New Yorker on Pepsi Ad

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Tue Jan 27 17:49:59 UTC 2009

Who Knew?

Have you seen the new Pepsi-Cola commercials? Unbelievable.

One of them—two, actually, since there’s a sixty-second version and a thirty-second version—is a visual mini-history of the last century ofyoung singles’ styles. A nice piece of production design and film editing, but the startling part is the sound track: The Who’s “My Generation.”

My first reaction was indignation: Et tu, Who? But that was an old reflex, grown feeble with the passing years. It’s been a while since I could yell “Sellout!” with any real conviction. Anyway, The Who’s days of overt rebellion are long gone. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey wereKennedy Center honorees last month, standing alongside Barbra Streisand, George Jones, and George W. Bush, among others.

My second reaction was a suspicion that maybe Townshend hasn’t completely lost his subversive touch after all. Maybe he’s just redirected it inward. “Hope I die before I get old” (a line included in the sixty-second version) has a certain ironic, shamefaced piquancy now that the spokesmusicians for the sixties are in their sixties. That hope for a quick, Hendrix-like demise has been dashed, along with The Who’s retirement portfolio, if theirs is like everybody else’s. But renting out an antique anthem of rebellion isn’t just a way to ensure that the money will be there to pay for an assisted living facility, it’s also a subtly devastating comment on where and how our g-g-generation ended up. Good one, Pete!

(Archeological note: The second piece I ever wrote for this magazine, nigh onto forty years ago, was an interview with PeteTownshend for The Talk of the Town. If you’re curious—and a subscriber to the magazine—you can read it.)

 -Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!


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