Five Great Middle Finger Moments In Music History

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Monday morning, the Internet was awash in consternation and jpegs after M.I.A. flashed her middle finger during Madonna's Super Bowl halftime performance Sunday, meaning Janet Jackson is finally off the hook after all these years. To be honest, Rocks Off watched the entire halftime show and must have been reaching for some more dip, because we did not notice the Sri Lankan-born rapper's uncaged bird at all. Neither did the dozen or so other people at the Super Bowl party where we were.

We can't speak for NBC or the NFL's attorneys (or M.I.A.'s record sales), but Rocks Off takes this to mean we - as a culture, and a person - have become so desensitized to the once-crude hand gesture, which supposedly dates back to the days of ancient Greece, that it barely registers anymore. Maybe it would if we were still driving.

Leave it to others to speculate what the organizers were thinking in booking someone whose reputation as a loose cannon is well-known enough to inspire a recent SNL skit. It didn't take long to call up a whole host of pop stars showing off their middle metacarpals, including Pink, Lady Gaga and Avril Lavigne.

But it wasn't so long ago that the sight of someone raising one finger to the sky while pointing its neighbors at the ground really did make someone besides blogs and NFL PR flacks hyperventilate. Remember?

5. Cobra Starship blast off: No band is better positioned to cash in on M.I.A.'s "malfunction" than the "Snakes On a Plane" emo-glam rockers. Their new single, "Middle Finger," was released three weeks ago and already has more than 1 million YouTube views.

4. Morris Day & the Time flip Prince "The Bird": Although the band was on the Paisley Park payroll from square one, Day & the Time played the role of Prince & the Revolution's rival band in 1984's Purple Rain to the sharp-suited hilt. History has chosen to remember "Jungle Love" as the Time's one hit (arguably), but for our money "The Bird" is funkier, the choreography is slicker, and the song steals the movie right out from under The Kid and his pencil-stached Twin Cities hipsters, if only temporarily.


3. Johnny Cash has some words for Nashville. The Man In Black, backed by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, won the 1998 Grammy for Best Country Album for Unchained, not that most country program directors cared. So Cash's label, American Recordings, took out a full-page ad (to the tune of $20K) in the next week's Billboard, featuring photographer Jim Marshall's iconic image and the text, "American Recordings and Johnny Cash would like to acknowledge the Nashville music establishment and country radio for your support." It's hard to imagine the 2012 nominees doing such a thing, although it's too bad Miranda Lambert's Four the Record wasn't released in time for consideration.

2. Middlefinger put Houston on notice. Arising from the ashes of Sprawl, Middlefinger was both poppier than those genre-busting Houston alt-rock legends and more than just Houston's answer to Sublime. The band dominated the Houston Press Music Awards throughout the late '90s and early '00s, until leader Matt Kelly moved to Austin. He returned to play the title role of tortured Dutch artist Herman Brood to great acclaim in Infernal Bridegroom Productions' 2010 musical drama Bluefinger (with songs by Black Francis), and last year left the door open to sporadic Middlefinger reunions, as well as another possible album.

1. Keith Richards takes his middle finger to the bank. Not only does the Rolling Stones guitarist's digit look great in photo ops, it comes in handy whenever he steps onstage or into the studio. God forbid something should happen to it, which is probably why Keef's left middle finger is now insured to the tune of a cool $1.6 million.

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