Monday, April 30, 2007

The Vault: Super Bowl VII (1973)

In The Vault, we at the HSR take a look at an old MMB performance or an old Michigan game of some sort. Our first installment is conveniently archived on YouTube, and it's the band's halftime performance at the '73 Super Bowl.

In 1973, a scaled-down block of the Michigan Marching Band became the first Big Ten band to play in a Super Bowl halftime show. They traveled west to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the glory that was Super Bowl VII, where the Miami Dolphins capped their undefeated season by taking down the Washington Redskins, 14-7. The '72-'73 band was the second to be conducted by George Cavendar and his first after assuming the title Director of Bands for the whole university, so we're talking about the immediate post-Revelli period.

The first clip looks like a standard college halftime, just with celebrity guest Woody Herman in all his '70's California glory, trying to see if America is ready for an ensemble composed of nothing but lapels and those sunglasses your grandpa down in Florida still wears. He plays all of five notes on his clarinet before breaking out the soprano sax for the next tune, but everyone (i.e. anybody who know who Woody Herman is) is just waiting for him to go back to clarinet for "Woodchopper's Ball".

And things have taken a turn. There are golf carts disguised as motorized helmets roaming the field, there are golf carts roaming the field. And each one comes equipped with its own girl in knee-high boots and geographically-appropriate sash, like they're all pageant queens. I have this nasty feeling that not all of them are fans of the teams they're representing. I'm just sayin', Miss Green Bay and Miss Oakland might be ringers.

The band sounds great, but the drill formations of the day look a lot like an 8-year-old's stick figure drawings. And, hey! Flip folders. The Latin tune is kind of random, but the MMB always sounds at its best on these.

The hell? Suddenly we have a very random, very WHITE choir on a very fast take of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land", which really isn't nearly as gung-ho patriotic as the NFL would like us to believe. The choir sounds like someone set the record player to the wrong speed. Stock footage! WOOO! And...no, no, no. I will not accept this. The cheese factor was really high already, but a caricature of a 747 being CARRIED AROUND BY RANDOM DUDES does NOT belong anywhere near the MMB. This is ridiculously stupid. I hate you, 1970's. Dear God, the visual metaphor of the plane stopping in different cities and triggering the most obvious song...it's like a Looney Toons cue, but we're supposed to take it seriously. And this choir is still moronic. They sound lobotomized.

A historical note: A map of the continental US is part of the standard marching band repertoire, reserved for any patriotic tune the band plays when they haven't formed an eagle or a flag or George Washington's head. Nobody's ever really sure what to do about the Upper Peninsula, and sometimes it just disappears altogether. The same problem crops up with the Boundary Waters area in Minnesota. Also, continental drift has drastically reshaped Florida from how it's depicted here. The last time the MMB broke out the this formation was for the 9/11 anniversary show last year, but a fake Boeing zooming around the country was deemed unacceptable for obvious reasons (Someone remembered how dumb it looked in this video).

ANDY WILLIAMS! You should probably watch out for Claudine Longet, Andy, out on that platform. Actually...play on, Ms. Longet. "Marmalade, Molasses, and Honey" sucks, and all Andy can do is think, "God, I'm good." OH, PLEASE, DO IT NOW. "People...people who need people"...may need to be removed from my presence before I do them grievous bodily harm. WHY WON'T THIS END? Every time I see a bird release, I think of those doves getting cooked in the Olympic cauldron. Yeesh. Andy's really stretching for it on that last note. And...we're out.

The whole production is pure, unbridled, Grade-A 1973 crap. At the same time, the band sounds terrific. The percussion is muddy in the first clip, but everything else tells you that the Cavendar disciples aren't entirely full of it when they talk about how good they were. Don't ever let them know I said that. At the same time, high step at these tempos looks goofy and half of the drill formations are dorktastic.

10 comments:

Aram said...

Suddenly our playing of Woodchoppers Ball at last year's Homecoming makes a lot more sense. I've been really wanting to see this performance, and I'm glad someone tossed it on YouTube.

CDB said...

At a time where we're not getting all of the content we can, you've done great work here my friend. Well played.

oops said...

The folks at the bottom of the "L" in NFL missed the up. WHY WEREN'T YOU CUEING, 1973 PEOPLE!!!

Ameed said...

I don't know if this went out, but Scott Boerma is the new MMB director according to Prof. Haithcock.

Geoff said...

Ameed -- Did he send out an announcement, or is this just word of mouth? If you have anything by email, could you send it to hooverstreet|at|umich.edu?

Al McCord said...

:-) If you listen right at the end of the first segment, you'll hear George yell his tradmark "BLOW!" to the band as they start to move to the next set.

Joe McMullen said...

I played in the Michigan Marching Band at Super Bowl VII, and in fact I uploaded the videos to youtube. Sorry that I had to break the performance into five segments, but it was my first attempt at youtube.

Anyway, these are some interesting comments. I agree that the halftime show seems a bit dated and some aspects perhaps silly. Although, to put it all into perspective, what I think happened was that the Tommy Walker, who produced the halftime entertainment, gave the theme "Happiness Is," to George Cavender and basically said "come up with a halftime show, and by the way, we're going to add a few celebrity entertainers and some girls in short dresses." The show's formations and arrangements wer typical of those designed by Cavendar and arranged by Jerry Bilik during those years.

Interesting trivia: Andy Williams was a late addition to the show. Originally Sammy Davis Jr was going to do the finale, and the band rehearsed a Bilik arrangement of Davis's hit at the time "Candy Man" back in Ann Arbor.

I personally think that the best selection of the performance was the one song performed by the band without any "guests," the song "Virgin de la Macareana."

I've also got a video of the band's pregame performance at the Super Bowl, but have not yet put it on youtube.

Finally, even though it may not be to everyone's liking, I'm glad I was able to locate this old video in the first place, and make it available to others to view. I kind of miss seeing marching bands televised at football games, rather than some aging rock stars.

Geoff said...

Joe,

First of all, thank you so much for uploading this show. I'd never seen one of our performances from the '70's, and I really did enjoy taking a look at it. If you get around to putting pregame up, I'd definitely appreciate it if you could drop me a line (hooverstreet|at|umich.edu). I watched your video from the '76 Michigan-OSU game, and I'd like to see more.

That this performance was really just a Michigan halftime with a bunch of extra stuff grafted onto it makes total sense to me, in hindsight. The producers, having given him a few requirements, get Cavendar's outline for the show, and then start dropping in other elements as they please.

Just about everything that doesn't hold up well or looks awkward is related to the random things going around the band. Coming from someone who's only marched corps-style halftimes and never without computer-generated drill, the formations do look dated, but it's nothing in comparison to the rest of the add-ins. For instance, the choir on "This Land Is Your Land" is totally unnecessary. A band can pull off a fast tempo on that song, but a choir can't. I totally agree with you that "Virgin" is the highlight of the show, and I think it's because nobody's trying too hard to look hip or pack in extra stuff.

Once again, Joe, thanks for making this available. Even when I take cheap shots at it, I love seeing the band in action. The NFL today is far too revenue-conscious to let a marching band get this kind of attention again, so it's a rare opportunity.

Joe M said...

Hi,
I uploaded the videos of the Super Bowl VII pregame ceremonies to YouTube. NBC broadcast the band feature "California Dreaming," as well as the National Anthem, as performed by the Little Angels choir, accompanied by the Michigan band.

Reedman said...

Joe, thanks for the posting.
Date: January 14, 1973
A few MMB memories from a long time ago, in a land far, far away(some of them may actually be true).
-- If you look beyond the rim of the LA Coliseum, you don't see anything. It was a very smoggy day (the V8 engine still reigned supreme). During the game, we sat in the endzone. You could see the haze just looking to the other endzone.
-- The grass was painted green to look better on TV. The green came off on our shoes and spats.
-- Woody Herman showed up to rehearsal in a white Rolls Royce. He gave a complement to the clarinets just behind him (he was impressed we were screaming to the double-high C's).
-- Between Sammy Davis Jr. and Andy Williams, there was a day when we thought that Barbra Streisand was going to sing. We rehearsed the (great) MMB arrangement of PEOPLE once in case Barbra made it.

George Rasko