As the longest-running animated television show in history, The Simpsons has been around for the rise and fall of grunge, the emergence of pop punk and countless other shifts in the music world. Throughout the past 31 years, The Simpsons has landed some of music’s most successful artists as guest stars. While the fan-proclaimed “golden years” of The Simpsons may be long gone, the show never stopped compiling hilarious cameos with some of our favorite bands.
From the visual gags to the show’s witty writing, here are the best 10 band cameos on The Simpsons.
The Smashing Pumpkins
After realizing his music taste is outdated, Homer takes Bart and Lisa to “Hullabalooza,” a touring music festival parodying Lollapalooza. There, Homer serendipitously discovers his talent of being able to withstand cannonball shots at his belly. It leads to him becoming the festival’s new opening act. While music icons such as Peter Frampton and Sonic Youth are also featured on the tour, Homer’s best relationship blossoms with the Smashing Pumpkins, who are in awe of his talent. However, the fictional version of the band were played by James Iha (rhythm guitarist) and D’arcy Wretzky (bassist)—the latter of whom has since left. Nonetheless, the episode still features “Zero” from their 1995 album, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness.
The cameo paints the Pumpkins in a friendly and humorous light, no matter how their alternative, somber sound came off. While the writing satirizes the bleakness of ’90s alternative with their affluent lifestyles, it’s pleasing to see Smashing Pumpkins have a great sense of humor. And without Billy Corgan, we wouldn’t have one of Homer’s greatest one-liners: “Homer Simpson, smiling politely.”
SoCal luminaries blink-182 landed their musical guest spot on The Simpsons’ 300th episode, two years before the band’s hiatus in 2005. Bart decides to leave home after learning Homer made him star in an embarrassing commercial as a child. He then discovers legendary skater Tony Hawk lives in his new building. Hawk throws a party, with musical guests blink-182 performing “All The Small Things.” Bassist Mark Hoppus is such a superfan of The Simpsons that he’s even flaunted his massive Simpsons figurine collection. To this day, he says the guest appearance on the show is a “major highlight in [his] life.”
The White Stripes
Who said the best music cameos are only in The Simpsons’ golden age? While the White Stripes didn’t guest star on The Simpsons until its 18th season in 2006, Meg White told MTV in 2003 that the duo hoped to land an appearance on the show. And as it turns out, the White Stripes’ special appearance was definitely worth the wait. In the episode “Jazzy And The Pussycats,” Bart takes up drumming per the advice of a counselor. The show then parodies the White Stripes’ 2003 music video for “The Hardest Button To Button,” with Bart drumming across town.
When Bart’s drumset collides with the White Stripes, Jack White scolds Bart to watch where he’s drumming. Meg seeks revenge, declaring, “Let’s kick his ass!” Aside from the aggressive light this cameo paints the White Stripes in, the visual gag of “The Hardest Button To Button” parody makes this cameo unforgettable.
The Oakland punk trio may not appear in an episode of The Simpsons, but they’re still one of the best band cameos by featuring in the opening scene of The Simpsons Movie. While the residents of Springfield are responsible for sending Green Day to their deaths, the band’s cameo is still full of visual gags. It includes Billie Joe Armstrong reading a lyric teleprompter onstage and the band sinking to their deaths as if they were aboard the Titanic. We’re also blessed with an oddly soothing organ cover of “American Idiot,” proving Green Day to be a band worthy of an all-around great cameo.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
What’s a Red Hot Chili Peppers cameo without them performing in their underwear? After Bart convinces the band to ditch a gig at Moe’s Tavern for the Krusty The Clown special, Krusty persuades the band backstage to change a verse of “Give It Away” (from “What I got you got to get it put it in you” to “What I like is I like to hug and kiss ya”) to please the network. While the band doesn’t sing Krusty’s altered verse on the Krusty The Clown special, they still perform the chorus of “Give It Away.”
Additionally, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, some fans may notice Flea’s odd-sounding greeting to Moe at the tavern. In the episode, Flea yells a muffled and distanced “Hey Moe!” Apparently, Flea wasn’t even near. But he screamed it so loud that the producers still used it.
In one of the most punk-rock cameos, the Ramones perform at Mr. Burns’ birthday party, as he ironically hopes the band will “soothe [his] jangled nerves.” The Ramones perform their loud and rough rendition of “Happy Birthday” after Joey Ramone declares that the gig sucks. Mr. Burns, now fueled with rage, asserts Smithers to “have the Rolling Stones killed.” According to the DVD commentary of The Simpsons’ fifth season, the Ramones were massive Simpsons fans, which makes this cameo on the episode “Rosebud” even better.
As Moe’s Tavern hits newfound popularity thanks to its newest drink, “Flaming Moe” (originally stolen from Homer), Moe calls up a reluctant Aerosmith to perform. The band rock the house with their hit “Walk This Way” in exchange for pickled eggs, of course. This high-energy cameo and performance end with Moe singing and dancing with the band as the audience cuts loose.
The band return to the bar the next night, only to find that drummer Joey Kramer is missing. A cut scene shows Mrs. Krabappel seducing him in the band’s tour bus. What’s even better is the show references this season 3 scene again in “The Ned-Liest Catch” in season 22 because there’s nothing better than continuity.
As it turns out, The Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening and showrunner Josh Weinstein are huge fans of alternative-rock band Sonic Youth. So of course they had to feature them alongside Peter Frampton, the Smashing Pumpkins and Cypress Hill in the famous episode “Homerpalooza.” In the episode, the band ransack Frampton’s cooler of food while he performs. They create an admirable friendship with Homer as well. When Homer decides to give up his talent of withstanding cannonballs to the gut, guitarist Lee Ranaldo says he feels “disillusioned.” Bassist Kim Gordon then states upon Homer’s departure from Hullabalooza that the festival isn’t about freaks but rather “music and advertising and youth-oriented product positioning.”
Additionally, Sonic Youth were the first band officially allowed to cover The Simpsons’ theme song. We can only suspect this was due to Groening and Weinstein’s admiration of the band. Gordon also dated Danny Elfman (Oingo Boingo, The Nightmare Before Christmas), who composed The Simpsons’ theme song
Possibly the best non-rock band cameo on The Simpsons, Cypress Hill join the Hullabalooza festival lineup. While high, the band believe they ordered the London Symphony Orchestra—who were performing with Frampton—to perform with them. We then get the surprisingly catchy classical rendition of “Insane In The Brain.” This episode also features another Cypress Hill song, “Throw Your Set In The Air.”
The drugged-out school bus driver Otto was a well-established metalhead and Metallica fan way before the band made their cameo in the show’s 18th season in 2006. In an episode from 1998, anchorman Kent Brockman interviews people in line to pay their taxes. He interviews Otto and asks why he waited until the last minute. Otto, oblivious and probably under the influence, explains he thought he was waiting in a queue for Metallica.
But in the first episode of the 18th season titled “The Mook, The Chef, The Wife And Her Homer,” Otto spots Metallica with a broken-down tour bus on the side of the road while driving the kids to school. After he pulls over to offer the band a lift, Bart hijacks the school bus. Metallica must then catch a ride with one of the show’s unintentionally funniest characters, Hans Moleman. The band, in the bed of Moleman’s truck, drive past Otto and inform him that he’s not a real Metallica fan and to never listen to their music again. Depressing yet hilarious.