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.”