The Simpsons Rock! The Best Rock & Roll Moments From "The Simpsons"
The Simpsons Rock!!
The Simpsons is now the longest running prime time program in television history. Nothing needs to be said about its amazing longevity and influence - it's legendary. One of the greatest things about the show is the massive numbers of guest stars who have appeared during the course of the show's run. You literally never know who will pop up in a Simpsons episode—film and TV stars, athletes, politicians, and rock 'n' rollers alike have all volunteered their services to the pop culture phenomenon over the years. As a dyed in the wool Simpsons geek (I've been watching the show since its inception in 1989) as well as a rock n roll junkie (30+ years and counting), I always get the biggest laugh when a musician stops by to visit Springfield's favorite dysfunctional family. Anyone who's watched The Simpsons for a while knows that Homer and company have crossed paths with an impressive roster of rock's royalty during their many years on the air, and here I present a list -- which, naturally, goes to eleven!! - of what I feel are the greatest rock 'n' roll moments in Simpsons history.
#11 - Judas Priest Preaches Copyright Law
In "Steal this Episode," Homer learns how to illegally download newly-released movies from the internet, and soon he's being pursued by the FBI for violating copyright laws. When the Simpsons seek asylum in the local Swedish embassy, the agent in charge of Homer's case says "there's only one sure-fire way to get fugitives out of a foreign building ... blasting Death Metal!" A flatbed truck then drives up with heavy metal legends Judas Priest on the back, who perform a parody of their classic track "Breaking the Law" with the lyrics changed to "Respecting the law, copyright law!" Homer's Swedish host begins throwing the horns and banging his head, explaining to the Simpsons, "Swedes love death metal! It reminds us of death!"
Judas Priest fans were so annoyed that the band was erroneously classified as "death metal" that the show responded with a disclaimer of sorts the following week, when Bart kicked off the episode by writing "Judas Priest is not Death Metal" as the opening "chalkboard gag."
#10 - Otto meets Metallica
The masters of Thrash Metal made a brief stop in Springfield in the 2006 episode "The Mook, the Chef, the Wife, and Her Homer," when school-bus driver Otto discovers Metallica's tour bus broken down by the side of the road. He offers the band a lift but is told by vocalist James Hetfield that "We don't accept rides from strangers." Bart then drives off with Otto's school bus, and the Metallica men accept a ride in the back of Hans Moleman's pickup truck, proclaiming Hans to be "a real fan." Hans reveals that he "used to sleep with Lars' grandmother," and the band ride off into the distance blasting their classic "Master of Puppets," leaving an embarrassed Otto stranded on the side of the road.
#9 - Green Day's Concert at Lake Springfield
In the opening sequence of "The Simpsons Movie," pop-punkers Green Day are performing a Duff Beer-sponsored concert aboard a floating barge on Lake Springfield. The townspeople are pleased with the band's show until Billie Joe Armstrong stops the music and asks if they could have a brief moment to "talk about the environment," which results in an angry barrage of rocks and garbage from the crowd. As the band tries to avoid the flying debris, the pollution in the lake eats away at the band's floating stage till it tips vertically and begins to sink. In an obvious nod to "Titanic," the boys pull out violins ("Gentlemen, it's been an honor to play with you tonight ") and play sad music till they - and the barge - disappear beneath the waves. Later, at a memorial service at the First Church of Springfield, Rev. Lovejoy eulogizes Green Day as "The latest rock band to die in our town," while the organist plays a "Funeral Version" of their hit " American Idiot."
#8 - Red Hot Chili Peppers on Krusty's Comeback Special
In "Krusty Gets Kancelled," Krusty the Clown's long running kids' show gets the axe in favor of a newer, hipper show featuring ventriloquist Arthur Crandall and his dummy, Gabbo, whose catch phrase "I'm a baaaaaad widdle boy!" becomes an overnight sensation. Bart and Lisa vow to help relaunch Krusty's career and organize a comeback TV special loaded with guest appearances by Krusty's famous friends, including Johnny Carson, Hugh Hefner, Bette Midler, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In a parody of an event that actually happened to the Doors backstage on "The Ed Sullivan Show," Krusty suggests that the RHCP's change the lyrics to their song "Give It Away" to make it more family friendly. The band resists the idea at first ("No way, man! Our lyrics are our children!"), till they hear Krusty's suggested replacement lyrics ("What you got, you know it makes me wanna hug and kiss you."), and reconsider, saying, "Hey, that's much better." "Yeah, everyone can enjoy that."
#7: U2 Visits Springfield
In "Trash of the Titans," Homer's campaign to become Springfield's Sanitation Commissioner gets a boost from the members of U2. Homer announces his candidacy for the position by crashing the stage at the Springfield stop of the band's POPmart Tour. Being an environmentally aware bunch, the Irish rockers throw their considerable influence behind Homer's efforts and they even lend a hand to the episode's big musical number, "The Garbage Man Can." ("They mop up when you're overflowing... and tell you when your arse is showing!")
#6: The Who Reunifies Springfield
In "A Tale of Two Springfields," the town is split into two halves ("Olde Springfield" and "New Springfield") following a feud sparked by local telephone area-code changes. The rich folks occupy Olde Springfield, whilst Homer and family remain in the poorer New Springfield section. The two halves are separated by a huge Berlin Wall of garbage that runs through the center of town. When Olde Springfield invites legendary rockers The Who to play a concert on "their" side of the wall, Homer hijacks the band and convinces them to perform in New Springfield instead. The Who's high-volume sonic attack soon destroys the barrier keeping the townspeople apart, reuniting Springfield with the power of rock and roll!
#5 - Hullabalooza
In "Homerpalooza," Homer stumbles into a job with the freak show that travels with the "Hullabalooza" alternative-rock festival. His "act" consists of getting cannonballs shot into his stomach every night, much to the delight of the Generation X audience members. (Kid #1: "Oh, the cannonball guy. He's cool." Kid #2: "Are you being sarcastic?" Kid #1: "(pause) ...I don't even know anymore!") While on the road, he rubs elbows with '90s rock royalty like the Smashing Pumpkins, Cypress Hill, and Sonic Youth (who also provide a typically atonal, droning version of the show's theme song over the end credits), as well as '70s idol Peter Frampton. Homer loves the rock-star road life, but eventually has to leave the tour early due to physical damage caused by the cannonballs constantly smashing into his stomach. My favorite part of this episode: Homer's culture shock when he visits a record store ("Suicide Notes," formerly "Good Vibrations") for the first time in years and realizes that all of his favorite bands now reside in the "Oldies" section.
#4 - The Beatles Reunite?
..well, not quite, but in the early 90s, "The Simpsons" was quite possibly the only television program that could boast guest appearances by all three of the then-surviving Beatles - even if they did all appear in separate episodes. In "Lisa the Vegetarian," Paul McCartney (and his then-wife, Linda) stopped by to give Lisa some advice about her new dietary choices (we also learn that Paul and Linda are old friends of Apu's, whom they met during the Beatles' famous trip to India), while Ringo Starr was knocked out by a portrait of him painted by Marge in "Brush With Greatness." In "Homer's Barbershop Quartet," George Harrison had two encounters with Homer's band "The Be Sharps," first at a Grammy Awards party and then at the end, where he is unimpressed by their concert atop the roof of Moe's Tavern - "It's been done," he mutters before driving away.
#3 - Spinal Tap at the Springfield Coliseum
When fictitious rockers Spinal Tap released their "comeback" album, BREAK LIKE THE WIND, in 1992, it was a no-brainer that the band would appear on "The Simpsons" because Harry Shearer, who portrays Tap bassist Derek Smalls, is also a member of the show's voice cast. In "The Otto Show," Bart attends his first-ever heavy metal concert when Spinal Tap's tour stops in Springfield. The concert, as usual for the Tap, is plagued with errors and disasters (the band's huge Devil stage prop refuses to fully inflate, guitarist Nigel Tufnel is blinded by a laser effect, and a wind machine on stage nearly blows David St. Hubbins' wig off), causing the frustrated band members to exit the stage prematurely ("Good night, Springton...there will be no encore!") and inciting an audience riot. Later in the episode, the Spinal Tap tour bus is run off the road by Otto's Springfield Elementary school bus, goes over a cliff and explodes.
#2 - Aerosmith visits Moe's Tavern
In "Flaming Moe," Moe steals the recipe for Homer's tasty homemade alcoholic concoction and claims it as his own creation. It quickly becomes a massive hit which turns Moe's Tavern into Springfield's latest trendy night spot. Guests pack the bar night after night to sample a "Flaming Moe," including the members of Aerosmith, whom Moe coaxes to the tavern's stage to perform by promising them "free pickled eggs!" While the rest of the band jams their classic "Walk This Way" for the ecstatic crowd, we learn that Miss Krabappel has a thing for rock 'n' roll drummers, as she's got Joey Kramer cornered in the band's tour bus.
#1 - The Ramones wish Mr. Burns a Happy Birthday
I will admit to being slightly biased with this pick, as the Ramones are my favorite band, so naturally seeing them appear on my favorite TV show was a dream come true. Their cameo in the classic episode "Rosebud" lasted less than a minute, but that was more than enough for them to clinch the title of Greatest Rock N Roll Simpsons Moment in my book. When the Ramones are booked (apparently against their wills) to perform at C. Montgomery Burns' birthday celebration, the band's thirty-second rip through "Happy Birthday" (punctuated by Joey's enraged "We'd just like to say this gig SUCKS," Johnny's "Yeahhh, up yours, Springfield!" and C-Jay's "Go to hell, you old bastard!" ) ends with this classic exchange between an unimpressed Burns and a horrified Smithers:
Burns: "Have the Rolling Stones killed."
Smithers: "But sir, those aren't the..."
Burns: "DO AS I SAY!"
But wait, there's more!
Dozens of other rock 'n' rollers have appeared on "The Simpsons" over the years, and new ones turn up all the time. Obviously that means there are countless other classic episodes featuring moments that could've made it onto this list, including appearances by luminaries such as Sting, Ted Nugent, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Linda Ronstadt, the Moody Blues, and many more...but as far as this rock 'n roll Simpsons junkie is concened, these will stand as my all time favorites... unless Iron Maiden or KISS suddenly decide to make an appearance on the show. It hasn't happened yet, but hope springs eternal!
(Author's note: A special tip-of-the-hat is due to my fellow Simpsons fanatics Brian A. and Frank B. for their many helpful suggestions while I was compiling this Hub. Thanks, gents.)
© 2012 Keith Abt