Nobody really talked about the Super Bowl halftime shows back when Carol Channing or the University of Michigan Marching Band performed. As the years passed, though, the Big Game became an even Bigger Event. And with the cost to air a commercial zooming, the NFL knew it had to keep audiences tuned in during the break. As a result, bigger acts were signed, more elaborate sets were performed, and, in some cases, ratings for halftime shows actually beat the game itself. As we prepare to watch the Black Eyed Peas (and also the Packers and Steelers) this weekend in Super Bowl XLV, here are some of the best and most memorable Super Bowl halftime performances.
10. Diana Ross Gets an Airlift
Super Bowl XXX, 1996
In Ross' 1996 show in Mesa, Ariz., there were lots of balloons, dancers, Supremes songs and wardrobe changes. But what left the biggest impression was the helicopter that came during 'Take Me Higher' and whisked the diva off mid-song as she hung out of the aircraft. Ross, who was securely belted in, had previously practiced the stunt -- approved by the Federal Aviation Administration -- three times with a team of pilots.
9. Aerosmith Take a Walk With Friends
Super Bowl XXXV, 2001
Rock purists probably dropped their nachos when they saw Aerosmith perform their classic 'Walk This Way' with Britney Spears, 'NSync, Mary J. Blige and Nelly. But they probably didn't get the whole Aerosmith/Run-D.M.C. thing, either. The 2001 show in Tampa, Fla., produced by MTV, was an effort to join genres. A more memorable Timberlake halftime show would come in the future.
8. Prince's Big, Uh, Guitar Finish
Super Bowl XLI, 2007
In a rain-soaked performance that spotlighted Prince's blistering guitar skills, the man formerly known as the Man Formerly Known as Prince rocked up a series of his hits plus some terrific covers. But during his signature 'Purple Rain' -- a fitting choice, given the rainy Miami weather -- Prince appeared as a giant silhouette with a guitar that looked like a big, well ... this is Prince we're talking about. Anyone doubting whether the phallic appearance was intentional might consider that Prince used to perform with a guitar that squirted water from its end during 'Let's Go Crazy.'
7. The Stones Get Censored ... Again
Super Bowl XL, 2006
On the same day the first Super Bowl was played -- Jan. 15, 1967 -- the Rolling Stones appeared on 'The Ed Sullivan Show,' where they were forced to change the lyrics of their song 'Let's Spend the Night Together' to 'Let's Spend Some Time Together.' In Detroit, nearly 40 years later, their lyrics were again altered when ABC cut two lines from their set, including the end of 'Start Me Up.'
6. The Who Light It Up
Super Bowl XLIV, 2010
Yeah, half the band is gone. And, sure, neither Roger Daltrey nor Pete Townshend can reach notes they sang in their youth. But even half a Who can rock harder than most full bands, as they proved in 2010 on 'Won't Get Fooled Again.' Daltrey reminded us why his hair-raising "Yaaaaaah!" is one of the greatest screams in rock. And Townshend's windmill reminded us why he is one of the coolest guitarists ever. Oh, and also -- those lasers were, like, far out, man!
5. Springsteen Slip Slidin' Away
Super Bowl XLIII, 2009
Turns out Bruce Springsteen's energetic performance of 'Tenth Avenue Freezeout' in 2009 was perhaps a bit too energetic. During a stage slide, the Boss kept on sliding -- until his crotch collided with a TV camera. As Springsteen explained on his website later, "Too much adrenaline, a late drop, too much speed."
4. Janet and JT's Wardrobe Malfunction
Super Bowl XXXVIII, 2004
If you blinked, you missed it. And in 2004, you couldn't just go to YouTube the next morning and watch it again and again. (But we can now!) At the end of 'Rock Your Body,' Justin Timberlake famously ripped off a piece of Janet Jackson's top, revealing a bit more body than the FCC would prefer. As result, future telecasts would be delayed five seconds. And future halftime acts -- no matter how much hell they once raised -- would be considered a "safe choice" so long as they didn't threaten to expose themselves.
3. Paul McCartney Plays It Safe
Super Bowl XXXIX, 2005
A year after the "wardrobe malfunction," McCartney -- whose Beatles led the '60s music generation that questioned authority like none before it -- would suddenly be considered a harmless act to perform at halftime, as if he had suddenly joined the ranks of Perry Como and Mel Tormé. But his rousing version of 'Live and Let Die' reminded viewers that it's ultimately about the music. And if that's not enough, well -- there's always scorching pyrotechnics.
2. Michael Jackson Sets the Standard
Super Bowl XXVII, 1993
Michael Jackson was never one for low-key ventures. So when the NFL decided it needed to beef up halftime shows in order to keep viewers tuned in, it tapped the Gloved One to put on a super halftime show. During his performance of 'Heal the World,' the entire crowd participated in the visual, and Jackson was surrounded by 3,500 local children. (Yeah, yeah -- save your wisecracks.) After this performance in 1993, the networks would never cut away from the halftime show again.
1. U2 Heal the Nation
Super Bowl XXXVI, 2002
Just months after the 9/11 tragedies, U2 offered a stunning tribute to its victims in a show that brought tears to many viewers. As the Edge launched into the hypnotic guitar intro on 'Where the Streets Have No Name,' a 200-foot screen appeared behind the band and began scrolling the names of all those who perished. Near the end, the screen collapsed, and Bono revealed the Stars and Stripes lining of his jacket to a Tampa, Fla., crowd still in shock from that awful day.