Long may the televised exploits of Homer, Bart, Marge and co continue…
Paul McCartney and his late wife Linda made an appearance in the show’s heyday to reveal to Lisa a Beatles secret – “If you play ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ backwards, you’ll hear a recipe for a really ripping lentil soup.” The whole episode, ‘Lisa The Vegetarian’, is a classic, as Lisa wrestles with being vegetarian amongst a family of pork chop devourers.
Homer gets to live out his fantasies in ‘How I Spent My Strummer Vacation’ (November 2002) when he attends a rock’n’roll fantasy camp run by the Rolling Stones. Homer is asked to join the Stones on tour, and assumes he will perform – but is disappointed to learn that he will be a roadie.
All the way back in 1993, in ‘Krusty Gets Kancelled’, when everyone’s favourite chain-smoking clown has his show canned, Bart and Lisa help him arrange a comeback special, featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers who sing ‘Give It Away’ in their underwear – albeit it with lyrics coyly rewritten for a family audience.
In the episode entitled ‘Rosebud’ (October 1993), Mr Burns receives a very special birthday present: a rendition of Happy Birthday, sung by none other than the Ramones. Big fans of the show, Marky Ramone has said that their appearance was “a career highlight.”
The White Stripes appeared on the show in September 2006 in ‘Jazzy And The Pussycats’, where they performed a parody of their video ‘The Hardest Button To Button’ with Bart. After Bart’s drumkit crashes into theirs, Meg White threatens to “kick his ass” – but the band to fall off a bridge into a landfill before she has a chance.
In ‘Homer The Moe’, an episode from November 2001, Moe upgrades his bar, resulting in Homer opening a rival bar in his garage. He scores a live performance by REM after tricking them into thinking it is a benefit to save the rainforest. Homer also sings a parody of ‘It’s The End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’.
Appearing alongside The Smashing Pumpkins and Cypress Hill in the May 1996 episode ‘Homerpalooza’, Sonic Youth play their own version of The Simpsons theme song over the closing credits of the show: it’s apparently creator Matt Groening’s favourite interpretation of the tune.
You might remember from that same episode Cypress Hill performing ‘Insane In The Brain’, only this time with the London Symphony Orchestra, which they had accidentally ordered while high. Classic.
Bus driver Otto is a huge Metallica fan. In ‘The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer’ (September 2006), he picks them up from the side of the road. After Bart steals the bus (leaving Otto behind), Metallica drive off, playing ‘Master Of Puppets’ and telling Otto: “Never listen to our music again!”
Lady Gaga dropped by Springfield in 2013, debuting a snippet of new music. “It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” she enthused afterwards but viewers weren’t quite as happy about the cameo: it was ranked the show’s worst ever episode in a recent poll.
The Decemberists appeared in a 2013 episode of The Simpsons, titled ‘The Day The Earth Stood Cool’. As if that wasn’t enough indie star power, Wild Flag and Sleater-Kinney hero Carrie Brownstein, writer of TV’s Portlandia, played Homer’s new neighbour in the episode. The guy in the Daft Punk outfit in the same episode though? That’s just Disco Stu…
Now here’s an episode that truly went up to 11: in April 1992, Spinal Tap appeared in ‘The Otto Show’. In the episode, Bart and Milhouse attend a Tap gig which quickly descends into chaos. It doesn’t end well for the metallers with “armadillos in their trousers” – their tour bus falls off a cliff. All together now: “we salute you, our half-inflated dark lord!”
In ‘The Mansion Family’ (January 2000), Britney Spears and local Springfield news anchor Kent Brockman host the annual Springfield Pride Awards. After Spears presents Cornelius Chapman with the Oldest Man Award, he dies (momentarily) of a heart attack when she kisses him on the cheek. Oops.
The 250th episode of The Simpsons, ‘A Tale Of Two Springfields’, featured a cameo from The Who. The Simpson-ized version of the band includes drummer Keith Moon (who died in 1978). There are several other references to the band throughout the episode, including an homage to the back cover of the band’s ‘Meaty, Beaty, Big And Bouncy’ album.
In the February 2005 episode ‘Pranksta Rap’, Bart meets 50 Cent after sneaking off to a rap show. In light of the rapper’s past legal troubles, he is featured doing community service and cleaning up dog droppings, but finds time to advise Bart to “stay in school and keep rapping. You’ll blow up one day.”
In a January 2010 episode, Homer won a million dollars in the lottery and hired Coldplay to play a private performance for him and Bart. The band at one point put the show on hold while Bart nips to the loo. So obliging, that Chris Martin fella, eh?
When Springfield finally made it to the silver screen in 2007’s ‘The Simpsons Movie’, Green Day were one of the first in line to guest-voice. They are killed early on, when the polluted Lake Springfield corrodes the stage during their performance – but at least they got to record a version of the theme song, which was also released as a single.
After contacting the show to request a cameo, U2 visited Springfield in 1998 for ‘Trash Of The Titans’, the show’s 200th episode. The episode stirred up mild controversy in 2008, though, after the word “wanker” accidentally slipped past UK censors. Apparently you can only say it on TV after 9pm.