Genre: Indie/College Rock
For anyone in their mid to late twenties, "Hey Sandy" is a song you'll recognize from its first note. While the rest of us were cranking Nirvana, you guys were in front of your television sets with a bowl of Fruit Loops, watching "The Adventures of Pete and Pete" on Nickelodeon, in between marathon sessions of Nintendo.
Admit it, you wish you were there right now, don't you? So do I.
For the rest of us who are over or under the target age, "Hey Sandy" will immediately shoot up our list of great TV theme songs. And none of us will ever figure out the lyrics.
Polaris was an offshoot of the band Miracle Legion, beginning as a duo - singer/guitarist Mark Mulcahy and guitarist Ray Neal - in New Haven in 1983. They added Jeff Wiederschall (drums) and Joel Potocsky (bass), and in 1984 they recorded the EP The Backyard, which includes the great title track. The song was a college radio hit and the band was poised to take off. They were even drawing comparisons to REM.
After a couple of label changes and a new bass player (Steve West), they finally released an LP in 1987, Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!, to decent reviews. But the landscape had changed. In college radio time, three years is an eternity.
More lineup changes followed. They recorded Me and Mr. Ray as a duo, and a pretty track, "You're The One-Lee" (as in "only"), hit the airwaves a few times on a show called 120 Minutes that was on a certain Music Television channel.
There were more personnel changes and more label trouble. The band recorded two more albums, fan favorite Drenched in 1992, and Portrait of a Damaged Family, which would not see the light of day until 1996, when it was released by Mulcahy's own label, Mezzotint.
The creators of "The Adventures of Pete and Pete" were fans of Miracle Legion, so they asked the band to record some music for the show. By that time the band had splintered, and Ray Neal wasn't interested but Mulcahy accepted. He worked on the show with a new band, but they called themselves Polaris. They were the house band for all three seasons, and recorded enough material to release one album that was the closest they ever came to the "sound" they had on The Backyard. Many twenty-somethings claim the show shaped their listening habits for life.
In 2009, long time fans, Thom Yorke, Frank Black, Michael Stipe and The National, among others, recorded a Mark Mulcahy tribute album - Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy - to help him out after his wife had suddenly passed away.
Whether it was college kids seeking refuge from the all too familiar sounds of top 40 radio in the 80s, or twenty and thirty-somethings reliving the glory days of childhood, at one time these "two" bands meant something to two different generations, leaving both with a lot to remember.
(Jim Pace can usually be found directing music videos in and around NYC. He will begin production on his first feature film in 2013. He spends his spare time writing songs, screenplays and getting involved in anything that will give him an excuse to listen to more music.)