock act The Who will add its name to an impressive roster of acts that have presented a 12-minute extravaganza during the Super Bowl halftime.


Over the past few years, the short set has become a gold-standard gig, a place only the most popular and powerful are allowed to play.

That wasn't always the case.

In the course of 44 Super Bowls, counting tonight's, the midfield entertainment evolved from marching bands to big rock shows.

Look inside for a look at at some hits, misses and outright oddities that make up the Super Bowl halftime saga.


WHERE: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum; Los Angeles

WHAT: University of Arizona and Grambling State University marching bands, New Orleans trumpeter Al Hirt and the Anaheim High School Drill Team

THE VERDICT: Two marching bands. Very impressive. Despite the high-profile nature of the Super Bowl show, an arena tour never materialized for the drill team. Al Hirt, on the other hand, was asked back to the Bowl two more times, performing again in 1972 and '78.


LOCATION: Tulane University Stadium, New Orleans

ACTS: Ella Fitzgerald, Carol Channing, Al Hirt and the Marine Corps Drill Team

THE VERDICT: Billed as a tribute to Louis Armstrong, this show was one of the first with any significant star power. Fitzgerald was a music legend and Channing, who had appeared in the Super Bowl IV show, was still a respected stage actress who, with Love Boat guest appearances, hadn't yet lost her glamour.


LOCATION: The Orange Bowl; Miami

ACTS: Up with People

THE VERDICT: This Bicentennial tribute, titled 200 Years and Just a Baby, ushered in the Up with People era. The squeaky-clean performance troupe would perform four times in the next 10 years, and it still holds the record for most appearances in a Super Bowl halftime show. Take that, Al Hirt.


LOCATION: The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

ACTS: George Burns, Mickey Rooney and Disney characters

THE VERDICT: Disney had been producing the halftime show, on and off, for several years and would continue through the 1990s. None of them, before or after, quite lived up to the full-tilt nature of this celebration. Ostensibly a tribute to Hollywood on its 100th anniversary, the show was really about Disney flash.


LOCATION: Joe Robbie Stadium, Miami

ACTS: Elvis Presto and millions of pairs of 3-D glasses

THE VERDICT: The year of the great gimmick. Elvis Presto was, predictably, a magician and Elvis Presley tribute artist. His halftime shtick was a presentation of the world's largest card trick -- they were very big cards -- with some Elvis numbers thrown in for good measure.

Super Bowl XXV (1991)

LOCATION: Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

ACTS: New Kids on the Block, Disney characters

THE VERDICT: Having a tough time remembering this one? There's a reason. Instead of airing a performance by the reigning kings of preteen pop, ABC went with coverage of Operation Desert Storm. An edited version was shown later.


LOCATION: The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

ACT: Michael Jackson

THE VERDICT: Behold the birth of the superstar halftime show. This was the first time a single act was featured in a Super Bowl halftime. Many would follow, but there's still something iconic about the image of the King of Pop standing statue-still in the middle of a crowded football stadium, waiting for the music to start.


LOCATION: The Superdome, New Orleans

ACTS: The Blues Brothers, ZZ Top and James Brown

THE VERDICT: In retrospect, it might have been a little odd giving the fictional blues band top billing. After all, when the history of rock and soul is written, it will be the Godfather and the power trio practitioners of roadhouse blues who will be remembered.


LOCATION: The Superdome, New Orleans


THE VERDICT: This tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, featured a rock band at its most soulful and the names of the more than 3,000 people who had died in the attacks. Although carefully choreographed, the result still was heartfelt, spectacular and sobering.


LOCATION: Reliant Stadium, Houston

ACTS: Jessica Simpson, Nelly, P. Diddy, Kid Rock, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson

THE VERDICT: What began as a fairly mundane halftime event became one of the most famous moments in television history when Justin Timberlake exposed duet partner Janet Jackson's right breast midverse. Nobody remembers the song they were singing, but everyone remembers those two seconds of the broadcast.


LOCATION: Ford Field, Detroit

ACT: The Rolling Stones

THE VERDICT: Still smarting from Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction", the powers that be put the Stones, who really hadn't been racy since about 1977, on a five-second delay and at one point cut the feed to Mick Jagger's mike. Somewhere, Ed Sullivan was smiling.


LOCATION: Dolphin Stadium, Miami

ACT: Prince

THE VERDICT: Neither rain nor sleet nor snow would keep Prince from his appointed rounds. Well, rain, anyway. The courageous Prince strapped on an electric guitar, stepped into a downpour and performed a medley of hits. Evidently, the possibility of electrocution never occurred to the Purple One, and the rain certainly made for a dramatic backdrop.


LOCATION: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

ACT: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

THE VERDICT: The Boss is accustomed to playing marathon sets of three hours or more, so 12 minutes probably came easy. Clearly, he was trying to squeeze as much entertainment value out of his set as possible. The camera-crash knee slide became the stuff of Springsteen legend before the third-quarter kickoff.