Many TV shows abuse the viewings boosting powers of the musician cameo. Once you’re reaching a show like the reboot of 90210 you’re faced with wasting at least 5 minutes of every episode being force fed the awful, stilted musical styling of whatever ‘new artist’ is being pushed by Warner Brothers at any given time.
Done with that level of cynical consumerist reward, musician cameos can be horrific, simply there to satisfy the interests of the people on the board of whatever TV channel or production company is making it. The perfect TV musician cameo is usually the one that makes the least sense to the storyline or seems so unbelievable that the payoff of seeing musicians completely out of the context of their music or musician persona is stupendous.
Here, I present to you 10 of my favourite musician cameos in TV. It’s by no means exhaustive, or one of those ‘The Top 10 Most Mind Blowing Musician TV Cameos Of All Time That You Just Will Not Believe!’ that seems to be the latest dialect with which hit hungry websites hook their lines with lately, but simply the ones that have remained with me over time or brought out the shrieking, excitable child in me. I wish I was cooler.
1.The Flaming Lips – Beverley Hills 90210
There’s no better way to add an insidious illusion of subversion and good-times-gone-wild to something than adding a suffix like ‘After Dark’ to a name (just look at something like Hollyoaks Later – a habitual hellmouth to a gurning, sex-fest of post-watershed soap opera abandon). And so it was that the poor old Peach Pit – home of the humble, wholesome milkshake and that old dude who liked hanging out with kids – grew up with those kids of West Beverly High and became (drumroll!) the Peach Pit After Dark run by perpetual fuck up (with a heart of stinking gold) Steve Sanders.
Good old Steve had enough sense to book The Flaming Lips as a ‘mystery guest’ for his club despite seemingly having little to no knowledge of what they actually play as he announces later ‘I’ve never been a big fan of alternative music, but those guys rocked the house!’. Rock is a bit of an over-exaggeration considering that the ‘house’ resembles more of an awkward pebble dash with perplexed extra after perplexed extra moving uncomfortably into a musical abyss as Wayne Coyne and the boys play ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’. Still, I’m sure they all raved about that moment to their hipster mates 20 years later.
2.Sonic Youth – Gossip Girl
I guess we have perpetual name-droppers and ‘I used to be in a band / fuck bands’ power couple Rufus Humphries and Lily Van Der Woodsen to thank for providing the opportunity for one of the weirdest TV cameos in recent memory. Possibly ever, even. I swear, I nearly killed my laptop in a flash flood of red wine spit the minute they turned up on screen.
Apparently both Kim and Thurston Moore were GG obsessives (of course they were!) and so managed to wangle themselves a guest spot whilst the rest of us commoners just had to make do with drunkenly calling our BFFs at 1 in the morning and discussing the scandals of Manhattan’s elite like they were real people in our actual lives.
Kim Gordon even acts as an internet ordained minister for the two and marries them into their eventual misery before Sonic Youth play an acoustic version of Evol’s Star Power. I met Thurston Moore recently (this makes it sound like I went for coffee and donuts with him. I didn’t. It was a ticketed meet and greet) and all I could think to talk to him about was Gossip Girl. But I bottled it at the last minute and just asked him to sign my damn vinyl and awkwardly take a picture with me. If only I would have had Sabrina the Teenage Witch with me to perform one of her infatuation spells…
3.Violent Femmes – Sabrina the Teenage Witch
See how smoothly I did that? No, I’m not a witch. But Sabrina was and she used her magic wiles for all the right things like making Brian Austin Green shaped boyfriends out of ‘man-dough’ and stopping time so she could pour drinks over frenemie Libby. Oh, the japes that girl got up to!
Obviously, when The Violent Femmes are in town for a meet and greet at the local record store Sabrina’s aunts aren’t too comfortable about her going – it’s a school night and their name is a bit aggressive, don’t you think? Sabrina tries to calm her aunts doubts about the evening by assuring them they’re not even women (ha! Cos like, femmes? You know?). Still, the aunts come along thanks to some kind of spell that turns them into teenagers for the evening and Libby comes along too cos she’s in love with Gordon Gano and wants to maybe get him arrested for shacking up with an underage girl? I dunno.
Either way, Sabrina seems to be in on it too as once they reach the meet and greet table she helps Libby out with her failing feminine wiles by inducing an infatuation spell that makes Gordon Gano lose his damn mind over her, persuading his band play an acoustic live version of ‘Please Do Not Go’ before inviting her back to their hotel. I can only imagine that did not end well. I mean, have you ever heard ‘Add It Up’? Let’s all just be thankful that they never made a ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch After Dark’ episode that detailed that afterparty. Yikes.
4.Iggy Pop – The Adventures of Pete and Pete
I don’t know about you, but I love Iggy Pop so much that I could watch a 6 hour movie of him reading the ingredients off the back of various supermarket brand cereal packets without ever even nodding off and simply, The Adventures of Pete and Pete is one of the most underrated kids shows of all time. Anarchic and original, it also had an unbelievable list of bizarre and ridiculously cool cameos throughout it (including Debbie Harry, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Buscemi and Patty Hearst), but Iggy was the best. Playing an embarassing rock n’ roll dad to Nona (played by non other than Michelle Trachtenberg!), Iggy Pop turns up at all the right (or wrong) moments to embarrass the hell out of his long suffering daughter, including this turn at a school dance where he gets up on stage and croons away a tribute to his little girl, which honestly makes me kinda hate his ungrateful daughter a little. So instead, I just pretend he’s singing it to me. Which is kind of weird, but whatever.
5.Motorhead – The Young Ones
Oh, Cock-a-doodle-doo Neil! In my head, Motorhead personify Britain: Dirty, noisy, dark and a wholly inebriated mess most of the time (in the greatest possible way). They’re an institution which deserve far greater praise and respect than the ghoulish leeches of the Royal fucking family, so maybe just give Lemmy a crown and a few mansion houses to live out his days in now, eh?
Guest starring in the absolutely perfect University Challenge episode of The Young Ones, Motorhead soundtrack a flustered, panic sprint to the train station (replete with a stop to the passport photo booth. Which no train journey should be without) with Ace of Spades.
Like the majority of events that happen in The Young Ones it comes without explanation or even need for explanation. One minute we’re staring at Mike, Vyvyan, Neil and Rick round the dinner table and the next the camera pans back, the lights go down and IT’S FUCKING MOTORHEAD. I especially love it when the breakdown comes and Lemmy stares directly into the camera, pointing straight into our swelling hearts, and says ‘I don’t want to live forever’. Long live King Lemmy.
This one goes out to you Mr Mayall. You were my childhood x
6.Destiny’s Child – Smart Guy
It’s hard to believe now that we’re all apparently worshipping at the feet of Queen Beyonce the Ultimate Supreme Of The Universe but back in the late 90s – with their full original line up and even Beyonce’s original nose (I’m sorry, but she was gorgeous: no need) – Destiny’s Child kinda needed that extra publicity push that all bands starting out need. The kind folks at the Disney Channel were very generous and gave Destiny’s Child their own episode in annoying-child-genius-sitcom-that-only-I-watched Smart Guy called ‘A Date with Destiny’ (give those writers a prize!).
Cut a long story short, Destiny’s Child hire the ‘Smart Guy’ kid to star in their video for ‘No No No’ where he basically ruins the whole thing by tap dancing over the melody and getting right in the way of Beyonce’s shot (which apparently the band loves. Whatever, you just know there were fights about that shit backstage). Somehow ‘Smart Guy’ gets invited out on tour with the band and the girls wind up going to a school dance and do an a cappella version of Amazing Grace which makes everybody in the hall really emotional.
Skip to the end: Smart Guy does not go on tour with Destiny’s Child. Which means he probably went to college, got a degree and spent years being an unemployable post-grad with a brain bigger than his employment potential watching Beyonce from afar getting richer by the second and thinking ‘I could have had me a slice of that pie’.
If you have 22 minutes spare, I strongly recommend that you enjoy the whole bizarre episode in it’s entirety below. It’s so absolutely worth your time.
7.Lisa Loeb – Gossip Girl
I really hate to have to bring up Rufus Humphries for a second time in this article, but here we are. This is the World we live in now. The Gossip Girl finale was confusing and a little infuriating (but ultimately fabulous, nevertheless) for many reasons, but not least for how they ruined the (fictionalised, I know) life of poor old Lisa Loeb who gets introduced as Rufus’ new girlfriend. Jesus fucking Christ. Rufus was a nightmare since day one of that show. Not a day went by that he didn’t feel the need to remind everybody that he was once in a really successful grunge band back in the 90s, retelling that same old story about NIN or Soundgarden or whoever else to a room full of dead eyed family and friends.
Lisa Loeb’s previous cameo in the show comes in the friendly shape of her simply performing the (MASTERPIECE) song Stay. I suppose they meant her insertion in the finale as a fun little in joke, but I aint biting. Can you imagine the horror that poor, talented, powerhouse of a woman is in for with Rufus? Because I can. And it involves re-reading old issues of Spin magazine in bed together wherever Lincoln Hawk get mentioned and Saturday trips to ‘all the old haunts’. Fuck.
P.s: There is something completely wrong with me that I can’t watch the video below without filling up with tears. Please help. Send beer.
8.Stevie Nicks – American Horror Story
Since the first ‘spinning around to Fleetwood Mac songs’ appearance of Stevie Nicks obsessive Misty in the third season of American Horror Story, the camp tribute to Nicks and The Mac (can I call them that? I hate myself a little bit) seemed like it always had the door open to a potential cameo from the wonder woman herself. But it was also kind of one of those, ‘Nah, it’ll never happen. They’ll never do it’. But it was only when Misty started talking about wanting to find her ‘tribe’ that it became clear: Stevie Nicks is her tribe.
And then there she was in the living room of Miss Robicheaux’s Academy, playing Rhiannon on the piano in front of all the witches. Turns out Nicks is a powerful white witch, which explains a lot. Including that story about hiring someone to blow cocaine up her ass whilst on tour, surely being just part of some heightened spiritual ritual.
Though perhaps the campiest part of the entire season (and that’s really saying something, what a show) came at the start of the season finale wherein a psuedo music video montage begins the episode with Nicks singing Seven Wonders before the girls join her on the stairs of the Academy as her backing chorus. Keep on with doing you, American Horror Story.
9.Sebastian Bach (Skid Row) – Gilmore Girls
Sebastian Bach is exactly the sort of dude you’d expect to harbour aspirations of becoming an actor at some point in his career. With the sort of enviable luscious locks that look fully deserving of having their very own story arc in Melrose Place back in the 90s (my god, the stories that hair could tell), it seems almost as though Sebastian Bach entered the realm of TV a decade or so too late.
Nevertheless, some complete and utter genius involved in the small town masterpiece that is Gilmore Girls hired him to play the part of Gil: ageing rocker and front man of Lane’s band (Hep Alien). Gilmore Girls has had some stunning guest stars, but Christ if anyone saw this one coming.
Bach featured in 13 episodes of the show (a treat every time) with his finest moment happening when his band plays a young girls Bah Mitzvah, performing a wonderous cover of Gwen Stefani’s Hollaback Girl. As if hearing Sebastian Bach throwing some valley girl shade to Stefani’s pop classic (I can’t help it, I fucking love that song) wasn’t enough, he also provides the young woman with some sage words of advice to the tune of ‘guys are turned on by (strong female attitude), don’t think they aren’t! They like girls with legs AND brain like…smart biker chicks! So keep on the path you’re on, keep going to school and baby, you’re going places’.
Which, like, yeah. Sebastian Bach everyone. I guess that’s the most believable aspirational speech you can write for someone who was once in band with lyrics like ‘take a walk with me with your triple double Ds and your 40 foot do – why you walking funny? You must have spent some time with the boys in the crew’. Yikes.
Because Warner Brothers are complete and utter party poopers, there’s no longer an existing video of the wonder described above. I recommend simply visualising it in your head or maybe acting it out with sock puppets to the original. You can also hunt it down via many other illegal channels – it’s episode 6 of season 6 just around the 15 minute mark. YOU’RE WELCOME.
10.Juliana Hatfield – My So Called Life
I have to admit, all that I’ve ever known abut Juliana Hatfield is that she had a song (Spin The Bottle) on the soundtrack to Reality Bites, which I listened to endlessly when I was about 10. Hatfield’s song got overshadowed completely by Ethan Hawke’s ‘I’m Nothing’ – a song so deliriously in love with the self consumed angst of the era that it’s deliciously awful, replete with raspy ‘I wish I was Kurt Cobain’ vocals. But anyway, Hatfield gets her own bizarre character in the Christmas special of My So Called Life in which she plays a dead homeless girl who has come back as an angel.
Hatfield’s character appears much like Clarence in It’s A Wonderful Life (Trivia: the production company of My So Called Life was also called Bedford Falls, where Wonderful Life was set), except she imparts advice to poor old Rickie Vasquez (beaten up and left in the snow at the start of the episode and then kicked out of his house and made homeless. Oh, Rickie) and provides some commentary on socio-economic differences, privilege and looking out for each other as a goddamn community instead of letting people die on the streets. It’s heavy shit, yo.
Hatifeld, naturally, comes complete with her guitar and sad, festive songs to soundtrack the misery, which is nice considering someone stole her best pair of boots so she can’t get warm. You know what warms you up on the streets? A good old sing song.
Including the Halloween special of My So Called Life it’s the second time in the show in which Angela converses with the dead. Who knows what plot twist could have opened up in the never to be seen second season of the show with that kind of character arc on the cards.