There’s a sort of weirdness in seeing a group of musicians that you adore on the same show that people across the country are tuning into on a weekly basis. From The Ramones horrifying Mr. Burns in The Simpsons to Iggy Pop sweetly serenading his daughter in The Adventures of Pete and Pete, TV appearances can be charming, hilarious and even cringe-worthy. Here are some of our favorites.
15. Polyphonic Spree – Scrubs
The Tim DeLaughter-led burst of choral goodness is enough to lighten up any of Zach Braff’s epiphanies that wrap up most episodes of Scrubs.
14. Aimee Mann – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Aimee Mann is one of the few songwriters who’s had the opportunity to complain about gigging in vampire towns on TV. In “Sleeper,” (Season 7, Episode 8) Mann played “This is How it Goes” and “Pavlov’s Bell.”
13. Smashing Pumpkins – The Simpsons
Homer Simpson’s hilarious interaction with Smashing Pumpkins’ singer Billy Corgan perfectly summed up the gap between baby boomers and alt-rockers.
12. Devo – Square Pegs
Devo busted out a quick and to-the-point set at Muffy Tepperman’s Bat Mitzvah party in a 1983 episode of Square Pegs. Keep your eye out for a young Sarah Jessica Parker.
11. Stevie Wonder – The Cosby Show
Stevie Wonder brings out the best in Clair Huxtable’s voice in this heartwarming take on “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”
10. The Ramones – The Simpsons
The Ramones took to singing to a performance of “Happy Birthday” for Mr. Burns with true punk-rock flair and attitude that had the old billionaire muttering: “Have the Rolling Stones killed.”
9. Decemberists/The Shins/Sleater-Kinney (As Echo Echo) – Portlandia
Now this is a fictional group we’d actually love to hear: The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy, The Shins’ James Mercer and Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker make up Echo Echo, the super-hip supergroup that intimidates the cooler-than-thou employees at The Deuce Hotel.
8. Death Cab for Cutie – The O.C.
“I can’t believe Seth is missing his favorite band,” the O.C.’s Summer Roberts whines to her friends. “It’s one thing blowing me off, but blowing off Death Cab?” As far as mid-2000s indie bands go, we’re with Seth on this one. Although the show wasn’t exactly up our alley, it nudged a (relatively) obscure Death Cab for Cutie (along with other awesome indie acts like Bright Eyes and Modest Mouse) into the spotlight, and we’re just fine with that.
7. Bob Dylan – Dharma and Greg
Dharma Montgomery tries out (unsuccessfully) for Bob Dylan’s band, but it’s the legendary songwriter’s smug reactions to her wackiness that make the scene.
6. My Morning Jacket – American Dad
Jim James’ angelic vocals let the stone-faced, clean cut Stan Smith “feel everything” during the band’s arena-filling “Wordless Chorus.”
5. Violent Femmes – Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Libby Chessler (with the help of lead-witch Sabrina and her aunts) put a spell on Gordon Gano, the long-haired Violent Femmes frontman. The super-short-lasting spell has the singer serenading the snooty teen with “Please Do Not Go” before blowing her off later to watch Ren and Stimpy.
4. Iggy Pop – The Adventures of Pete and Pete
Iggy Pop made tons of cameos on Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Pete and Pete, but The Stooges’ frontman never sounded so sweet and fatherly than when he serenaded “his little pookie, Nona Mecklenberg.” Try not to get too emotional, Bub.
3. Feist – Sesame Street
Feist’s Sesame Street appearance was so good, it’ll make you think she wrote “1, 2, 3, 4” for the series to begin with.
2. Radiohead – South Park
In one of Eric Cartman’s cruelest moments of revenge, the portly fourth-grader tricked a schoolmate into eating his own parents after they were put in chili. And what’s the icing on the cake? Radiohead, widely seen as one of the more depressing bands of the last decade, is there to call the devastated kid a crybaby.
1. The Beatles – The Simpsons
It’s no secret that Matt Groening and his team are fans of the Beatles – the show is practically a shrine to the Fab Four. Paul and Linda McCartney guest starred in the seventh season, Bart’s been seen writing “I am not the sixth Beatle” on his infamous chalkboard and Ringo Starr replied to a letter Marge sent in 1966. Take a look here for an impressive list of The Simpsons’ nods to the group.