By the fall of 1990 Simpsons mania had swept the country, even though the show had been on the air for less than a year. Bart was the breakout star and merchandise featuring the slingshot-wielding delinquent flooded stores, though schools across the country banned his “Underachiever and Proud of It” shirt. Needless to say, that did little but elevate Bart to near God-like status among schoolchildren. This was such a cool cartoon character that you literally couldn’t walk into school with him on your shirt.
Bravely forging ahead with no apparent fear of overexposure, the people behind The Simpsons decided it was time for the cartoon family to starting churning out pop hits. This may sound a little crazy these days, but this was just after Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract,” featuring a duet with MC Skat Kat, exploded onto MTV. If an animated cat could have a hit, why not Bart Simpson?
The Simpsons Sing The Blues was rushed into production at the end of the first season of the show. It hit shelves just in time for Christmas, and almost immediately, “Do The Bartman” began receiving airplay. Rumors swirled that the track was ghost-written by Michael Jackson, a huge Simpsons fan, but the show’s producers denied it. It wasn’t until many years later that Matt Groening fessed up that Jackson did indeed co-write the song. He just had to keep his mouth shut because he was contractually forbidden from writing for an outside label.
The video features Bart hijacking a school recital with a New Jack Swing song about his own hijinks. The kid was such a rebel he put mothballs into his mother’s beef stew. The song was followed up with “Deep, Deep Trouble.” It was another Bart-centered tune, though this time it focused on the consequences for his behavior. The album was a huge smash, peaking at number 3 on the Hot 100. It was in a lot of Christmas stockings that year.
Somehow, the show survived this early onslaught of merchandise, and it quickly moved its focus from Bart to Homer. FXX is airing all 522 episodes in a row over the next 12 days. They probably won’t show the “Do The Bartman” video, so check it out right here.