If there is a God, and the New York Mets somehow defeat the Kansas City Royals to capture their first World Series title in nearly 30 years (Game 1 is tonight in K.C.), there’s a pretty good chance their celebration will be scored by “Let’s Go Mets!” the undeniably epic theme song that’s become a cornerstone of Metropolitans lore.
Created as the official anthem to the 1986 Mets – a team that won 108 games en route to the championship, and featured a once-in-a-generation lineup of swaggering stars and good-time guys – “Let’s Go Mets!” (also known as “Let’s Go Mets Go”) has become a standard, and its chorus is still chanted at Citi Field to this day. And since all of this went down in the Eighties, the accompanying music video is equally awesome, an over-the-top mélange of Mets players, fans in half shirts and era-defining stars (Twisted Sister! Joe Piscopo! Dr. Joyce Brothers!)
So, with the first pitch of the 2015 World Series just hours away, Rolling Stone spoke to the folks behind the song and the video, to learn the stories that led to the creation of a true classic. Like the chorus says, “Let’s go Mets” (sorry, Royals fans).
Drew Sheinman, former Mets V.P. of Marketing: So much of my job and focus was to build and maximize the brand of Mets baseball. Beyond the success of the team in ’86, we were trying to figure out how to build a fanbase that could create the next generation of fans. We realized we had an opportunity at the time to capture many Yankees fans who were younger and more impressionable.
Shelly Palmer, “Let’s Go Mets” composer: In July of ’86 the Mets were like 27 games ahead. They were so far ahead that, numerically, they already got the pennant. Everybody thought this was a team of destiny, but it was still a big risk, no question about it. The thought process was, “Even if this doesn’t work out, we could still get this song out by the end of the season.”
Sheinman: Based on the team winning, we thought it was an opportunity to capitalize on their success. We wanted to build a rallying cry in New York City, which isn’t easy to do. But [the song] was constructed in a way that win, lose or draw, it’d still have the same impact. The fact that the team took off and continued to dominate just made the whole idea work that much better and create a groundswell of momentum.
Palmer: You have to put yourself in the 1986 mindset…VHS tapes were big. They had a $19.95 retail price on them and sometimes they came with two bottles of Diet Pepsi or candy if you bought them at Blockbuster. So there was precedent for music videos and “Making Of” videos. The ad agency came to me in July of 1986 and they had the most outlandish idea. They knew that there was Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video and a “Making Of” documentary. They thought it’d be cool to have a Mets video and a half-hour “Making Of” documentary, too. They had all kinds of ideas for the song, and apparently they went through all kinds of famous people to write it, but everyone either came up short, turned them down or did a really bad job. I think I was the last guy they called.
Sheinman: The biggest challenge was getting our management on board and getting Davey Johnson, a traditionalist baseball guy, to accept why we would even step outside the baselines to do something so entertainment-driven. Once they understood the longterm objective, everyone was very supportive.
Palmer: We did a couple demos with different songs and lyrics and brought them in the next day. We met with a giant group of people involved with the Mets and the agency. One of the songs clearly resonated with everybody. Within a couple minutes we went to the studio and started putting together a serious version of it, then went down to some away game and played it for the guys. The team liked it, which was amazing! Gary Carter was dancing. Mookie [Wilson] liked it. Darryl [Strawberry] and Ron Darling thought it was cool. Later, when I walked out of an initial meeting to plan the actual video, one of the guys involved was like, “Shelly, you look really unhappy. What’s the matter?” I said, “I don’t know. I didn’t think those ideas for the music video were that great. Is there someone else you can get?” I was trying to be as politically correct as I possibly could. He asked if I could do better and I said, “Jeez, anybody who went to film school could do better.” He said, “I believe that too. You have the job.”
So I got everybody I went to film school with involved. I owned a video-production company, but we needed an army since we had no time to plan. The thing we were told loudest during our first meeting was, “No autographs, no sucking up to the players and don’t be a fan.” Well, you can say that all day long, but what do you do when you get on the field and Gary Carter hands you his game glove? That was the hardest thing, staying 100-percent into making the video when you’re hanging out with guys who are literally your heroes.
Sheinman: What made it so special and so effective was the authenticity of everybody having fun. Once the players got into it they really enjoyed themselves, and you can tell in the video. We never did anything that would sacrifice the integrity of the game, but we definitely pushed the envelope… in a positive way. Like when Joe Piscopo did the bit with the bobbleheads.
Joe Piscopo, comedian: I’m a diehard Yankee fan. Lifelong Yankee fan. But I’m a baseball fanatic, so when the Mets called, it was so exciting. They asked me to be a part of it since I knew some of the guys at the time. My son Joey was 6 years old, so I asked if I could bring him on the field for him to experience one of the most beautiful things on planet earth: the feel of the baseball grass. They were like, “Oh yeah, whatever you need.” So truth be told, I did it so I could get my kid on the baseball diamond. I went over to Shea and the team was great. We had a blast doing it. There I was, a Yankee fan, but I was happy to celebrate the greatness of that team. It’s all about the greatness of New York.
Sheinman: One shot had 50,000 people, so we used a sold-out crowd in between a doubleheader. Shelly, in his great style, led the crowd in a sing-along, which looking back was somewhat risky. But the response was outstanding. It just worked magically. Some of these things you can’t plan for.
Palmer: One of the great moments of my life is being on the field in my orange Mets T-shirt with a walkie in one hand and a microphone in the other, and two or three units running around the stadium shooting the crowd screaming “Let’s go Mets!” It was a really big thing at the stadium and we had a blast. There was nothing about it that wasn’t awesome. We didn’t know at the time, but it was a magical time for the Mets baseball club and us as well. With the number of people rebooting the song and uploading videos today, my attorney keeps calling me asking if I want to sue these people. I’m like, “Are you kidding me? This is awesome!”
Piscopo: I loved doing it. Of course, cut to 2000, and the Yankees had just won the Subway Series. I’m at the parade doing a bit for the TV show Extra, and they gave me a camera and a microphone. I’m on the back of the truck with the Yankees and we’re just having a blast. There’s a guy with a Mets hat in the crowd and he sees me and yells, “Hey, Piscopo! You’re a Mets fan! Get the fuck outta there!”
Sheinman: It was like catching lightning in a bottle, and that doesn’t happen without taking some level of risk and being disruptive. The song is timeless. It’s still as relevant today as it was in ’86. It ranks as one of the great highlights of my career. It’s funny talking about it in today’s world, where the convergence of entertainment and sports is so seamless. Back then, it wasn’t.
Palmer: I’ve been so amazed and touched and taken aback by how many different people claim ownership of this song. All of these issues with copyright infringement, those royalties are meaningful for us but I’d much rather people enjoy the song. That’s just me being a Mets fan. It’s a wonderful way for people to rally around the team. I’m all for it. If I had the time or inclination, I’d bring in a younger generation of performer and redo it myself right now.