The weirdest musical TV cameos: from Bob Dylan to the Purple One

Ed Sheeran’s upcoming role in Game of Thrones and Chromatics’ recent ‘gig’ in Twin Peaks are among several other notable guest appearances

Musical cameos in TV shows are always, well, a bit weird. They can either feed into the story and make total sense – like Lera Lynn singing parts of the plot to the barflies in True Detective series two – or they’re totally random, like Alice Cooper popping up for 30 seconds in a game of Dungeons and Dragons in That 70’s Show. But what are the special guest appearances worth YouTubing?

Chromatics – Twin Peaks: The Return

Oooh, Twin Peaks! It’s so edgy and different and cool! Until, of course, it comes to selling the show’s upcoming two soundtrack albums. Then it’s about letting everyone know they can buy those with cold hard cash (or you can just stream them on Spotify, up to you really). Chromatics basically got a free music video out of their appearance at the Roadhouse at the end of the show’s second episode, last week. Sadly, the performance of Shadow (which, yes, will appear on one of those soundtracks) didn’t end with the band encouraging us to “rate, review and subscribe” – but there’s always the next single.

Olly Murs – 90210

If you watched the recent Beverly Hills 90210 reboot and thought the acting was less than convincing, then you need to YouTube Olly Murs’ performance. In 2013, the then fairly unknown former X Factor star rocked up at a party exclusively populated by people in their twenties pretending to be teenagers and they lost their minds. Girls screamed and cried and boys bumped fists while Olly sang Troublemaker and winked at the crowd. It’s an incredible impression of people actively enjoying his music, yet the show failed to even get nominated in that year’s Golden Globes. During the Flaming Lips’ appearance on the original show in 1994, cast members didn’t even stand up. Is Olly a more convincing performer than Wayne Coyne? The proof is right there on the TV box.

Prince – New Girl

Zooey Deschanel, Prince and Jake Johnson.
Zooey Deschanel, Prince and Jake Johnson. Photograph: Fox Television/Rex/Shutterstock

How did Prince appear on New Girl in 2014? Apparently he contacted the show, which he loved to watch, and asked for a role. According to Jake Johnson, who plays Nick, he was “a big fan of Jess and Nick’s relationship and wanted to make it stronger”. The result? The show’s lead characters gatecrash a Prince party, run around failing to tell each other they’re in love, and Prince has to intervene with some advice (“Anything beautiful is worth getting hurt for. You know who said that? Me”). He also performed Fall in Love Tonight with Zooey Deschanel, who looked equal parts thrilled and terrified to be onstage with the Purple One.

Bob Dylan – Dharma & Greg

In the late 90s and early 00s, famous-person TV cameos were all the rage. Bruce Willis in Friends? Sure! Kevin Ferderline in CSI? Great! The weirdest, though, was Bob Dylan in odd-couple sitcom Dharma & Greg. In an awkwardly unfunny scene, Bob and collaborator T-Bone Burnett gamely play along while Dharma (Jenna Elfman) auditions for their band. And guess what? You’ll never guess … yep, she’s terrible. The whole scene lasts a painfully long three and a half minutes and ends with a lame joke about Bob helping her pack the drum kit into her van. Which, weirdly, Bob seems to genuinely smile at. Mate, are you OK?

Ed Sheeran, Sigur Rós, Mastodon, Snow Patrol and Coldplay – Game of Thrones

A game of musical thrones: Sigur Ros on Game of Thrones
A game of musical thrones: Sigur Ros on Game of Thrones Photograph: Youtube

Ed Sheeran, not content with being all over the radio and smugly taking up every position in the charts, is appearing on Game of Thrones’ next series, serenading Ayra Stark. He’s not the first musician to appear: Mastodon played zombiefied Wildlings, Coldplay drummer Will Champion attended the Red Wedding, Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody was a travelling musician and Sigur Ros and Of Monsters and Men sang on the show. Talking last month, Ed says he’s in it for “about five minutes” but “doesn’t die”. Maybe now he’s given away all the show’s secrets, they’ll have a rewrite.

• This article was amended on 26 May 2017 to correct the spelling of the band Mastodon.


Issy Sampson

The GuardianTramp

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