Monday, February 11, 2013

Braying Sheep on My TV Screen: Rock Star Cameos on TV Shows

Rock and pop stars who have shown up on television shows. Clips after the jump.

1. What's Happening! "To Doobie or Not to Doobie"

Always hard-hitting and on the cutting edge, the 1970s sitcom What's Happening took on the issue of bootlegging in an era long before MP3s and illegal downloads. Like all inner-city youths, the WH boys love the Doobie Brothers more than life itself, so when an unscrupulous crook offers Doobie tickets to Rerun so he can secretly tape the concert, we're off on a probing and thoughtful examination of artists' rights and the ethics of music theft. Okay, so no we're not. But listen, man, you don't know what fear is until you're a crook who's been cornered in a malt shop by Michael McDonald.

2. Red Hot Chili Peppers: We Want Chili Willy!
There have been dozens of rock star appearances on The Simpsons, and I'm sure we could argue all day long about which ones were the best, but the episode where the Red Hot Chili Peppers appear on the Krusty Komeback Special is my favorite, for two reasons: one, Krusty talks the Peppers into changing their lyrics to be more family-friendly ("what I want to do is, I want to hug and kiss you") and two, Moe tricks them into playing at his bar for an audience of exactly one.

2. Dharma and Bob
From Dharma and Greg, 1999: Dharma tries out for a band whose lead singer is Bob Dylan. A must-see for what may be Dylan's only attempt at polka captured on film.

3. Pete and Pete and Everybody
I have never seen this defunct Nickelodeon kid sitcom, but I have heard good things about it. It was apparently hip enough to attract hip rockers who made cameos, including Michael Stipe, Debbie Harry, Syd Straw, and David (Buster Poindexter) Johansen.

4. Tom Waits on Fernwood 2Night

Fernwood 2Night is one of the great, unsung, and nearly forgotten sitcoms, a precursor to Garry Shandling and still one of the most surreal shows ever to pass over the airwaves. So of course Tom Waits was a perfect musical guest. "I live at Bedlam and Squalor," he replies when asked where he's from.

5. Snoop Dog,  Just Shoot Me

"Hi, I am a huge fan and I just want to say that I think Rap is the new Jazz of the millenium."

6. Violent Femmes, Sabrina the Teenage Witch

This may actually be a dopier appearance than the Doobies on What's Happening. Sabrina uses an infatuation spell to make Gordon Gano fall in love with a teenage girl, for whom he sings "Please Do Not Go." Was Archie Comics paying attention to this show?

7. Chrissie Hynde, Friends

Hynde plays Stephanie Schiffer, a singer who replaces Phoebe as the Central Perk house performer, and Phoebe's none too happy about it. Here is Chrissie's beautiful rendition of "Angel of the Morning".

BONUS: Phoebe teaches Stephanie how to play "Smelly Cat" properly.

And while we're at it, here's the same gag, with Chris Isaak.

8. Johnny Cash, Little House on the Prairie

The Reverend Mr. Black? Johnny sings "Blackjack David" on horseback and picks up Mary. (No, really.)

9. Iggy Pop, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

A better episode than it may seem, "The Magnificent Ferengi" is a comedic farce wherein Quark and the boys have to play Weekend at Bernie's with a dead Vorta in order to fool Iggy, whose performance is even more lifeless than the guy playing the corpse.

10. Davy Jones, Brady Bunch

The grandaddy of these sort of things, I guess, except in this case Jones was a TV star appearing on somebody else's TV show. But in his day he was the ultimate heartthrob, and the little girls didn't care.


  1. Good list. Here are a couple of others that spring to mind:

    Stevie Wonder on "The Cosby Show" (1985)
    Chad & Jeremy on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (1965)
    (Ann-Margret/Ann-Margrock on "The Flintstones" doesn't count; she wasn't a rock star.)

    Here's another list:
    Mental Floss' list:

    Game shows don't count on this list, but Alice Cooper and The Tubes on the original Hollywood Squares was a good time.

  2. Curt, great additions and insights. I actually read the Mental Floss column as part of my research. Here's one for ya: Who was it that appeared on GILLIGAN as a shipwrecked hippie band? I recall it being someone marginal, like Boyce and Hart, though I am probably thinking of I DREAM OF JEANNIE. (I could look it up, but I want to see if it comes to me.)

  3. I know Boyce and Hart appeared on I Dream of Jeannie when they were in a lull with the Monkees. Doubt they would have been on Gilligan's Island; different network.

  4. The answer is: the Mosquitos were played by the folk group The Wellingtons, who had performed the "Gilligan" theme.