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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Adventures Of Pete And Pete: “Hard Day’s Pete”

Illustration for article titled The Adventures Of Pete And Pete: “Hard Day’s Pete”
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“Hard Day’s Pete” (originally aired Jan. 16, 1994)

What’s your favorite song? For me, it might be Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day,” but I’m not entirely sure. If what happens to Pete Wrigley in the season one finale of The Adventures Of Pete And Pete is any indication, I probably haven’t found it yet, because if I had, I would know, right?

“Hard Day’s Pete” centers around Little Pete and his search for his favorite song, which he happens to discover one day while taking a shortcut to school on his bike. The song doesn’t have a title or much in the way of words, but it does have some solid rhythm guitar and lyrics, including the phrases “nobody knows” and “I was around.” (In non-Wellsville life, the song is “Summerbaby” by Polaris.) Before he hears “his song,” Pete doesn’t care about music, even though he pilots his very own radio station, WART radio, which includes very successful local news (“Mr. Fred Hurley has hemorrhoids.”) and chat shows like Scab Talk.

Once Pete hears the song, he’s on a quest to recapture that very moment, taking to WART’s airwaves to solicit suggestions from listeners as to what the song could have been, picking up the Krebstar 3000 Eviscerator electric guitar—which helps him learn that feedback can turn his outie into an innie—and even forming his own band, The Blowholes, to play the one riff he knows over and over and over again until the song jogs loose in his memory.

Unfortunately, that jogging is never going to happen for Pete, who eventually loses the whole song, down to one lonely note. Spurred on by the International Adult Conspiracy, Don Wrigley threatens to pull the plug on The Blowholes unless they can raise the $700 they’ve tacked on to Don’s monthly electric bill. They do this by playing other peoples favorite songs (“Free Bird,” “Wango Tango,” “Build Me Up Buttercup,” “Marmalade Cream,” an unidentifiable song about summer dedicated to Mr. Tastee, and “Painted My World,” a Blowholes original that seems to ape Petula Clark’s “Color My World” pretty hard.) For Pete, though, playing other peoples songs just makes him even sadder about his own song being lost to the ages, so he bails on The Blowholes to go back to where it all began—the garage on the shortcut route where he first heard Polaris jamming that cut out.

Ultimately, Pete learns the song back, jams his version out with The Blowholes, and absolutely forbids himself to forget it again. Knowing Little Pete’s determination and unwavering ability to stick to his guns on things no one cares about other than him, it’s a pretty safe bet that he’ll probably see this one through—or, rather, he would, if he were a real person and not a TV character.


Okay, so, it seems improbable that Pete would dislike music as much as he appears to at the start of this episode. He’s hip for a tween, and even dances with Artie to the radio during “The Nightcrawlers,” though that could be attributed to insane sleepiness. We’ll put that aside, though, for this episode and believe that, hey, maybe Pete just was never that into music. It happens for kids a lot, right? They listen to whatever’s on the radio until they buy some R.E.M. record at K-Mart and venture into a whole new world of light boundary pushing and semi-adult whining. That could be what happens here.

What also could be happening, though—if you happen to watch this show looking for deep, spiritual meaning like I sometimes do—is a call to arms for like-minded individuals to continue creating great things. If you love Pete And Pete, let’s say, don’t just lament the loss of the show on the ’net, or say “Hey, remember Clarissa?” Watching old DVDs to try and recapture the feeling you once had the first time you saw something might be fun, but it can be a little pointless, too. (Blasphemy, I know, considering that’s basically what we’re doing here—and then writing about it.) Pete’s lesson—and our lesson—from this show is not just “find a song and love it,” but rather, “if you love something, go make something someone else can love.” Polaris did this for Pete when they accidentally fed him the song that he loved. The Blowholes did this when they played “Surfin’ Bum, Surfin’ Fun” for grumpy Fred Hurley. The creators of Pete And Pete (deep, I know) did this when they heard a Magnetic Fields song they liked or saw a Hal Hartley movie and said, “Hey, we should introduce this band or these actors to other people.”


It’s a little bit of a stretch, maybe, but it makes sense all the same. Nostalgia’s a hell of a drug, especially these days. Every other Tumblr is all, “Remember so and so?” People are nostalgic for things that happened earlier this week, like the days before the East Coast earthquake. That’s fun and everything, but it’s dangerous. It puts this hazy veil over everything in the past and all the time we spend thinking about those things, we’re not making new things, pushing art and culture forward, or saying, “Hey, Pete And Pete did so much for me, so maybe it can do that for someone else, or maybe I can take those ideas and, even though I don’t make TV shows, do whatever I can with them to make someone else happy. “ If we’re stuck in the past—or in Pete’s case, stuck listening to the same song over and over again, even if it’s our very favorite song ever—we’re not moving forward. That song’ll still be there in a day or a week when we want to go back and listen to it and feel that way all over again—unlike the unreleased DVD set of The Adventures Of Pete And Pete’s third season, but that’s another story all together.

Stray observations:

  • Thus marks the last episode of season one of The Adventures Of Pete And Pete. It’s been a fun ride, but I’m going to take a little break from hanging out with the Wrigley clan until the first week of November, when the recaps will be back full force and with more Nona Mecklenberg.
  • Little Pete line of the week, delivered on WART radio: “Good morning, gutbuckets. Time to wipe the crud from your eye sockets and bite the wind of another Wednesday.”
  • The Blowholes include Miss Fingerwood (Syd Straw) on bass guitar, Clem “Muttonchops” Linnell on drums, and meter man Mel Ratner (Marshall Crenshaw) on lead guitar. I dare someone to yell out “Marmalade Cream!” if they ever go to a Marshall Crenshaw show. He’s coming to your town on tour, probably, and would have no idea what you’re talking about.
  • The sound a whammy bar makes affects Artie “like deadly Kryptonite.”
  • Meter man Mel has a scab shaped like a dump truck.
  • Because it’s 1994 and he’s fronting a band, Little Pete was probably required by law to wear those tiny sunglasses in the scenes where he sings.
  • Pete to Dad on WART, “So you don’t like the taste of coffee, but you drink it anyway.” Dad: “Pete, I think it’s time we had a talk, you know, father to son.” Pete: “That’s okay. Artie and I already had that talk.” (Joyce faints upstairs)
  • “Heart times soul equals rock and roll.”—Miss Fingerwood