Thirty years ago this month, America’s favorite animated family made their debut as part of The Tracey Ullman Show. To celebrate, CoS has been broadcasting live from Springfield all week with a slew of Simpsons features. Today, the shenanigans come to an end with an oldie but a goodie: a round-up of 10 musicians who have yet to appear on the show, complete with episode ideas. Be forewarned, this feature originally ran back in 2013, which is why you’ll see one Starman in the pages ahead. Still, there’s reason to believe The Thin White Duke could still visit Springfield with a little magic.
I require a momentary pause before answering the question “How old are you?” And yet, flip on a rerun of The Simpsons and I can quote, line for line, every character interaction over a 22 minute episode — 44 minutes if you count “Who Shot Mr. Burns: Part 1” and “Part 2”. To some, this compromise of essential memory in place of useless dialogue recollection is a cruel joke. But for a guy who makes his living discussing pop culture and music, it’s a worthy sacrifice.
Like brain synapses dulled over time, The Simpsons is not as sharp as it once was. Seasons three through eight are still a fabled goldmine of pre-internet parody and witty subversion. The Springfield residents had not yet become parodies of themselves and the guests performers — especially the musical ones — did not feel shoehorned. Over the last 15 – perhaps due to the success of Family Guy and the fleeting window of viral fame — far too many acts pop in to advance a single throw away joke rather than weave their presence cleverly throughout the story-arc. What was once crucial to the outcome — see Michael Jackson’s engaging, uncredited role as a mental patient in “Stark Raving Dad” – has now devolved into Katy Perry inexplicably dropping by to sing cheeky Christmas Carols.
But, crotchety cynicism aside, the staff at CoS would be remiss if we didn’t extend our own salute to one of the funniest shows to ever grace the small screen, especially now during music festival season. Thus, in honor of Lollapalooza, Homerpalooza, and The Us Festival, we present our own wish list of musical acts who have yet to appear on The Simpsons. Are we being sarcastic dudes? I don’t even know anymore.
Artwork by Steven Fiche.
Win Butler and Mr. Burns each attend an alumni mixer at the Phillips Exeter Academy held in honor of fellow alumnus and Cider House Rules author John Irving. Mr. Burns, impatient as Smithers fetches the Rolls Royce, strikes up a conversation with Butler by the punchbowl after the singer’s haircut reminds him of a Hitler Youth group he once sponsored in 1930’s Germany. The reclusive billionaire continues his comedy of errors and misinterprets the term “Arcade Fire” as an ingenious plot to help business owners remove technological distractions from their lazy workers via the torching of penny arcades, which Burns believes to be the the day’s most popular form of entertainment.
Burns proceeds to fund Arcade Fire on what he thinks will be a whirlwind, arson fueled cleanse across Springfield. Instead, the group performs sold out shows and stages their last gig atop the town’s mega-store shopping mall, which both opened and closed within the course of the episode. The band plays “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” while Burns, displeased with this turn of events, orders Irving and Smithers to burn down the mall. The flames climb up the building, but Arcade Fire continue to play on, providing the soundtrack to their own funeral.
Homer’s Thoughts: With the exception of the Smashing Pumpkins, Homer has given up on all popular music released after 1978. He reluctantly attends the final performance at the mega-mall, but ends up giddy as a schoolgirl at the site of Flander’s store, The Leftorium, turning to ash.
It’s Halloween and the kids of Springfield Elementary have a bet to see who can create the scariest haunted house. Inspired by Paranormal Activity, Milhouse films his guests standing in his bedroom, insisting some “spooky stuff” will show up when they watch it the next day. Nelson, taking a cue from the Saw franchise, has invited people to watch Martin puke up his own homework, which Nelson forced him to eat and will subsequently copy. At a local venue, a GWAR concert results in Lenny and Carl getting fed to the band’s signature worm.
Bart, enraptured, invites the band to his place, knowing that their live performance will surely win him the bet. But when GWAR arrives, uncostumed and holding acoustic guitars, Bart knows he’s made a mistake. Oderus Urungus wants to play new material “evoking the early work of Engelbert Humperdinck”. Flanders, quite taken with the melodies, stands as a stark contrast to Bart’s schoolmates, who find it more horrifying than any GWAR concert could ever be.
Homer’s Thoughts: Homer sees GWAR’s worm as a ray of hope, but is disappointed when he realizes it won’t really serve as a replacement for the garbage disposal he broke by trying to create “homemade loose meat.”
Like a man fallen to Earth, David Bowie arrives in Springfield and surprises everyone. His motive is just as shocking: Eleanor Abernathy aka The Cat Lady. As the episode progresses, Groundskeeper Willie is let go from school after numerous anti-Bowie outbursts (Principal Skinner, a life-long “Ziggy-head”, is not amused by the rebellious janitor). Bowie’s presence encourages Lisa to bust out her Tin Machine vinyls, while Homer, confussed, puts on his Monkees mini-discs. The episode concludes with the discovery that Bowie’s birth name is not really Davey Jones, but Davey McJones, ending Willie’s prejudice and Homer’s bewilderment. In a twist, Eleanor leaves with Bowie as she is (he fell in love with her after she became “The Cat Lady”). As soon as his plane leaves, his supermodel wife Iman arrives, looking for her husband. She is last seen at Moe’s ordering a single plum floating in perfume served in a man’s hat.
Homer’s Thoughts: Wants to discuss what it’s like to be a man who fell to Earth, but instead gets distracted by a dog with a puffy tail.
When Electric Daisy Carnival announces a Springfield installment, the town splits into two separate factions: those for it and those against it. It all starts with a mysterious poster planted outside the Kwik-E-Mart, which is discovered by Bart and Milhouse. Soon enough, the posters continue to pop up all over Springfield — even on the revered Jebediah Springfield statue — and speculation runs rampant. When Reverend Lovejoy finds a poster under his windshield wiper, he receives a premonition that night of a burned down Springfield, which he shares to his congregation the next morning. Chaos ensues.
In response to Lovejoy’s havoc, Mayor Quimby calls for a Town Hall meeting, which is visited by Moby in a scene similar to The Day the Earth Stood Still. The friendly, peaceful vegan announces that he was brought to town by EDC in an effort to win them supporters. Nobody believes him — Moe calls him “a little idiot” — and he silently leaves the room. Lisa follows him to his bicycle, the two bond over their shared IQ of 159, and she agrees to help him bring the festival to town. They form a flash mob dance outside the church, winning over Helen Lovejoy, who thinks “Porcelain” is a sign of positivity.
Lovejoy isn’t happy with his wife’s decision, but agrees that “a little Satanism never hurt anyone.” The episode ends with Homer, Moe, Barney, and the barflies carrying on their usual routine whilst being surrounded by Spring Breakers who party recklessly around the bar. Barney adds, “Spring break, huh?” Homer responds, staring at a large donut balloon, “Mmm, Spring break foreverrrrrr.”
Homer’s Thoughts: Homer enjoys Moby’s remix of “Mr. Plow” — decides to revisit company.
After the success of the Planet of the Apes musical, Springfield decides to mount a sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Axl Rose is brought in to portray the lead, while Sideshow Bob lands the role of understudy (he beats out Buckethead) through an early release community service program. Rev. Lovejoy and Ned Flanders bemoan the show as the devil’s work while Marge and Lisa defend it, despite Marge’s dislike of Axl’s “messy” lifestyle. Bob’s good behavior during rehearsals is a ruse, of course. He replaces the musical’s prop bomb with a real one and times it to explode during the show’s climactic final scene.
Fortunately, Nelson’s rude laughter during the second act infuriates Axl, who quits mid-show. The production comes to an abrupt end after its lead departs, the bomb never goes off, and Bob is unaware of his failure as he bolts at intermission. Axl promises to return with an even better show, but Springfield is still waiting. *Note: Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy provides the voice of “Axl Rose”.
Cecil Terwilliger Moment: Waits backstage during the play to score an autograph for his vinyl copy of Chinese Democracy. He riots after no one shows up.
Panda Bear and Brian Wilson
Mayor Quimby orders the elementary school children to send letters to China requesting a loaner panda bear for the Springfield Zoo as a sign of goodwill after Krusty the Clown’s off-color sketch “Ching Chong Fortune Cookie Chinaman” offends the Asian nation. Lisa opposes the idea of animal exploitation. She writes her own letter requesting help from friend and fellow animal lover Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear. Lennox, in turn, reaches out to his idol Brian Wilson to fly into town to preach that animals are meant to be free.
Lisa, armed with her trusty sax, mounts the steps of city hall and freestyles behind Lennox’s looping vocals and Wilson’s pocket symphony. A mob of outraged citizens soon embrace the groovy message. Quimby, wishing to end the spectacle, orders the fire department to hose down the performance. Wilson’s fear of water causes him to flee to the neighboring zoo where, in his panicked state, he accidentally frees all the animals, who run amok. The Mayor hires the surviving Beach Boys – led by cruel frontman Mike Love – to round up both the animals and Wilson, who is found hiding in Maggie’s sandbox.
Homer’s Thoughts: Homer stuns Brian Wilson after proving he has gone even longer without a shower.
The Flaming Lips
Springfield Elementary hires a new shop teacher named Professor Yoshimi (Wayne Coyne), who brings an assortment of weird to the school halls. Within days, the students are crafting all sorts of creative masterpieces, all with odd sexual undertones. Yoshimi takes a liking to Bart, calling him a “rebellious genius” who’s been ignored too long. The two share a powerful bond and decide to work on a bigger project together, which draws suspicion from Seymour Skinner, and in a scene reminiscent of Back to the Future, he warns Bart: “This so-called Dr. Yoshimi is dangerous. He’s a real nutcase. You hang around with him, you’re gonna end up in big trouble.”
Meanwhile, Moe becomes obsessed with genealogy and discovers he has a long lost brother, who was sent away to Oklahoma when they were children. He confronts Yoshimi about this, but the erratic professor contends he’s never heard of him before. Worried about his secret identity, Yoshimi urges Bart to keep working on their project, and the two decide to “test it out” in the Town Square. The night beforehand, Bart confronts the professor, asking him about the device and starts drawing his own suspicions. These hesitations are short-lived, when he finds a note in the professor’s pocket addressed to Bart, which tells him about his future.
What both of them don’t know, however, is that Skinner’s been following them on their plan all along and holds the mysterious plug to the equally mysterious device. With Yoshimi behind the wheel and Bart at the controls, there’s no one to stop Skinner — that is, until Moe tackles him and saves the day. Before Yoshimi blasts off into space, he smiles at Moe, confirming his family lineage. When Skinner comes to, he wonders what Moe’s doing there, adding: “Is this still about the unpaid zoning permits from our Be Sharp reunion?” The story ends when Bart finds a package on his bed, a silver rocket toy, and a note that reads: “Race for the prize.”
Homer’s Thoughts: Homer shares his psychedelic experiences during a parent-teacher conference, which involves LSD-laced donuts.
GG Allin, at once the most hated and worshipped punk rocker in history, is arrested by Chief Wiggum for hurling feces at the Jebediah Springfield statute in the center of town. Allin’s cellmates include jailbird Snake and neighborhood bully Nelson, who are also locked up for their own crimes against decency. The recalcitrant trio bond over stories of prison camaraderie. Nelson describes the time he once shared a cell block with elusive criminal and noted graffiti artist El Barto, while Snake brags about escaping in 1994 by following the tunnel dug by Springfield’s most famed cat burglar, Molloy (voiced by Sam Neil).
Allin, without even meaning to one up his newfound brethren, recants his friendly experiences with notorious serial killer and twisted sex freak John Wayne Gacy. Snake and Nelson, aghast by the madman before them, smile politely as sweat beads on their temples. Wiggum appears outside the bars and reveals that he accidentally dropped an ice cream sundae on Allin’s booking sheet – “Nothing gets chocolate out” – meaning the singer is free to return to society. Allin is escorted out, while young rapper Chief Keef is booked for posting a nude instagram photo of himself ramping over Springfield Gorge with a car stolen from Hans Moleman.
Selma Bouvier-Terwilliger-Hutz-McClure-Stu-Simpson-D’Amico’s Thoughts: Selma’s love for bad boys spurns intense desires for GG Allin. The fact that a childhood bottle rocket accident ruined her senses of taste and smell enhances the attraction.
Smithers hires a PR agent (Jeremy Piven) for Mr. Burns when he discovers the old man is unhappy with his image. The agent suggests he start an electronics distributor called Nucleus, which will sell the sharpest, most efficient smart phones imaginable. The first store’s launch renovates the long-defunct Try-N-Save and opens with a wide launch, featuring a full concert by Weezer. It’s a short cameo, but long enough to include a visual gag of Dolph holding a sign that reads, “FULL PERFORMANCE OF MAKE BELIEVE, OR BUST!”
Following the launch, every citizen starts using the phone, sharing photos, videos, and songs to hilarious results (e.g. Chief Wiggum yells at Lou for using Instagram on a dead body). Marge gets suspicious, especially when she hears voices on the other end, and decides to take the phone to Smithers after customer service isn’t any help. The two soon discover the new PR agent is actually part of the IRS, and he’s been auditing Smithers the whole time.
In another twist, Burns reveals it was his plan all along, a ploy to help his friend learn a lesson. Smithers nervously laughs as Burns loosely promises to bail him out. The episode ends with a story by Kent Brockman, and we pan out to see it’s from a television inside a store window. Milhouse rolls by on his bicycle, finds a discarded smart phone, and plays around with it. He screams out, “Free Weezer! The spotlight’s on Milhouse this hour.” The credits roll to “No One Else”.
Homer’s Thoughts: Homer watches their performance at Nucleus, shrugs and adds: “They were better at Hullabalooza IV.”