The Adventures of Pete & Pete aired from 1993 – 1996, which for me was roughly third through sixth grade. Like most things during that era, the details are now a bit fuzzy, but the emotions remain clear. I remember worshiping Little Pete and wanting to have adventures like his. I remember looking up to Big Pete and wishing I had a big brother too. I remember high school seeming like a million years away.

A few weeks ago a friend revealed that she had the first couple seasons on DVD. Naturally we watched a few episodes. As the credits rolled at the end of one of them, a familiar band name jumped out at me: The Magnetic Fields . I was stunned. Here I was watching something that aired almost a decade ago, using music still popular today. Not long after this, I stumbled across a cover of the theme song, “Hey Sandy,” recently done by the band Grand Lake – 6 blogs had featured the track. Memories were flooding back and with them a new awareness of just how big a part of the series the music was.

In my research for this article I found an interview done by Robert Agnello – another musician/artist involved in the show – with creators Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi in October 2008. Over a decade over the show went off the air, it’s clear that Pete and Pete still holds a special place in all of their hearts. In the interview they chat about various aspects of the show, with a focus on the music. Agnello begins the discussion by recounting:

“I’ll always remember talking to you about doing music for you guys and I think it was you Will who said, ‘go listen to Yo LaTengo and The Lemonheads.’”

And with that, here are four awesome things (you may or may not already know) about the music in The Adventures of Pete & Pete:

1. The Theme Song

“Hey Sandy” was written and performed by Mark Mulcahy, most known as frontman of Connecticut based, 1980’s/1990’s band, Miracle Legion, but who also created Polaris, the “house band” for Pete & Pete. The lyrics are as follows:

“Hey smilin strange, you’re lookin happily deranged
@##$%^&&*(),…..;’;-0&^$#@ [unknown line]
And have you picked your target yet, Hey Sandy ai yai yai yai…
Dont you talk back, Hey Sandy
Four feet away, end of speech its the end of the day
We was only funnin’, but guiltily I thought
you had it comin’, Hey Sandy,
Don’t ya talk back, Hey Sandy”

According to The Website of Pete & Pete the “mystery line” is a mystery on purpose. Even when Mulcahy himself performs the song he mumbles and mangles it. There are people who do know what it is – Mulcahy of course, and the creators too, but they aren’t telling. When it comes up in their interview with Agnello they explain further – but the reason they give is so good that you’ll just have to go 16:50 min into the interview and listen for yourself.

2. Polaris

The Adventures of Pete & Pete was such a cool show that they even had a house band – not in the late night TV sense though. Fronted by Mark Mulcahy and mostly members of Miracle Legion, Polaris wrote and performed the theme song, “Hey Sandy,” as well as many other tracks along the way – and even performed on camera during one episode. Outside of watching the show, the one place you can find music by Polaris is on the CD Music from The Adventures of Pete & Pete, which is actually the only sort of soundtrack available for Pete and Pete. In 1995 a promotional cassette containing 3 Polaris tracks – “Hey Sandy”, “She is Staggering”, and “Coronado II” – could be obtained via 2 boxes of Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats:

But unless you have one of those – the CD is your only option. While you will be able to find all the cassette’s songs on there, you won’t get the introduction and closing read by Big Pete himself.

3. They loved awesome bands

Music licensed for The Adventures of Pete & Pete included: The Apples in Stereo, Chug, The Drop Nineteens, Fat Tulips , The Gothic Archies, Tara Key, Luscious Jackson, Nice, Poi Dog Pondering, RACECAR, Semi-Gloss, The 6ths, and – to the surprise of no one – Miracle Legion.  Miracle Legion, Polaris and Luscious Jackson all performed on camera at one point during the series. Manic Moose and The Magnetic Fields both had songs featured and composed original material for the show.  Between the original music and as a member of The Magnetic Fields, The 6ths and The Gothic Archies, Stephin Merritt was a huge contributing factor to the show.   And it’s a Pete & Pete legend (well, a legend verified in DVD commentary) that they tried to get a song by The Pixies, but couldn’t afford it.

4. Legendary Guest Stars

Sure, like most shows of that era there are always a handful of actors that you come across while scrolling down the IMDb page and can’t help but exclaim, “Wait, they were in this show?” This reaction is usually the same whether the personality you spot is famous outside of the entertainment industry, or an actor who has since made it big (or at least bigger). The Adventures of Pete & Pete boasts Heather Matarazzo, Michelle Trachtenberg, Steve Buscemi, Janeane Garofalo, Patty Hearst, Selma Blair, Bebe Neuwirth, and JK Simmons among others. But what really makes Pete & Pete awesome is all the rock royalty that set foot on that set:

Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry (Blondie), Michael Stipe (R.E.M), Juliana Hatfield (Blake Babies / Some Girls), Syd Straw (in the Golden Palominos with Stipe), Richard Edson (Sonic Youth), Gordon Gano (The Violent Femmes), David Johansen (New York Dolls), Kate Pierson (The B-52s), Suzzy Roche (The Roches), Sarah Shannon (Velocity Girl), Marshall Crenshaw, and LL Cool J. Ok, ok, one of these things is not like the others, but LL Cool J does do a valiant job at trying to stay relevant.

Mad props for the Citizen Kane reference.

Grand Lake “Hey Sandy”

Robert Agnello interviews The Adventures of Pete & Pete Creators, Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi

(Interview via Robert Agnello on BlogTalkRadio)