20 Years Ago: Rolling Stones Take Homer Simpson to Rock Camp
Springfield got an injection of rock stardom on Nov. 10, 2002, when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards led an all-star cast on The Simpsons.
Dubbed “How I Spent My Strummer Vacation,” the episode saw Homer Simpson enrolled at a rock 'n' roll fantasy camp, run by the Rolling Stones.
Writer Mike Scully came up with the plot idea after hearing Leslie West interviewed by Howard Stern. The Mountain frontman was promoting a fantasy camp where attendees could indulge in their rock dreams alongside West, Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick and other stars.
The concept sparked something in Scully, who began to envision what Homer Simpson would look like at such an event. A script took shape but was changed when an even bigger rock band got involved.
“Originally, we were gonna get the guys who I’d heard on Howard Stern. We were gonna get like Alice Cooper and Cheap Trick,” Scully recalled in a 2015 Q&A event. “In the meantime, while I was writing it, we had gotten a call from the Rolling Stones’ management, asking if there were some way they could appear on the show – because they were getting ready to tour the following year. So I threw out all the scenes with Cheap Trick, and then it became the Stones.”
Watch Mick Jagger, Elvis Costello, Lenny Kravitz and More on 'The Simpsons'
The fantasy camp’s lineup continued growing from there. Jagger was working with Lenny Kravitz at the time on "God Gave Me Everything," a song slated for his 2001 solo album Goddess in the Doorway. So Jagger recruited Kravitz to join The Simpsons.
Tom Petty joined the episode’s ranks as well, as did Elvis Costello and Brian Setzer. The cast and crew of The Simpsons were used to collaborating with celebrity guests, but this was another level.
“That was very exciting,” Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson, later told Billboard. “I mean, these people are larger than life. It’s peculiar to be in the same room with them. You start to see them as people, which I think is good, but it doesn’t take the gloss off it at all. It’s still kind of like, ‘Wow, you’re Mick Jagger.’ It’s still pretty stunning.”
The Stones were keen to be on the show, but there were a couple of caveats. First, Jagger and Richards requested to have separate recording sessions. “They came in separately. Mick and Keith came in like three weeks apart from each other,” Scully recalled. “They didn’t want to accidentally bump into each other.”
Then, Richards had a requirement. “Sometimes when the guest stars come in they request certain foods, like a vegetarian spread,” Scully added. “The clause in Keith’s contract requested a fifth of vodka and a bottle of Orange Crush.”
Watch Tom Petty's Lyrics Class on 'The Simpsons'
“How I Spent My Strummer Vacation” boasted many memorable scenes, as Homer and some of Springfield’s finest – including Barney, Otto, Apu and Chief Wiggum – learned the finer points of rock stardom from some of music’s biggest names. Kravitz taught a course on stage fashion, including the art of “crotch stuffing.”
Costello tried to convince people to play bass instead of guitar, only to get pushed aside by Homer who called him a “nerdlinger.” Meanwhile, Jagger instructed the campers on his famous dance moves, complete with the school-mom “everybody’s naughty” finger wag.
Petty’s class was on lyrics, though Homer and his friends memorably shot down his suggestion to write “something meaningful and heartfelt.” “Rock stars are supposed to be about drinking and getting drunk and boozing it up,” Homer insisted. “You just want mindless generic rock?” a frustrated Petty responded, before swapping from acoustic to electric guitar and delivering the following lines:
“See that drunk girl speeding down the street” (cheers from the group)
“She’s worried about the state of public schools” (boos)
“She likes to party, she likes to rock” (cheers again)
“She prays that our schools don’t run out of chalk” (boos once more)
“How I Spent My Strummer Vacation” was met with a positive response and has regularly appeared on lists of the series’ best episodes. Costello would later fondly recall the experience, joking that he “hadn’t really looked this good since I had jaundice. ... Appearing in The Simpsons, of course, is probably one of the few accolades I’m ever going to share with Rupert Murdoch,” Costello drolly added.
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