Of all The Simpsons‘ classic episodes, ‘Homerpalooza’ is surely one of the most iconic. Featuring a cameo list jam-packed with ’90s icons, including The Smashing Pumpkins and Cypress Hill, it’s the original Simpsons rock ‘n’ roll special. The much-beloved episode also features an appearance by noise rockers Sonic Youth, who went one step further than their musical co-stars and provided a feverish version of the outro music for use in the episode.
‘Homerpalooza’ is packed with some of the best jokes of The Simpsons’ classic period, but it’s also one of the era’s most endearing episodes on a narrative level, offering a sensitive exploration of ageing and the passing of time. As well as serving as a time capsule of an exciting moment in American pop cultural history, ‘Homerpalooza’ also teaches us the importance of parting with one’s youth.
The episode, which was written by Brent Forrester and aired on May 19th, 1996, centres on Homer’s inability to relate to his children’s modern music taste. In an attempt to prove he’s still hip, he drags Bart and Lisa out of school and takes them to Hullapalooza, a music festival based closely on Lollapalooza, which was founded in 1991. It isn’t long, however, before Homer realises he’s too old to rock. After annoying some flannel-clad grungesters and being accused of being a “narc”, he discovers he has an unlikely talent for taking a cannonball to the stomach, allowing him to impress his children and prove that he’s still the same daredevil he was as a young man.
According to Forrester, the plot of ‘Homerpalooza’ was based on the writer’s own experience of attending Lollapalooza “I was probably 27 at the time, which qualified you as being way too old to be at Lollapalooza,” Forrester recalls in the DVD commentary for the episode. “I was just hassled from beginning to end. I had a little tape recorder, and I was recording notes, and a guy came up to me and goes, ‘How’s it going, narc?'”, Forrester continued. “All of Homer’s alienation was my experience of feeling like a loser there.”
Sonic Youth’s rendition of ‘The Simpsons Theme’, originally composed by Danny Elfman, is an appropriately scuzzy affair. Fragments of melody are interspersed with glitched-out bleeps and tunnels of guitar feedback. Make sure you check it out if you haven’t already.