Night Lights Classic Jazz

The Pepsi “My Generation” Ad

It marries the Who's song to a quick-moving series of 20th-century generational/liberational celebratory motifs cleverly strung together.

My GenerationThe 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:

David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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  • http://jazz88s.blogspot.com/ Marc Davis

    I have mixed feelings. I love the song. It reminds me of my high school and college days in the 70s. And the commercial is clever. But still… Using the quintessential rock song of youthful rebellion to sell soda. Blech.

    For what it’s worth, I never got the stuttering bit.

  • David Brent Johnson

    Marc, I guess for me it actually restores the raw vitality of the song and makes me enjoy it all over again. I love most or nearly all of the Who’s catalogue up through the late 1970s, but the song itself had lost most of its power for me over the years, and my “Who sell out” reference in the post, while admittedly a bit of a cheap allusive pun, was provoked by the constant farewell/reunion tours of the past couple decades. After seeing the ad and finding it on YouTube, I ended up playing it over and over–kind of like that giddy sensation I often had with 45s when I was a kid (discovered the Stones’ “Get Off Of My Cloud” around the same time as “My Generation”…again, already an oldie when I was 12, but “Cloud,” like “Generation,” had a bristling kind of punk energy to it as well).

    Here’s a high-resolution version of the Pepsi ad:

    http://www.coloribus.com/paedia/reels/2009/01/19/535031/show/

    Re: the stuttering, here’s some background from Wikipedia:

    Various stories exist as to the reason for this distinct delivery. One is that the song began as a slow “talking” blues number without the stutter (in the 1970s it was sometimes performed as such, but with the stutter, as “My Generation Blues”), but after being inspired by John Lee Hooker’s “Stuttering Blues”, Townshend reworked the song into its present form. Another reason is that it was suggested to Daltrey that he stutter to sound like a British mod on speed. It is also proposed, albeit less frequently, that the stutter was introduced to give the group a framework for implying the expletive “f*&% off” in the lyrics: “Why don’t you all fff… fade away!” However, producer Shel Talmy insisted it was simply “one of those happy accidents” that he thought they should keep. The BBC initially refused to play “My Generation” because it did not want to offend people who stutter, but it reversed its decision after the song became more popular.

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