There’s a reason Super Bowl commercials are so coveted: Everyone sees them.
In 1993, as Pepsi launched their brand new Crystal Pepsi product, the company went big for their Super Bowl advertisement by using Van Halen‘s “Right Now,” a recent hit from their 1991 album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Eddie Van Halen did not approve of the move but felt they had to go along with it.
“The only reason we gave Pepsi the music was because they were going to use the song anyway,” he told Guitar World in 1996. “They would have just recut it with studio musicians, like they do for some TV movies because they can’t use the original. Pepsi told us they were going to do that, so we said, ‘Hey, wait a minute, we might as well get the money.’ I ain’t that proud, you know. I’m not going to say, ‘No, go ahead, rip us off. And keep the money, too!’”
It wasn’t the first time “Right Now” had stressed out a member of Van Halen. Early on, Sammy Hagar was less than pleased with the concept for the song’s official video, which included a series of block letter statements about things happening in the world “right now.”
“When I first saw the treatment to the video for ‘Right Now,’ the next single from the album, I thought it looked like a terrible idea,” he admitted in his autobiography Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock. “That was the first serious lyric I had written for Van Halen, a big statement. All I could see was some of the director’s lines, like ‘I’ll wrestle you for food’ or ‘Right now someone’s walking on a nude beach for the first time.’ I read his treatment and, without seeing the video, thought he was nuts. This song was my baby.”
Of course, Hagar eventually came around. “I can’t believe all those people had to beat me up so bad before I caved in, but the treatment really was bad,” Hagar wrote. “The video was brilliant.” Pepsi wound up not only paying Van Halen an extremely lucrative $2 million to use the song, but completely copying the style of the video for their Super Bowl spot.
Two years later, Van Halen may have gotten the last soda-related laugh. On the back cover of their 1995 album, Balance, perhaps carefully placed as a subtle dig at the Pepsi company, sits a can of Coca-Cola.