The Simpsons has always been a music-friendly show, with many great cameos from the likes of Aerosmith, James Brown, The Ramones, James Taylor, Willie Nelson, Jack White… the list goes on and on. One of the best things about being a guitar nerd is that you see guitars everywhere you look, and we obsessed types can find plenty of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it guitar moments in The Simpsons. Here are a few of my personal favourites. What are yours? Share it in the comments!
Three Gays of the Condo
In this episode Homer worries that Marge resents him for getting her pregnant. Heartbroken Homer moves out of the family home and into a condo with a pair of gay dudes, Grady and Julio. Marge tries to let him know she still loves him by enlisting “Weird Al” Yankovic to play a parody of John Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane.” And what’s that in the background? A surprisingly well-rendered Tom Anderson electric, right on down to the headstock shape and the ‘A’ logo, in the hands of Jim West. I love the attention to detail here. (Speaking of Weird Al, you have to hear comedian Paul F. Tompkins’ Weird Al anecdote).
Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part One)
Y’know those guitars that are, like, double guitars, y’know? Otto put in this request for a sweet custom axe when Springfield struck oil and was approving wild wishes hither and yon. And then when Mr. Burns Borgnined everyones’ oil, all the rubber-stamped goodies were cancelled. Including Ralph Wiggum’s chocolate microscope. Bummer.
For an episode based on a music festival there weren’t quite as many guitars in this one as I would like, but the ones that are there are pretty badass. Who can forget Peter Frampton’s talking guitar (or Otto’s talking shoes)? James Iha rocking a Flying V while Billy Corgan attacks his Strat? Come to think of it, I would like to have seen more of poor Rover Hendrix too.
The Otto Show
Nigel Tufnel has played so many great guitars over the years that it must have been a tough choice narrowing it down for the band’s appearance in this episode. It appears that the animators have based Nige’s guitar on the iconic infinitely-sustaining ’59 Les Paul featured in This Is Spinal Tap. It woulda been cool if David St. Hubbins used a white SG but at least Derek Small’s BC Rich is somewhat faithfully rendered.
A Tale Of Two Springfields
We all know Pete Townshend’s guitar can break down barriers, be they social or musical. But in this episode it broke down a literal barrier of junk piled up to form a wall between Old Springfield and New Springfield. Townshend is wielding an unmistakable Gibson Les Paul when he works his magic. His magic also seems to include making himself look about 30 years younger. Cool.
Trash Of The Titans
The Edge. Badass semi-hollowbody something-or-other with surprisingly accurate Gibson Vibrola bridge. Awesome. This episode is also great for Homer getting the crap beaten out of him by U2’s roadies to the tune of “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” and for Adam Clayton’s spoon collection.
How I Spent My Strummer Vacation
We’ve all dreamed of being a rock star, right? Homer Simpson did (I guess being a Barbershop Quartet star and a grunge star and a successful country manager didn’t quite cut it?) so the family treated him to a visit to the Rolling Stones’ Rock N’ Roll Fantasy Camp where he received instruction from Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Costello, Brian Setzer, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, and Tom Petty with a really cool flip-flop guitar with an acoustic on one side and a solidbody Gretsch on the other. I’m waiting for the day when Gretsch makes these things publicly available. There’s lots of accurate guitar-rendering in this episode: Keith’s Telecaster, Setzer’s big ‘ol Gretsch hollowbody, a nice Thunderbird bass… probably the most bang-for-the-buck guitar action of any Simpsons episode.
That 90s Show
Ah yes, Homer’s brief spell as a Cobain-like grunge icon in a band called SadGasm. Homer’s guitar in this episode appears to be a Fender Mustang modified with a humbucker in the bridge position, just like Kurt’s. Interestingly, this was the second Simpsons episode to feature a cameo by Weird Al. By the way, in the episode Homer coins the term ‘grunge,’ which he describes as an acronym for “Guitar Rock Utilizing Nihilist Grunge Energy.”
Steal This Episode
Another pretty accurate guitar rendering can be found in the episode where Judas Priest make an appearance. Richie Faulkner’s Gibson Flying V, Glenn Tipton’s Hamer and Ian Hill’s Spector are all presented in “I can totally tell what that is” detail, down to the shape of Tipton’s guitar’s pickguard. I guess that attention to detail and accuracy made things all the more weird when the band were referred to as ‘death metal’ in the episode.
The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer
Would Metallica really jam “Master Of Puppets” while barrelling down the highway in a pickup truck after telling Otto he’s not allowed to listen to their music any more? I’d like to think they’d either play “Fuel” or a cover of “Highway To Hell” instead. But this episode rocks because James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett are riffing out on an Explorer and an ESP KH-2 respectively.
Weekend At Burnsie’s
One of my personal favourite Simpsons episodes (mainly due to the “Murder, honey. A group of crows is called a murder” line), Weekend At Burnsie’s seems Homer becoming a crusader for legalized marijuana, with Phish playing at a benefit concert to raise awareness. Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon’s Paul Languedoc-built guitar and bass are quite faithfully rendered, which was a wise choice because you know how intense Phish fans can get!
Krusty Gets Kancelled
Whoa, Flea is rocking a whammy bar on his bass? Is that a Kahler or something? Cool! This episode was made during Arik Marshall’s brief period in the band. I wonder how many times Anthony has actually substituted the line for “What I’d like is I’d like to hug and kiss you.”