10 Musical Moments from ‘Gilmore Girls’ (which turns 20 this week)
Much-loved '00s era WB/CW show Gilmore Girls premiered October 5, 2000, launching hundreds of gigantic cups of coffee and obscure pop culture references, all with lots of quirky small town charm. Set in the fictional Connecticut town of Stars Hollow, the series centered around single mom Lorelai Gilmore and her teenage daughter, Rory. Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and husband Daniel Palladino are big music fans and peppered the show with references to their favorite musicians. Sometimes they even peppered the show with the musicians themselves. From a snowman version of Bjork to appearances from Sonic Youth and Sparks, here are 10 musical moments from the series to celebrate the its 20th anniversary.
Grant-Lee Phillips / Sam Phillips
Two different singer-songwriters with the last name Phillips helped weave episodes together with acoustic guitars. Sam Phillips provided the iconic "La la la" score, while Grant-Lee Phillips played Stars Hollow's town troubadour.
They Loved Music Mags and Zines
Music magazines featured heavily on Gilmore Girls. Rory's best friend Lane swore by UK monthly MOJO, while Rory was seen reading Jack Rabid's long-running zine The Big Takeover and bad boy Jess was an avid fan of Punk Planet.
The Bjork Snowperson
In the 2001 episode "The Bracebridge Dinner," Lorelai and Rory enter the Stars Hollow Snowman contest, creating a pretty convincing, frosty version of Icelandic pop iconoclast Bjork. Unfortunately, someone brought in a "ringer" snowman maker, but his creation suffered some sort of mishap (or Gilmore tampering), so Bjork wins by default as "Human Behavior" plays out the end of the episode.
Carole King Played the Local Music Store Owner
Carole King's "Where You Lead" -- re-recorded for the show by Carole and daughter Louise Goffin -- was Gilmore Girls theme song, and King herself turned up on the series to play Sophie Bloom, owner of Stars Hollow store Sophie's Music. She lets Lane work off the purchase of a set of drums...and lets her practice in the store so her strict Christian mother won't know she's playing secular rock n' roll music
Sebastian Bach Joins Local Band Hep Alien
Hep Alien, the band which included Lane (it's why she needed those drums), formed around her romance with Dave Rygalski (Adam Brody). But when Brody left the show to play another indie-rock obsessed person on The OC, Hep Alien kept playing and the group recruited 40-something sandwich shop owner Gil as a replacement. If he seemed especially good at hard rock soloing, it's cause Gil was played by Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach and remained on the show as a regular throughout the rest of its run.
Lorelai Takes the Girls to see The Bangles
Only on Gilmore Girls would a group of teenagers in 2000 be excited to go see '80s stars The Bangles. (Hey, we're not dissing Susanna Hoffs and the rest of the band but it just seems unlikely...except in Stars Hollow.) The concert was also a trip to NYC for Rory, Paris, Madeline and Louise, and was chaperoned by Lorelai...which goes off the rails when Madeline and Louise ditch the show for a party. The Bangles get a fair amount of screen time, playing "Hero Takes a Fall," "Eternal Flame," and "Walk Like an Egyptian."
Gilmore Girls "Discovered" The Shins Before Garden State
Before Natalie Portman changed Zach Braff's life in Garden State by playing him "New Slang," Rory and Paris caught The Shins while on Spring Break in Season 4 episode "Girls in Bikinis, Boys Doin' the Twist." The band play "So Says I" from their 2003 album Chutes Too Narrow, and after the show, when Paris realizes everyone else at the club is having more fun than her, she kisses Rory for the "spring break" experience while New Pornographers' "The Laws Have Changed" plays in the background.
The Episode Based on Dandy Warhols/BJM Documentary DiG
One of Gilmore Girls' most over-the-top musical episodes was Season 6's "He's Slippin' 'Em Bread... Dig?" which contained a b-story homage to The Dandy Warhols/Brian Jonestown Massacre documentary, DiG. That included an appearance from mutton-chopped BJM tambourine player Joel Gion who basically plays himself, joining Hep Alien for an important gig...which ends in an on-stage inter-band fight right out of the documentary.
This Out of Control Reference from Gil in the "Dig" Episode
Sometimes Gilmore Girls tried just a little too hard with the pop culture references, and Daniel Palladino was often responsible. Here's whiplash-inducing stream-of-references courtesy of Gil in the "Dig" episode.
Sonic Youth, Sparks, Yo La Tengo & More in "Battle of the Troubadours"
The craziest musical indie/alt moment in Gilmore Girls -- and arguably network television history -- came with the Season 6 finale, "Partings" (which was the last episode Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino were involved with till the Netflix episodes). In it, town troubadour Grant Lee Phillips accepts a gig opening for Neil Young, and Stars Hollow is suddenly invaded by other musicians looking to fill the vacancy. Those included Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon (and their daughter Coco), Yo La Tengo, Sparks, series composer Sam Phillips, Joe Pernice, comic actress Mary Lynn Rajskub, and more. Fourteen years later, seeing all these musicians in one episode of "family" entertainment is still kinda jaw-dropping. "For me, the biggest thrill was meeting [Sparks'] Ron and Russell Mael," Thurston told Stereogum recently. "Kimono My House was crucial to my teenage development. I couldn’t play Sparks at home because Coco and Kim would be like, 'Turn that off!'"
You can rewatch all these Gilmore Girls moments on Netflix. Happy 20th anniversary!