Even though Tom Kenny has been the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants for eight years, he’d never actually written for the characters till he decided to create a SpongeBob album with his pal Andy Paley, a producer/musician who’s worked with everybody from Brian Wilson to the Ramones. Together, they came up with The Best Day Ever, a new CD that may delight parents with a love for 1960s pop even more than their unsuspecting kids — but just barely (See our full review in Kids’ Corner). All the tributes to the Beach Boys, the Monkees, ? and the Mysterians, and others didn’t mean they neglected SpongeBob’s tinier target audience.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is a whole different animal than The Yellow Album and other previous SpongeBob records.
TOM KENNY: There had been one other SpongeBob album and EP that were pulled from the episodes, little music bits that moved the story along or provided a joke but were never intended to stand alone as album cuts. And the soundtrack album for the movie had alternative bands like Flaming Lips and Wilco, which was of less interest to me — and I think to kids — than having a record like the kids’ albums I used to enjoy, where the characters are singing and doing stuff, whether it was Yogi Bear or Top Cat or Huckleberry Hound. I love those old Golden Records [for kids]. What gave me the idea to do the album was: There’s SpongeBob everything. There’s SpongeBob soccer balls. There are actually round representations of the square character SpongeBob! It seemed weird to me that there’s SpongeBob nipple piercing rings but nobody’s ever done an all-original SpongeBob music album.
It’s interesting to hear the genres you picked for different characters. It makes sense that Sandy, the squirrel, would do a Texas hoedown number.
Yeah, that’s what she would bring to the party if she came to band practice. Squidward, he’s more educated, or sees himself as being that, so he comes in with a Kurt Weill, Broadway-ish song. Mr. Krabs does a sea chantey-ish song about greed. Patrick is such a primal, id force that we figured he would do a Troggs-like, one-chord garage-band song. And then SpongeBob is more like a John Sebastian or Brian Wilson naïf, coming in with the Partridge Family sounds. SpongeBob sounds like the Turtles.
Plankton gets a great villain song, ”You Will Obey,” which is also in a garage-rock mode.
The guitar on that is James Burton, Elvis’ longtime guitar player. One of our hidden Easter eggs that hopefully more than three people in the world will get is during the guitar solo when Plankton says ”Take it, James,” which was what Elvis said in every one of those concert movies. Then we’ve got Corkie Hale playing harp, who played with everybody from Sinatra to Billie Holliday. This might be the only kids’ record ever that has somebody who played with Billie Holliday on it. I don’t expect that to carry any weight with the average 6-year-old who buys the record. Kids aren’t gonna care who the guitar player is, but they are gonna get off on Squidward being vain and Mr. Krabs being greedy and SpongeBob being a cockeyed optimist.
So why the all-star cast of session players?
We thought they would spread some magic dust on it. And although this is just a weird little cartoon record, I didn’t want to have today’s equivalent of Kajagoogoo or Men Without Hats on it. The people we got, from Brian Wilson to NRBQ, are kind of timeless, the way that the cartoon is timeless. Steve Hillenburg, the creator, has always gone to great pains to not have topical references or real world references in the cartoon, because that dates it. I think SpongeBob has been around long enough that he’s past the fad stage, and maybe kids who grew up with him will sit and watch old SpongeBob episodes in 20 years with their kids. And I think all these people on our record are safely past the fad stage, too. Like, Brian Wilson isn’t flavor of the month, he’s flavor of the century.
But the album is filled with some very specific musical homages.
It’s a weird labor of love, and hopefully it’ll be a painless musical primer for kids. If some kid hears Pet Sounds years from now and says ”Hey, that kind of sounds like that SpongeBob album I liked when I was a kid!” that would be really cool — the way that I saw Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart [caricatured] in Bugs Bunny cartoons years before I saw one of their movies. I remember finally seeing Bogart and thinking, ”Hey, there’s that guy from Bugs Bunny!”