to say simpsons has left its mark on society is like saying the Titanic doesn’t float anymore: There is literally no argument that can be made against it. One aspect of the show that has become ingrained in the public consciousness is its songs. From the iconic opening theme to Homer’s (Dan Castellaneta) catchy insistence that he’s SMRT smart to Sideshow Bob’s (Kelsey Grammer) solo performance of the songs from HMS Pinafore, songs have highlighted a number of key moments (pun absolutely intended) over the show’s impressive run. Here are 15 of the best.
“Can I Borrow A Feeling?” (Season 8, Episode 6)
Kirk (hank azaria) and Luann Van Houten (Maggie Roswell) quarrel during a dinner party, culminating in Luann demanding a divorce. Kirk moves into a singles complex and loses his job at a cracker factory, while Luann moves on with Milhouse (pamela hayden) and starts dating American Gladiators‘ Chase (Azaria). Inspired by Homer’s act of restaging his wedding from him to Marge (julie kavner), Kirk interrupts the wedding band to sing this insipid love song, which he wrote to win Luann (Maggie Roswell). How can she possibly turn him down? Pretty easily, apparently. Adding insult to injury, Chase kicks him out of the house, landing Kirk in the same tier of luck as good ol’ Gil Gunderson (Castellaneta).
The Itchy & Scratchy Show Theme Song (Introduced Season 1, Episode 12)
They fight. They bite. They fight and bite and fight. Do you suppose they fight and bite? Spoiler alert: They do! The Itchy & Scratchy Show is looney tunes taken to a ridiculously high level of violence, a shot at the naysayers who are adamant that anvils dropped on coyotes will prompt children to do the same. Where does one even buy an anvil, unless Acme is a real thing? The theme song sums up the show-within-a-show-within-a-show perfectly and has remained untouched throughout the series’ run (except when, thanks to Marge, they loved, and shared, loved and shared and loved).
“Baby on Board” (Season 5, Episode 1)
“Homer’s Barbershop Quartet” begins with the Simpsons checking out the Springfield Swap Meet, where they find an album cover with Homer on it. Cue flashback to 1985, when barbershop was big (fun fact: it wasn’t) and Homer, Principal Skinner (harry shearer), Apu (Azaria), and
Chief Wiggum (Azaria) Barney Gumble (Castellaneta) formed barbershop quartet The Be Sharps. They had it all — gold records, Grammys, Grammy brownies, the classic album Bigger Than Jesus, and more, before returning to their lives in Springfield. “Baby on Board” is the best of their output by far, although Barney’s piece with Japanese conceptual artist pseudo-Yoko Ono would be a close second.
“Oh Streetcar!” (Season 4, Episode 2)
“A Streetcar Named Marge” sees Marge land the role of Blanche Dubois in a musical based on tennessee williams‘ A Streetcar Named Desire (the episode also features a hilarious subplot involving Maggie at the Ayn Rand School for Tots that manages to spoof both The Great Escape and Birds). “Oh Streetcar!” contributed a number of memorable songs to the Simpsons canon, including “New Orleans” and “The Kindness of Strangers’. It’s worth the price of admission just to hear Ned Flanders (Shearer) rhyme Stella with hello.
“Duff Beer for Me” (Season 4, Episode 13)
Anyone who has ever had to endure the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland, waking up in cold sweats in the night to this day because of it, will appreciate this pitch-perfect parody. “Duff Beer for Me / Duff Beer for You” is the song being sung ad nauseam by the robot dolls on the Little Land of Duff ride at Duff Gardens. It’s enough to drive one Surly, and not even Beer Goggles from the gift shop can make this better. Or the hallucinogenic recycled beer they float on.
“Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off!” (Season 7, Episode 19)
As part of his career rejuvenation, actor Troy McClure (Phil Hartman) lands the lead in Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off!a musical based on the movie Planet of the Apes. Featuring the classics “Rock Me, Dr. Zaius” and “Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z”, this medley is another winning musical parody from the series and a stepping stone to McClure’s ultimate goal of landing the sidekick role in McBain IV: Fatal Discharge. Nothing fishy about that, unless you read the Springfield tabloids.
“The Monorail Song” (Season 4, Episode 12)
After Springfield receives $3 million from Mr. Burns (harry shearer), thanks to the EPA fining him for dumping nuclear waste in a park, a town meeting is held to decide how the money should be spent. After a number of outlandish suggestions, Marge is moments away from convincing them to use it to repair Main Street, when shyster Lyle Lanley (Hartman) jumps in. He woos the townspeople into building a monorail with “The Monorail Song,” save for the sole voices of reason Marge and Lisa (Yardley Smith). Sure, you could use the money to fix Main Street, but if North Haverbrook has a monorail, then it simply has to be a great idea.
“See My Vest” (Season 6, Episode 20)
Just how evil is Mr. Burns? Well, apart from his questionable nuclear waste disposal practices, he has, in no particular order: a vest made from gorilla chest; white slippers made from albino African endangered rhino; gopher loafers; grizzly bear underwear; a hat from his cat from him; and a beret of poodle on his noodle. And this is all before he tries to make a fur tuxedo from 25 greyhound puppies. Let’s just say by the end of this “Be Our Guest” parody you’ll have a pretty good grasp of the extent of his wickedness about him, and why PETA is unlikely to ask for his endorsement of him anytime soon.
“We Do (The Stonecutters’ Song)” (Season 6, Episode 12)
The Stonecutters were an ancient, secret men’s organization, a-la the Freemasons. The exclusive club, where members are identified by number and given privileges unavailable to the common man (like the real emergency number, 912, and better parking spaces), have their hands in pretty much every world event since their inception. They keep the metric system down, keep Atlantis off of maps, made Steve Guttenberg a star, rig every Oscar night, among other things. The rousing “We Do” only gives a fraction of how deep their influence actually goes.
“Who Needs The Kwik-E-Mart?” (Season 5, Episode 13)
Homer, after contracting food poisoning from expired ham and five-pound buckets of expired shrimp from the Kwik-E-Mart, drops a Channel 6 spy camera that records Apu (Azaria) picking up a hot dog off the floor and putting it back on the roller grill. Despite conforming to corporate’s unsanitary food-handling practices, Apu pays the price for the Kwik-E-Mart’s policy on finding a scapegoat for public disgraces by getting fired and replaced by actor james woods. But who needs it anyway? The floors are sticky-mart, made Homer sick-e-mart, makes you want to hurl a brick-e-mart, the Kwik-E-Mart is… D’OH!
“Talkin’ Softball” (Season 3, Episode 16)
“Talkin’ Softball,” a parody of Terry Cashman‘s song “Talkin’ Baseball” (and sung by Cashman as well), is an ode to the 1992 City Softball Champs, the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, and the pre-game incidents that befell the professional baseball players that Mr. Burns hired specifically to play in the championship game. Steve Sax was placed in jail, a suspect in every unsolved murder in New York City. Mike Scioscia got radiation poisoning. Ken Griffey Jr. developed gigantism from nerve tonic. and Wade Boggs got knocked out by Barney during a bar fight over who was the best British Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston or Pitt the Elder? (Hey, sometimes you just need to stand by your guy.).
“We’re Sending Our Love Down the Well” (Season 3, Episode 13)
Bart (Nancy Cartwright) tricks Groundskeeper Willie (Castellaneta) into believing he is Timmy O’Toole, a young boy who fell to the bottom of a deep well, by using a radio microphone. Soon everyone has heard about “Timmy,” who has captured the townspeople’s hearts and prompted them to try and find a solution to the poor orphan’s plight. It also gives rise to “We’re Sending Our Love Down the Well,” a “We Are the World”-like benefit parody written by Krusty the Clown (Castellaneta) and Sting (who we would learn is a great digger later in the episode).
“The Garbage Man” (Season 9, Episode 22)
A direct parody of “The Candy Man” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory“The Garbage Man” highlights all the crazy promises that Homer made on the strength of his “Can’t Someone Else Do It?” campaign slogan for the position of Springfield sanitation commissioner. Diaper disposal, round-the-clock garbage pickup, washing floors, but the best part of the song hands-down is hearing U2‘s Bond sing, “And tell you when your ass is showing.” More poetic and moving than anything on The Joshua Tree.
“Happy Birthday, Lisa” (Season 3, Episode 1)
Homer, committed to a mental institution for wearing a pink shirt (don’t ask), meets “Michael Jackson.” Now pay attention: “Michael” is actually Leon Kompowsky, a character voiced by John Jay Smith, which is just a fake credit name for the real Michael Jacksonbut whose singing parts were done by Kipp Lennon. Got that? Once released, Homer and Michael return to the Simpson home, which is overrun by townspeople hoping to catch sight of the superstar. Dispersing once they realize Michael is a large, white man, Bart confesses to Lisa that he forgot to get her a birthday present, prompting Lisa to disown Bart. To make up for it, Bart and Michael write “Happy Birthday, Lisa”, an earworm that not only delights Lisa but stays in one’s head forever. Despite the episode being pulled from DVD sets, syndication, and ultimately Disney+ due to revelations regarding Jackson, the song can still be found on YouTube and is totally worth checking out.
“Your Wife Don’t Understand You” (Season 3, Episode 20)
After Marge embarrasses Homer at a movie theater, he drives off by himself to the outskirts of town, where he comes upon a western bar where waitress Lurleen Lumpkin (Beverly D’Angelo) is called to the stage to sing “Your Wife Don’t Understand You.” The song speaks directly to Homer, and, even after he returns home, he can’t get it out of his head from him. He drives back out to the bar and encourages Lumpkin to record the song, which becomes a huge hit on the local radio station. Lurleen grows attached to “Colonel Homer,” who is now her manager de ella, and tries to woo him into a tryst. (She would not be the last to attempt this. Oh, Mindy Simmons, we hardly knew ye.) He finally understands what’s happening, gently lets her down, and returns to his family de ella. The episode featured a few songs, including “Bagged Me a Homer,” “Bunk With Me Tonight,” and “Stand By Your Manager,” but it’s “Your Wife Don’t Understand You” that is the strongest of the lot.
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