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SpongeBob Squarepants has always been the most surreal kids’ show out there -- and not without a dose of rock n' roll, thanks to its creator Stephen Hillenburg.
On Tuesday (Nov. 27), Hillenburg died after a battle with ALS. He was 57. A marine biologist who went back to school to study experimental animation, Hillenburg debuted the weird, wonderful aquatic cartoon show SpongeBob Squarepants for Nickelodeon in 1999.
Along with titular sponge, Hillenburg introduced the world to the undersea town of Bikini Bottom, featuring characters like the dimwitted Patrick Star, the karate-loving Sandy Cheeks and the money-grubbing Mr. Krabs.
Since the show’s debut, SpongeBob has reflected its creator’s love of music, too; over the years, it’s featured musicians like David Bowie, Pantera, Spice Girls' Victoria Beckham and KISS’ Gene Simmons.
In 2016, SpongeBob even made it to the stage. The Broadway play did justice to the show’s psychedelic, imaginative essence -- and a rocking soundtrack drove the show, with everyone from the Flaming Lips to Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler lending their talents.
In memory of Stephen Hillenburg’s legendary music obsession, here’s a list of the best guest musical appearances on SpongeBob Squarepants.
1999: The Ghastly Ones in “Scaredy Pants”
In the Season 1 episode “Scaredy Pants,” a rather gullible SpongeBob is easily susceptible to Halloween scares. To get back at Squidward and Mr. Krabs’ holiday galling, he crashes the Krusty Krab as the Flying Dutchman. Listen to the work party’s house music; it’s from the Van Nuys, California, surf-rock band The Ghastly Ones.
2000: Junior Brown in “Texas”
“I wish I was back in Texas / The ocean’s no place for a squirrel.” So goes a nostalgic tune by Sandy Cheeks, a Texan rodent caught in Bikini Bottom on the Season 1 episode “Texas.” “My helmet just sprung a leak!”, she excuses for her tears. Sandy sings a sentimental ode to her Southern home, courtesy of country singer Junior Brown.
2000: Ween in “Your Shoe’s Untied”
SpongeBob’s starfish buddy Patrick forgets how to tie his shoes on Season 2’s “Your Shoe’s Untied” -- with SpongeBob embarrassingly following suit for the entire episode. When his pet Gary the Snail finally solves his problem, he’s accompanied by a Ween original, the charming shoe-tying ditty “Loop De Loop.”
2000: The Capsules in “Bossy Boots”
Mr. Krabs’ whale daughter Pearl renovates the Krusty Krab into “The Kuddly Krab” on Season 2’s “Bossy Boots.” (Neither “The Khaotic Krab” or “The Kissy Krab” pass muster.) As the restaurant’s new trendy denizens throw a dance party, listen for the Lawrence, Kansas, indie-pop band The Capsules in the background.
2001: Pantera in “Pre-Hibernation Week”
Sandy’s headed for hibernation on Season 2’s “Pre-Hibernation Week,” and wants to get all her extreme sports in beforehand. “We’ve gotta climb some things!” she exclaims to SpongeBob. “We gotta jump off of stuff!” And the fidgety riffing of Texan metal giants Pantera soundtracks all of it.
2001: David Glen Eisley in “Band Geeks”
“Band Geeks,” from Season 2, finds Squidward locked in a musical duel with his uppity high school classmate, Squilliam. He’s got to form a Bikini Bottom ensemble at the local sporting event, the Bubble Bowl, within a week’s time. For most of the episode, SpongeBob and the rest do disastrously, until the Bowl performance. Out of nowhere, they bust out David Eisley’s yacht-rock epic “Sweet Victory,” literally knocking Squilliam on his back, having him taken away by paramedics.
2002: Lux Interior in “Party Pooper Pants”
The Cramps’ late, great singer Lux Interior even showed up in the SpongeBob universe. He sang on behalf of Bird Brains, a live-action puppet band at Patchy the Pirate’s house for the Season 3 episode “Party Pooper Pants.” The racket sends Patchy flying through a row of houses, eventually slamming head-first into a telephone pole.
2005: Stew in “Have You Seen This Snail?”
When SpongeBob gets too distracted by his Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy paddleball set, Gary goes rogue in search of a new owner. Bob’s despondence is set to a winsome folk tune, “Gary’s Song,” by Mark “Stew” Stewart. “I was wrong / I messed up / And now you’re gone,” Stewart sings. It could be an ode to any loved one taking off, pet snail or not.
2007: David Bowie in “Atlantis SquarePantis”
SpongeBob and Patrick discover a key to the lost city of Atlantis in this 2007 special. They’re shown a grand tour of its fortress by the Lord Royal Highness, voiced by none other than David Bowie. Until the sea dwellers pop the world-famous “World’s Oldest Bubble,” enraging the aquatic sovereign. The batty plot aside, this SpongeBob episode benefited from rock royalty.
2007: Gene Simmons in “20,000 Patties Under the Sea”
“20,000 Patties Under the Sea” finds Mr. Krabs opening a mobile restaurant to compete with his tiny archenemy Plankton. While ineptly working for Krabs, SpongeBob and Patrick fall into a watery abyss, awakening a monster voiced by KISS’ Gene Simmons. He’s satiated by a helping of Krabby Pattys, enough to save our heroes.
2007: Christopher Guest in “Stanley S. SquarePants”
Christopher Guest starred in 1984’s This is Spinal Tap as Nigel Tufnel, whose Fender Bass VI famously couldn’t be played, touched, looked at or talked about. In 2007, he appeared on SpongeBob as his taller, handsomer troublemaking cousin, causing Squidward to flee in abject fear.
2009: Johnny Depp, The Monkees’ Davy Jones in “SpongeBob SquarePants vs. The Big One”
Prior to the Hollywood Vampires, Johnny Depp performed in the band P with Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes in the '90s. He also made his way into a 2009 SpongeBob episode, “SpongeBob SquarePants vs. The Big One,” as a muscle-bound surfer named Jack Kahuna Luga. The Monkees’ Davy Jones shows up as the literal gatekeeper of the legendary oceanic abyss, Davy Jones’ Locker.
2010: The Spice Girls’ Victoria Beckham in “The Clash of Triton”
Season 6’s “The Clash of Triton” finds the infamous King Neptune wanting to celebrate his 5,000th birthday at the Krusty Krab. However, his son, Triton, has been imprisoned to the chagrin of Neptune and his wife, Queen Amphitrite, played by the Spice Girls’ Victoria Beckham. Beckham accepted the role on behalf of her sons, Brooklyn, Romeo and Crew, all SpongeBob diehards.
Whether in musical or speaking roles, SpongeBob Squarepants’ infectious weirdness attracted notable musicians from metal, punk and pop spheres alike. It’s all the same in Bikini Bottom.
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