1993 – George Harrison and David Crosby make guest appearances on the fifth season premiere of the Fox animated comedy series “The Simpsons.”
“Homer’s Barbershop Quartet” is the first episode of The Simpsons’ fifth season. It features the Be-Sharps, a fictional barbershop quartet founded by Homer, whose story roughly parallels that of The Beatles. The episode was written by Jeff Martin, directed by Mark Kirkland, while George Harrison and David Crosby guest starred as themselves, and The Dapper Dans as the singing voices of “The Be-Sharps”.
Episode no. 82
Prod. code 9F21
Orig. airdate September 30, 1993
Show runner(s) Al Jean & Mike Reiss
Written by Jeff Martin
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Chalkboard “I will never win an Emmy”
Couch gag A trio of couch gags: The family shatters into pieces, the family combine into a multicolored blob, and the family explode.
Guest star(s) George Harrison as himself
David Crosby as himself
The Dapper Dans as the singing voices of “The Be-Sharps”.
At the Springfield Swap Meet, Bart and Lisa notice Homer’s face on an album cover. Homer explains that he, Principal Skinner, Barney, and Apu recorded a barbershop quartet album in 1985, which catapulted them to national fame.
This development came after an agent, Nigel, offered to be their representative on the condition they expel original member Chief Wiggum, who was “too Village People.” After rejecting many auditions for a fourth member, the barbershop trio returned downheartedly to Moe’s Tavern, where they recruited Barney after hearing him sing in a beautiful Irish tenor voice. The group considered “Handsome Homer Simpson Plus Three” (suggested by Nigel), finally calling themselves “The Be Sharps.” They had decided their name should be initially witty, yet become less funny each time you heard it.
Back in modern times, Homer brags that he sold a spare tire at the swap meet; unfortunately, on the way home their tire blows out. While Marge begins her long walk to a gas station, Homer continues the story. He tells Bart and Lisa that after Marge bought a “Baby On Board” sign, Homer wrote a song inspired by the fad. “Baby on Board” appeared on their first album, Meet the Be Sharps, and became a hit. The group performed the song at the Statue of Liberty’s centennial in 1986. The Be Sharps also won a Grammy for “Outstanding Soul, Spoken Word, or Barbershop Album of the Year”, and Homer met George Harrison. Meanwhile, Wiggum’s singing career (now dead) was being mocked by numerous talk show hosts.
At home, Homer explains that the Be Sharps were on merchandise (similar to the Beatlemania craze) – such as lunch boxes, mugs, posters, etc. When Lisa pulls out a bottle of Be Sharps Funny Foam, Homer says that it was pulled off the market when it was discovered to be poisonous. The name of their second album was Bigger than Jesus. While the Be Sharps were becoming popular, Marge was having problems raising the children, and the Be Sharps also had their own issues. Creative disputes arose when Barney began dating a Japanese conceptual artist, and Barney left the group in all but name. The two recorded a song in which his girlfriend repeatedly says “Number 8” over tape loops of Barney’s belches (a nod to the Beatles song “Revolution 9”). Ultimately, the group realizes they had lost their popularity and were no longer hot, according to the latest issue of Us Weekly’s What’s Hot and What’s Not, and splits up. Principal Skinner returns to Springfield Elementary School, and Homer returns to the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.
At the end of the episode, the group reunites to perform a concert on Moe’s roof singing their number one hit “Baby on Board”. Many passers-by stop to hear them sing their comeback concert, including George Harrison who remarks, “It’s been done.”
The following can be seen on the Season 5 DVD set:
* The group announces a new Record Label called “Donut Records” (in a parody of the Beatles’ creation of Apple Records) at an empty press conference. Homer then mentions a point when yodeling was threatening their popularity.
* After Homer mentions the band breaking up and going their separate ways, it originally cut to Principal Skinner returning to his mother’s home. She asks if he was with any women, and he replies no. She then horrifies him by asking him to give her a bath and laughs maniacally. The scene then cuts to the outside of their home, which resembles the Bates Motel from Psycho. This is one of several one-off jokes in early seasons to equate Mrs. Skinner to Norman Bates’ mother, before developing her into a full character later on.
* Moe’s Tavern has changed to Moe’s Cavern, a reference to the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool where The Beatles frequently performed in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
* When Barney first preforms with the group the audience chant “Wiggum forever, Barney never” in reference to when Ringo Starr replaced Pete Best, where the audience chanted “Pete forever, Ringo never.”
* Chief Wiggum’s replacement in the band by Barney is a parallel to Pete Best being replaced as The Beatles’ drummer by Ringo Starr. Apu Nahasapeemapetilon having to change his name to Apu de Beaumarchais may also be a reference to Ringo Starr having changed his name from Richard Starkey.
* Their name shares the same first syllable as the Beatles, and, like the Beatles, carries a double meaning.
* Homer having to cover up his marriage to Marge is a parody of John Lennon having to conceal the fact he was married to Cynthia Lennon and had a child in the early years.
* After consoling Marge about hiding her from the press, Homer says “It’ll only be until the end of our tour of Sweden”, in reference to when the Beatles went on their tour of Sweden, shortly after their English tour, and before their tour of America.
* After finishing their record “Baby on Board”, their manager Nigel tells them, “Gentlemen, you’ve just recorded your first number one record.” This is a direct reference to what the Beatles’ producer George Martin said after they recorded their second single, “Please Please Me”.
* The peaceful scenes during the airtime of “Baby on Board” is a reference to the allegation that there was no crime during the appearance of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.
* The first Be Sharps LP, Meet the Be Sharps, is a direct reference to The Beatles’ first American album Meet the Beatles!, featuring the quartet’s faces in black-and-white contrast on the cover.
* The press conference at the airport is a direct reference to the questions the American press asked the Beatles when they first arrived in New York.
* The cover of Bigger Than Jesus, the Be Sharps’ second album, features the group walking on water. It is a direct parody of the art on The Beatles’ album Abbey Road. At the end of the episode the back cover is revealed, on which we see Homer turned away from the camera, as opposed to the rest of the band. This is a parody of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP reverse, in which Paul McCartney is in the same position, allegedly as part of the “Paul Is Dead” hype. “Bigger than Jesus” is a reference to a controversial quote made by John Lennon in 1966. Bart references this by asking “What did you do ? Screw up like the Beatles and say you were bigger than Jesus?” to which Homer replies “All the time, that was the name of our second album”.
* According to Matt Groening in the DVD commentary, the shots of the band in the recording studio where they decide to break up were based on pictures from the Let It Be sessions.
* Barney’s Japanese conceptual artist girlfriend is a parody of Yoko Ono, and the two record a song which sounds similar to Lennon and Ono’s “Revolution 9”. Additionally, the scene in which Barney plays the song for Homer pays homage to a picture of Lennon, Ono, and McCartney in the studio.
* The group performing atop Moe’s Bar at the end of the episode is a parody of The Beatles’ impromptu concert on the Apple Corps rooftop during their Get Back recording sessions in 1969 — hence George Harrison’s line, “It’s been done.”
* Homer’s comment “I’d like to thank you on behalf of the group and I hope we passed the audition,” is the last piece of dialogue, said by John Lennon, on the Beatles Let It Be album, taken from the Apple rooftop concert.
* When Chief Wiggum fails his audition as Dr. Doolittle, he says, “This bird is going to fly,” which is similar to the Beatles song “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).”
Other cultural references
* At the swap meet Homer rakes up a box with items that cost 5¢ each. These include the United States Declaration of Independence, a copy of Action Comics #1, a complete block of Inverted Jenny misprint postal stamps and a Stradivarius violin.
* When onlookers turn away from the Human Fly climbing up a building to watch the B-Sharps on top of Moe’s Tavern instead is a reference to the “Human Spider” Alain Robert.
* Principal Skinner tries on a prison mask with the number 24601, which is famous for being Jean Valjean’s prison number in Les Misérables.
* Homer buys Grampa a pink Cadillac, just as Elvis Presley did for his mother.
* This is the second consecutive appearance by David Crosby.
* “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (sung by Melvin and the Squirrels, a spoof of Alvin and the Chipmunks)
* “Hello! Ma Baby”
* “Goodbye, My Coney Island Baby”
* “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” (sung by Grampa at the audition in the style of Frank Sinatra as he recorded it on his 1961 album All the Way)
* “Downtown” (sung by Groundskeeper Willie at the audition, whose title he pronounced as “Doon-Toon”)
* “Theme from A Summer Place” (sung by Jasper at the audition with lyrics he made up)
* “Talk to the Animals” (sung by Chief Wiggum at the audition disguised as Doctor Dolittle)
* “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral” (sung by Barney in the bathroom at Moe’s)
* “Sweet Adeline”
* “Baby On Board”, a song written by Homer, who also attempted to write songs about the opening of Al Capone’s vault, Mr. T and then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.