Matt Groening’s The Simpsons is no stranger to pop-culture references and cameos, but the most memorable and special of the bunch can be hard to distinguish. The best musician cameos in The Simpsons is most assuredly a debatable topic due to the sheer volume of artists having appeared on the show to date, but there are some guest appearances that are undeniably the greatest among the bunch.
Aerosmith: Season Three, “Flaming Moe’s”
Showing up at Moe’s Tavern for a drink after it had (briefly) become famous, the Boston, Massachusetts band was a sight to behold, decked out in vintage 70’s gear and hairdos. Easily convinced to play for the music-hungry crowd, a quick performance created a truly memorable moment in The Simpsons history. Having two of their songs played (“Young Love” and “Walk This Way”) in one episode, Aerosmith’s appearance in “Flaming Moe’s” was not only a momentous occasion for the rockers at home, but also an honour for the band themselves; Aerosmith was one of the first bands to have an appearance or mention on The Simpsons, setting the trend to come.
Michael Jackson: Season Three, “Start Raving Dad”
Another of the first artists to appear on The Simpsons, Michael Jackson was also one of the best musicians to grace The Simpsons as a cameo. The King of Pop’s cameo was quite unique in many ways, the least of which was the fact that he appeared as a special-guest voice actor for an important character in the episode. Jackson had contacted The Simpsons creator Matt Groening and offered his services as a voice actor, while also writing some original tunes specially for the episode, namely “Happy Birthday Lisa” and “Do the Bartman”. Jackson’s appearance on the cartoon was, to many, the most special of all musician cameos, and the soft voice of Leon Kompowsky will carry on the late legend’s grace forever.
The Who: Season Twelve, “A Tale of Two Springfields”
The 250th episode of The Simpsons was marked by some very special musical guests; renowned English heroes The Who. Performing atop a wall built to separate two sections of the Simpson’s hometown Springfield, the English rockers destroy the barrier through the power of unifying music. The song played in the episode was the outro section of 1998’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, from the album “A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who”. The episode was aired two years before the death of John Entwistle, The Who’s founding bassist.
Blink 182: Season Fourteen, “Barting Over”
While certainly no strangers to cameos (the band had made an appearance in 1999’s “American Pie”), Blink 182’s time spent on The Simpsons was fun and energetic. Appearing alongside professional skateboarder Tony Hawk, the boys of Blink played a quick set of their hit song “All The Small Things” for a house party hosted by Tony Hawk. Although a short cameo, Blink 182s appearance in “Barting Over” was considerably memorable for young adult fans because they are one of the few bands to have been featured on The Simpsons that have music aimed at that demographic.
Metallica: Season Eighteen, “The Mook, The Chef, The Wife and Her Homer”
It’s a dream come true for Otto the bus driver (and avid fan of heavy metal) when Metallica’s truck breaks down as they pass through Springfield. Although things don’t go quite as well as Otto would have liked (Metallica ended up driving away with Hans Moleman, laughing at the bus driver while playing their song “Master of Puppets”), Metallica’s cameo in Springfield was short yet sweet. Development of minor characters (Otto and Hans Moleman in this instance) is always a good thing, and it was great to see Otto get some jubilant screen time with some heavy music icons.
The Simpsons has always featured a wide variety of artists, from Weird Al Yankovich to Coldplay, the best of which is debatable, although one thing is for certain; so long as the cartoon continues to showcase wonderful musicians as cameos, audiences will continue to hail it as one of, if not the best, animated programs in existence.
By Christopher White