The first song I ever heard by the Who was its anthemic anticipation of punk, “My Generation.” It was already an oldie when it juiced up my twelve-year-old spirit; in fact, punk had only recently arrived, and one of the reasons I liked the Who song so much was that its energy seemed similar to two bands of the moment for me, the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. The careen and swagger of the riffs, the sense of the present as something electrically alive and promising, hand in hand with heady, arrogant defiance…well, when you’re 12 years old, you want music to mean it, man.
So I know I should be extremely cynical about the new Pepsi commercial that’s been running on the hour for the past couple of days. They’ve gone and appropriated a classic rock anthem of rebellion! They’ve swiped a blistering statement of youthful identity and put it in service of a soft drink! Yeah, yeah…I mean, the Who sold out years ago, eh? All I can say is that the Pepsi ad, which marries the Who’s song to a quick-moving series of 20th-century generational/liberational celebratory motifs cleverly strung together, captures the visceral excitement of the current cultural moment: