Like the Winchesters, rock ‘n’ roll never dies on Supernatural. The titans of ’70s FM radio are the fuel — or grace, if we’re staying on brand — of the long-running CW series. Kansas, Skynyrd, Seger, and countless classic rock superstars have all scored Sam and Dean’s adventures for 15 seasons. Hell, their songs are often even the names of the episodes.
No, classic rock is a part of the show’s DNA, and that DNA largely belongs to series creator Eric Kripke. As he explained way, way back in 2007, “All of my friends call me ‘Old Man Kripke’ because I don’t listen to a band past 1980. That’s why Dean’s music always wins out because I hate so much modern music that I can’t bear to listen to it in the editing room.”
In other words, driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole, right? That’s been the show’s MO, even long after Kripke exited stage left at the end of Season 5 — and hey, no complaints. As we’ve come to learn over the last 15 years, the Winchesters’ adventures are the most fun and affecting when the windows are down and the volume’s up.
With that in mind, we decided to revisit the show’s riotous musical past as the brothers rev up for their final stretch this Thursday, October 8th. It wasn’t easy poring through 15 seasons — it required lots and lots of scrolling and debating — but we did it. Rest assured, there will be fist pumps, there will be head nods, and there will be tears.
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Read ahead to rock and roll…
15. Spinal Tap – “Stonehenge”
Featured in: Season 2 | Episode 5: “Simon Said”
The Drop: If you had any doubts about the people running Supernatural, “Simon Said” certainly assuaged those fears. The fact that Kripke and his team placed Spinal Tap in the series was already worth a gold star. But the fact that they eschewed the more obvious hits from Rob Reiner’s 1984 mockumentary and went with “Stonehenge” speaks to a true fan.
The song’s perfectly placed, too. Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padalecki) are investigating a series of murders across Guthrie, Oklahoma involving a man with mind-control capabilities. The suspect in question is Andy Gallagher (Gabriel Tigerman), whose mother was killed in the same manner as their own—in other words, dying in a nursery fire.
When they discover Andy’s van, which is emblazoned with a psychedelic painting of a barbarian queen riding a polar bear, Dean jokes that he’s starting to like the guy. Sam, meanwhile, is more concerned, namely because his own psychic capabilities spell a similar future — a future that could be, to borrow from Nigel Tufnel, none more black.
Turn It Up, Sam: “And you my love, won’t you take my hand?/ We’ll go back in time to that mystic land”
14. Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Simple Man”
Featured in: Season 5 | Episode 3: “Free to Be You and Me”
The Drop: Given that Kripke only had a five-year plan for Supernatural, it’s not surprising how epic every other episode feels in Season 5. By “Free to Be You and Me”, a shy three chapters into the would-be final season, things reach a boiling point for the Winchesters: Dean can’t trust Sam on account of all his demon blood swilling, which gives Sam the noble, if not misguided, idea that if he quits hunting, it’ll all magically go away.
Narrator: “It doesn’t.”
Nevertheless, Lynyrd Skynyrd soundtracks the two new lives for the Winchester brothers. Although it’s not a somber song lyrically, “Simple Man” proves to be the perfect score for their split. Whether it’s Dean slicing up a vampire or Sam slicing up lemons, the editing in the montage shuffles perfectly in lock-step with the song. And because Supernatural has always been a blue-collar, folksy type of show, the Southern rock stylings feel right at home. –Nathan Smith
Turn It Up, Sam: “Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast/ Troubles will come and they will pass/ You’ll find a woman and you’ll find love/ And don’t forget, son, there is someone up above”
13. Alice in Chains – “Rooster”
Featured in: Season 2 | Episode 19: “Folsom Prison Blues”
The Drop: In the earlier seasons of Supernatural, the Winchesters always found themselves on the wrong side of the law. What started with the shapeshifter case in Season 1’s “Skin” eventually heated up here with Season 2’s “Folsom Prison Blues”. In this chapter, the boys get locked up on account of their nemesis and future ally Victor Henriksen (Charles Malik Whitfield).
But, not without reason: The Winchesters’ incarceration proves to be intentional — after all, how else would they catch the gh-gh-ghost inside — and while they naturally break out, they also find themselves on the run and in worser trouble than before. So, it’s perhaps fitting that Alice in Chains’ “Rooster” closes the episode out and brings it all home.
Jerry Cantrell’s haunting tune about his father in Vietnam is perfectly aligned with the Winchesters’ own plight. As we’ve learned two seasons in, the traveling brothers are in their own secret war, one that seemingly never ends and one that affords them little to no rest. It’s a war that, in all likelihood, may similarly lead to a violent death — even 15 years later. –Nathan Smith
Turn It Up, Sam: “Ain’t found a way to kill me yet/ Eyes burn with stinging sweat/ Seems every path leads me to nowhere”
12. Supertramp – “Goodbye Stranger”
Featured in: Season 8 | Episode 17: “Goodbye Stranger”
The Drop: Proving that Michael Scott isn’t the only one who can rock a Supertramp needle drop, “Goodbye Stranger” proves that the classic 1978 hit can be both uplifting and poignant. Having heard Dean’s prayer for help, Castiel (Misha Collins) returns in a blaze of glory, saving both of the Winchester brothers from demons in the nick of time.
After being pulled from Purgatory, Castiel has been brainwashed and manipulated by superior angel, Naomi (Amanda Tapping), who trains him to kill Dean in an attempt to bring her the angel tablet. However, Dean is able to break through Naomi’s manipulation, and Castiel finally rejects her control, disappearing on his own as he’s wont to do.
As the song begins, the final moments of the episode checks in with each of the characters as they react to his disappearance, then finally with the angel himself as he rides a bus to parts unknown. He’s alone, sure, but at last in control of his own path. He’s also not the only character we’re waving goodbye to as this sees the exit of longtime frenemy, Meg Masters (Rachel Miner). –Jenn Adams
Turn It Up, Sam: “Goodbye stranger. It’s been nice/ Hope you find your paradise”
11. Bad Company – “Bad Company”
Featured in: Season 1 | Episode 11: “Scarecrow”
The Drop: The debut season of Supernatural focused largely on a Case of the Week structure, dipping its toes into the overarching mythology ever so sparingly. But “Scarecrow” added a new important wrinkle to the show’s burgeoning folklore by providing a recurring antagonist for the boys. In this episode, Sam and Dean fight over their father’s orders and they split up.
Dean travels deep into the sticks, only to discover that the residents of a small Indiana town are sacrificing people to a Pagan god in the form of a monstrous scarecrow. Meanwhile, Sam heads out to California, and along the way, he meets up with a pretty, young blonde named Meg Masters (Nicki Aycox) — a fan favorite of the series, particularly when recast with Miner.
Bad Company’s titular 1974 hit arrives right as Meg kills a hitchhiker and uses his blood to communicate with a malevolent being. Given the attitude of the FM hit and the closing story beat at hand — one that tells the audience this isn’t over yet — this drop and moment was when Supernatural earned its spot as the new heir to The X-Files. –Nathan Smith
Turn it Up, Sam: “Rebel souls/ Deserters we are called/ Chose a gun/ And threw away the sun/ Now these towns/ They all know our name”