By: Paul Dobry for Earvolution.com
Nickelodeon, the self proclaimed “first network for kids,” in the mid-nineties was a special time and place to be a part of. In the fashion of The Simpsons’ humble beginnings as a series of shorts, premiering on The Tracy Ullman Show, a quirky show for kids was born out of spots aired among commercials during regular shows. The Adventures of Pete & Pete provided a generation of kids a parallel dimension that looked enough like their own to be relatable, while providing enough eccentricities to spark imagination and change the perspective from which one usually looks at suburban life. The first season was recently released on DVD sparking nostalgia and new discoveries from a now grown-up fan base.
As kids we may have overlooked the myriad of guest stars, not yet being familiar enough with these stars to recognize Iggy Pop or Steve Buscemi in their recurring roles as neighborhood parents. Upon looking back, it is the music that is most interesting however. This extends to the guest spots, with episodes featuring the likes of Michael Stipe, Debbie Harry, Juliana Hatfield, Gordon Gano of The Violent Femmes and LL Cool J among others. Creators Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi strove to use the music of independent bands to provide the show with a score befitting of its oddball humor. Music from bands including Yo La Tengo, The Magnetic Fields, and Apples in Stereo was featured and Luscious Jackson appears in an episode as the band at a school dance.
But what fans of the show remember most is the theme song at the beginning of every episode. The song is “Hey Sandy” by Polaris. Of the myriad of music featured , that of Polaris is featured most often and most prominently. Music From the Adventures of Pete & Pete was Polaris’ first record, 12 tracks of bouncy, bittersweet indie-pop many of which were heard in episodes of Pete & Pete.
The record appropriately kicks off in the same was as every episode of the show, with “Hey Sandy” a tambourine shaking, summertime sing along that is oddly enough about the riots at Kent State. The album is a pure slice of mid-90s indie rock that will find fans among followers of bands like Built to Spill, Pavement and The Magnetic Fields. It would be impossible for followers of the show to disconnect some of these songs from their original appearances.
That’s true, especially “Hey Sandy” and “Summerbaby,” younger Pete’s elusive favorite song in “A Hard Day’s Pete.” But regardless of one’s familiarity with the show, Music From the Adventures of Pete & Pete holds its own as a soundtrack to your own misadventures, whether you are chasing down the Mr. Tastee truck or determining when Alpha Centauri might receive broadcasts of Johnny Unitas.