Outside of Saturday Night Live, no other current TV show can boast as many impressive musical guests as The Simpsons.
And The Simpsons has the edge because its many musical appearances are actually meant to be funny.
Scores of rock icons—including three Beatles, two Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica—have appeared on the show as eight-fingered, yellow-tinted versions of themselves, and often in bizarre situations: the Ramones performing for Mr. Burns' birthday party (Who the hell booked that gig?) ... former Beatle George Harrison pointing Homer toward a platter full of brownies ... Ted Nugent running for president ... Aerosmith agreeing to perform at Moe's Tavern when free pickled eggs are offered. Even the Moody Blues have been on the show!
And so, in honor of the show's 25 seasons and 500-plus episodes, here are 10 of our favorite rock-star cameo appearances on The Simpsons.
We apologize for the poor quality of some of the videos below; we think they're good enough to get the point across.
10. The Ramones
"Rosebud," Episode 85
New York City's original punk rockers perform at a special event in honor of Mr. Burns' umpteenth birthday. They start the set by screaming "I'd just like to say this gig sucks!" and end it with a warm and tender "Happy birthday, ya old bastard!"
09. The White Stripes
"Jazzy and the Pussycats," Episode 380
In an episode called "Jazzy & The Pussycats," Bart is moved—literally—by the beat of the White Stripes' "The Hardest Button to Button" from the Elephant album.
When Bart and his drum kit ram into Jack and Meg White on a Springfield street corner, we expect the garage-rocking duo to be kind, friendly and forgiving toward the well-intentioned, pointy-haired youngster.
Instead, Meg screams, "Let's kick his ass!"
08. The Who
"A Tale of Two Springfields," Episode 250
Alas, there is no available video from this often-shown-as-a-rerun-around-7 p.m. episode.
It features the Who—Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and a rarely seen (and never heard) drummer who looks like a young Keith Moon. Come to think of it, they all look like the mid-Seventies versions of themselves in this episode from 2000.
The episode, "A Tale of Two Springfields," finds Homer trying to sabotage a Who concert in Olde Springfield. It features most of "Won't Get Fooled Again"; in fact, an A chord from the song destroys the wall between the two Springfields.
07. Spinal Tap
"The Otto Show," Episode 57
From a third-season episode called “The Otto Show." After Otto kills Spinal Tap in a bus crash, we find out he doesn't even have a driver's license. He winds up losing his beloved job and reevaluating his life.
How does Spinal Tap fit in? Well, they don't, really—except that, before Otto kills them, they perform in Springfield, mispronouncing the town's name during the show and watching their gigantic Satan balloon deflate.
“We salute you, our half-inflated Dark Lord,” chant the Tap, trying to make it look intentional.
The role of Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls is, of course, played by Simpsons regular Harry Shearer, who voices Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Waylon Smithers and a million other people, regulars and transients alike.
If you really need to see some poor-quality video from this episode, you can do that right here.
"Homer the Moe," Episode 272
After Moe's Tavern is turned into a swanky, upscale nightclub by the Formico, the self-proclaimed "Dean of Design," Homer turns his basement into a bar with the help of Lenny, Carl and Barney.
When Moe finally ventures over to see what all the fuss is about, he finds R.E.M. playing in Homer's basement.
The highlight of the episode is Homer trying and failing to sing along to "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)":
- "Leonardo What's-His-Name, Herman Munster, motorcade /
- birthday parties, Cheetos, pogo sticks and lemonade /
- You symbiotic, stupid jerk /
- That's right, Flanders, I am talking about you."
05. Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr
"Lisa the Vegetarian," Episode 133 (McCartney)
"Homer's Barbershop Quartet," Episode 82 (Harrison)
"Brush with Greatness," Episode 31
We're going to cheat and count separate appearances by three Beatles as one entry.
First there's Paul McCartney (and his wife Linda), who, of course, met Apu in India when The Beatles were hanging out with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in '68. "I read about you in history class," Lisa tells him. Then Lisa, Paul and Linda bond over the decision to go vegetarian.
Then there's George Harrison. Homer is ecstatic to meet the former Beatle—but only because George is holding a brownie and is able to tell Homer where he can find many more brownies. This also happens to be the episode about The B-Sharps, Homer's vocal group, which features a parody of the Beatles' 1969 rooftop performance from Let It Be.
And then there's Ringo Starr, the first Beatle to appear on The Simpsons. Unfortunately, there is no video available of his appearance. It turns out he's catching up on responding to his Beatles-era fan mail, including a portrait sent to him in 1966 by a young Marge. "We have French fries in England," Ringo writes to Marge. "But we call them chips." He goes on to tell her that her portrait of him is "gear."
"The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer," Episode 379
When Springfield's hapless bus driver happened upon his favorite band's broken-down tour bus, all he wanted to do was help out and give them a ride to their show. But when he gets out to lend a hand, Bart takes advantage of the driverless school bus, stealing it while yelling, "Look at me, I'm Otto! I'm a hundred years old and I'm driving a school bus!"
If that wasn't embarrassing enough, the band get a ride from a "real" fan, the elderly Hans Moleman, who we find out slept with Lars' grandmother. Bassist Robert Trujillo tells Otto, "Never listen to our music again!" before the band drive away in Hans' pickup truck playing "Master of Puppets."
03. Cypress Hill, Peter Frampton, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth
"Homerpalooza," Episode 152
After the kids' school bus is destroyed, Homer is stuck driving Bart, Lisa and their friends to school in the morning. When Grand Funk Railroad's "Shinin' On" comes on the radio and the kids react in disgust, Homer takes it upon himself to take his children to Hullabalooza, Springfield's answer to Lollapalooza.
Hoping to convince Bart and Lisa that he's hip, Homer gets mistaken for an undercover cop when trying to hang out with a group of Generation Xers and is tossed out of the show.
Like any frustrated person would do, Homer takes his anger out on a nearby cannon, which in turn destroys one of Peter Frampton's inflatable pigs. The stunt lands him a spot taking cannon shots to the gut as as part of the festival's freak show, and Homer goes on tour with a group of guest stars that include the Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth and Cypress Hill.
Flaming Moe's," Episode 45
"Hello, St. Louis!" screams Steven Tyler to the Springfield audience. "Are you ready to rock?"
The Moe's Tavern crowd is indeed ready to rock, and the band kicks into "Walk This Way" (as Joe Perry plays what looks like a five-string guitar, perhaps to go with the four fingers on his fretting hand).
Due to the success of a hot new drink invented by Homer (and allegedly stolen by Moe), Moe's Tavern has become such a happening place that the guys from Aerosmith are regulars.
Should the drink be called the Flaming Moe or the Flaming Homer? That battle is still raging.
01. Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Brian Setzer, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty and Lenny Kravitz
"How I Spent My Strummer Vacation," Episode 293
In a 2002 episode called "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation,” Homer—and several other Springfield regulars including Chief Wiggum, Otto and Apu—attend a rock 'n' roll fantasy camp hosted by the heart and soul of The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (who plays the opening riff to "Start Me Up" on a Telecaster that's not plugged in).
When the one-week-long camp is over, Homer—understandably—doesn't want to leave. So Jagger offers him a chance to perform at a benefit gig, the Concert for Planet Hollywood.
Among the camp instructors are Brian Setzer, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty and Lenny Kravitz, who deliver some great lessons and one-liners and add to the already-impressive star power of this episode.
Classic: Keith Richards announcing that he has to put up the storm windows. "Winter's coming," he adds.