Do you remember the first time you saw The Simpsons on TV? For me, it was probably the first time that I saw the video for “Do The Bartman”, which was on The Chart Show‘s special when they previewed some of the songs that could be hits at the start of 1991. I think I’d heard a little about the show, but I hadn’t ever really seen any of the characters in action before, so this caught my interest.
In January 1991 “Do The Bartman” was released, and this came about halfway through the second series (the majority of the vocals were performed by Bart, as he was the main character in the earliest episodes, supposedly being the ultimate mischievous boy). The video looks remarkably scruffy by today’s HD standards. This turned out to be a chart-topper for three weeks in the UK (and for nine weeks in Ireland), and this was a surprise for several reasons.
Firstly, the only way that you could see full episodes in the UK at this point was on Sky One, when there still wasn’t really a huge amount of viewers (The Simpsons didn’t come to BBC1 until November 1996, although you could buy episodes on VHS before that). This means that the success of the song was rather out of proportion to how many people were actually regular viewers. And this wasn’t even a hit single in America, which really is a shock.
What probably did help steer “Do The Bartman” to some success was the debate about whether there was an uncredited contribution by Michael Jackson (it turns out he was one of the backing singers and co-producer, but it might be stretching it to say that this qualifies as an outright Jackson song). It also meant that characters such as Principal Skinner and the like were suddenly on Top Of The Pops!
In February 1991 the album “The Simpsons Sing The Blues” was released, and this made the Top Ten too. Next in April 1991 was “Deep Deep Trouble”, which featured a main vocal from Homer as well as Bart, and also made the Top Ten (and was a chart-topper for four weeks in Ireland, making it 13 weeks altogether for the two songs). I remember when I saw the video for this for the first time I found it rather scary, I still don’t like to look at it much now.
Was this really all three decades ago now? Well, yes. Surprisingly, there were no more hit singles after this, unless you count “Spider Pig” from the film, but they had made their impact, and proved that they were here to stay, on TV, if not the singles chart. There have now been over 700 episodes of The Simpsons, and the 33rd series starts later this year.