This week in 1991, The Simpsons were at number one on the UK singles chart with Do The Bartman – making them the first cartoon characters to make top the charts since the Archies 1969 hit, Sugar Sugar. This slice of chart history inspired us to delve into the show's symbiotic relationship with some of the world's most high-profile musicians, and priceless pop culture moments created.
The Simpsons | 'Do The Bartman'
Over the course of 33 seasons, and counting, The Simpsons has grown into so much more than a TV show. An enduring theme of functional dysfunction has both bridged the generation gap (era over era over era) and created an almost universal language, with an anecdotal richness, that has grown to cover almost any moment life throws at you – and, with an increasingly unexplainable ability to predict the future.
Whether the beloved cast is delivering a show-tune of their own creation; or being drawn into a logic-defying celebrity foray, with a superstar finalé, music is as synonymous with The Simpsons as Duff Beer and doughnuts. For musicians and celebrity guests alike, an invite to appear on TV's longest animated program is more than a career-defining moment, it's a globally recognised graduation from 'celebrity of note', to 'immortalised pop culture figure' ... arguably more artistically validating than a Grammy!
So, in short, it was no easy feat to shortlist three decades worth of The Simpsons' most awesome musical cameos. Here are some of our faves – let us know yours in the comments!
1. Aerosmith: 'Walk This Way' [Season 3]
When Moe rips off Homer’s ‘Flaming Homer’ cocktail, his bar becomes an overnight success. Punters are lined up around the block, desperate to get into his A-list jammed bar. Aerosmith is just there to hang, but Moe manages to coax them up onstage with the promise of free pickled eggs and they even let him sing with them.
But watch out Moe, Karma is rife in Springfield.
2. RHCP: 'Give It Away' [Season 4]
Sharing a bill with Bette Midler, the boys from Red Hot Chili Peppers deliver a high-octane Give It Away at Kruty’s career-saving benefit show wearing nothing but their Y-fronts – classic!
When they rock up to the after part at Moe’s Tavern still in their Y-fronts, Moe tries to kick them out, until he realises even Dr Hibbert is down for some undie snapping fun.
3. The Ramones: 'Happy Birthday' [Season 5]
Mr Burns is throwing a birthday party and looking for some love, but everyone –surprisingly – seems hell-bent on roasting him instead. Mr Smithers creepily introduces the Ramones who launch into a punk rock rendition of Happy Birthday, ending with an affectionate, “go to hell, you old bastard.”
Both the sarcasm and the irony are lost on Burns, who orders Smithers to "have the Rolling Stones killed."
4. The Smashing Pumpkins: 'Zero' [Season 7]
The Smashing Pumpkins deliver a bleak rendition of Zero, at Springfield’s version of ‘Lollapalooza’, but Homer doesn’t dig the grunge scene – at first.
While giving a Homer-style heartfelt monologue, he is accidentally shot in the stomach with a cannonball, takes it like a champion and is invited to join the tour as a sideshow freak. Amidst the ensuing misadventure, Homer manages to impart some wisdom on the melancholy Pumpkins, who celebrate their newfound cheer with a victory run for fur coats.
5. Cyndi Lauper: 'Star Spangled Banner' [Season 10]
It’s definitely a show of power to have a guest as big as Cyndi Lauper in the opening scene! As the credits fade, we're treated to a version of Star Spangled Banner that Lauper seamlessly transitions into Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, before skipping off in a merry flurry. Perfect.
6. The Who [Season 12]
In a Berlin wall themed episode, Homer ends up with his own private Who concert in ‘New Springfield’ thanks to a bureaucratic loophole. But the Who don’t stand for divisiveness, so they turn their amps up to “WHUH-OH” and tear down the wall with the power of noise. Respect.
7. REM: End Of The World [Season 13]
Homer tricks avid environmental warriors and all-around good guys, REM to play in his very own garage bar. They perform a rocking End Of The World to an audience of three, convinced that they’re saving the rainforest.
9. Tom Petty: Season 14
Working as a rock star counsellor at Homer’s rock and roll summer camp, Tom Petty attempts to give a meaningful lesson on lyric writing but is heckled by the guys who just want to hear some, “mindless, generic, rock.”
So, he makes up a well-received song about a drunk girl partying on the spot instead - confirming every musicians’ worst fears.
9. David Byrne: Everybody Hates Ned Flanders [Season 14]
David Byrne wanders into Moe’s Tavern when he hears Homer singing a song he wrote about despising Ned Flanders.
Announcing that he is researching, “Indigenous folk music of Springfield,” Byrne expresses his interest in Homer’s “delightfully cruel little hate song,” and decides to record it with him, transforming the spiteful ditty into an art-house show tune that becomes a worldwide smash.
Listen to David Byrne on Spotify:
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