What songs does everyone recognize, but not know?
March 4, 2018 1:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of things like the brilliant Opus No. 1 by Tim Carleton and Darrick Deel, which I'd imagine most people that have made a phone call in the last twenty years have heard (but never knew what it was). There must be other songs like this. What might they be?
posted by stillmoving to Grab Bag (72 answers total) 111 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: What you may think of when you think of Muzak - Theme From A Summer Place
posted by ShooBoo at 1:24 PM on March 4, 2018 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Spanish Flea
posted by otters walk among us at 1:30 PM on March 4, 2018 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Cantaloop
The Gonk
The opening music from The Day The Earth Stood Still I suspect is recognised as 'generic sci-fi music' by far more people than know where it is from.
posted by Vortisaur at 1:46 PM on March 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A classical music example - I'd watched Eurovision for years before finding out that the opening orchestral theme that they have every year is actually a proper piece of music (nul point, self).
posted by Vortisaur at 1:50 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Happy Go Lively by Laurie Johnson
posted by O9scar at 1:50 PM on March 4, 2018 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Alan Tew - The Big One
posted by eschatfische at 1:53 PM on March 4, 2018 [11 favorites]

Best answer: There are some examples in this thread!
posted by Seeking Direction at 1:55 PM on March 4, 2018

Best answer: Raymond Scott Quintette - The Penguin (5 seconds of it, anyway).
posted by pipeski at 1:58 PM on March 4, 2018

Best answer: Probably some very specifically UK examples:
- the music opening Test Match Special is Soul Limbo by Booker T and the MGs
- the Archers theme is a maypole dance called Barwick Green that predates the show by more than 25 years
- I would happily bet a fiver that Dvorak's New World Symphony is more recognised as That Hovis Music (or probably more as a generic Nostalgic Northern Theme)
posted by Vortisaur at 2:06 PM on March 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

Girl from Ipanema is kind of the quintessential example of this.
posted by potrzebie at 2:15 PM on March 4, 2018

Best answer: For extra meta points, "Cantaloop" is sampled from Herbie Hancock's Cantaloupe Island.

Maybe Green Onions?

There's Tárrega's Gran Vals, which you may know from a certain cell phone ringtone. The Samsung "your laundry is done" song is Schubert's "Die Forelle" (previously). And speaking of Raymond Scott, his stuff shows up a lot in WB cartoons, with Powerhouse probably being the most recognizable.

(And on the cartoon bit, somehow the Navy Band plays All Those Endearing Young Charms without exploding).
posted by fedward at 2:34 PM on March 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

Barber's Adagio for Strings is up there with the most common pieces of music in film but few recognize it, let alone know it was originally a string quartet.

Bolero is the second most commonly performed piece of music in the world behind Happy Birthday, and everyone knows it but few would actually know what it is.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:56 PM on March 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Huh, I expected Booker T & the MGs would appear here, but I thought it would be Time is Tight.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:58 PM on March 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The Liberty Bell March. It’s a John Philip Sousa piece that people think of as the Monty Python theme.
posted by FencingGal at 3:06 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The "Morning" section of Grieg's Peer Gynt
posted by Mchelly at 3:12 PM on March 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Take a look through this AskMe from June 3, 2009: What Is That Song They Always Use...?
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 3:58 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just came across a couple great videos on this very topic the other day, while trying to ID the song that popped into my head (which turned out to be the Star Wars Cantina song, not featured below).

79 Instrumental songs everyone knows, but no one knows the name of
Part 2
posted by gennessee at 3:59 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Henry Mancini ~ Lujon was included in the soundtracks for the films The Big Lebowski, Sexy Beast, W.E., and Two Lovers.
posted by Lanark at 4:14 PM on March 4, 2018

Best answer: "Heart and Soul" by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser. Everyone knows the piano parts, but all too few know the words.
posted by Carol Anne at 4:31 PM on March 4, 2018

Best answer: Chuck Mangione - Feels So Good
Rossini - Barber of Seville Overture (I linked to the better known part, but the whole piece is cool.)
posted by SquidLips at 4:42 PM on March 4, 2018

Green Onions.
posted by floweredfish at 5:36 PM on March 4, 2018

Best answer: Frank Stallone - Far From Over
posted by rhizome at 5:40 PM on March 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The theme from the Great Escape!
posted by daisystomper at 5:55 PM on March 4, 2018

Tons of classical music gets used very generically and if you asked people what it was, most of them probably wouldn't know (or care!) The example that springs first to mind is the brindisi from La Traviata. Years ago, the analog was the flower duet from Lakmé .
posted by Smearcase at 6:09 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Rock and Roll Part 2, AKA the song you hear at every sports game ever.
posted by ActionPopulated at 6:19 PM on March 4, 2018

Best answer: Parts of Mozart's Requiem get used a lot to create an atmosphere of - y'know - death and gloom.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:29 PM on March 4, 2018

Best answer: The Colonel Bogey March.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:04 PM on March 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Erik Satie - Gymnopédie No.1
posted by Ducks or monkeys at 11:35 PM on March 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

I imagine that a lot of people who say they don't know anything about classical music would recognize a lot of the music on this list: Kickass Classical Top 100.
posted by colfax at 1:12 AM on March 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I lived in the US, there was a song that I always thought of as the official theme music of the Olympics. When I moved to the UK, I was baffled not to hear it at all during any BBC broadcasts.

It turns out there is no official Olympics theme. However, there is a song called the Bugler's Holiday, which American networks play relentlessly during the Olympics.
posted by yankeefog at 5:41 AM on March 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The question made Vivaldi's Spring immediately get stuck in my head.
posted by lazuli at 6:56 AM on March 5, 2018

Best answer: Classical gas
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 10:15 AM on March 5, 2018

There are loads of YouTube videos devoted to your question, OP. I was surprised at how few I knew. Great question!
posted by Calzephyr at 12:49 PM on March 5, 2018

I think everyone knows a song they think is called Teenage Wasteland but nobody knows the name is actually Baba O'Riley.
posted by bondcliff at 12:53 PM on March 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Lifehacker has now poached this AskMe to create an article and Spotify playlist.

While I'm here, my two faves by Camille Saint-Saëns: that sinister dance-y song with the screechy string start and xylophones everywhere, AKA "Danse Macabre," and the eerie fluttering flute & piano song, AKA "Aquarium" from The Carnival of the Animals.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:10 AM on March 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Wait, what? I'm not really happy about that. Isn't this like, intellectual property, or something?

On a separate note: thanks for the great suggestions! Marked as best the ones that I had heard, but didn't know of (so Green Onions and Girl from Ipanema were already familiar to me!)
posted by stillmoving at 11:14 AM on March 7, 2018

Popcorn - Gershon Kingsley
posted by h00py at 4:23 PM on March 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

Those of us who had little Casio keyboards growing up may be familiar with Toy Symphony by Leopold Mozart (yes, like Mozart Mozart. His dad.)
posted by duffell at 6:02 AM on March 8, 2018

This is probably a dated reference nowadays, but years ago a big group of friends and I were at a restaurant and one of my friends mentioned they didn't have any cash, which triggered the tune, and lyrics, "Even though we ain't got money, I'm so in love with you honey" to be mentioned, but no one could remember what the song was that the tune came from. Since it was one of those songs everyone knew, but no one could place, not having an answer became a irritant that had to be sated, so we asked the waitress, who also knew the song and could hum it just like the rest of us, but couldn't place it either. She asked another waitress without any better success.

Eventually we stopped discussing it, but, later, when I went to the restroom, I had to laugh when could hear people at several other tables humming the tune trying themselves to figure out where the hell it came from as the waitresses must have been asking other people if they knew the song. Evidently that song fit the earworm without a name category well at the time.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:23 AM on March 8, 2018

I keep a spotify playlist of things like this but there's very little classical on it; and more of rather songs that have been pretty memorable in the american pop zeitgeist that many people know but don't know the name of it, often because it has a title that's not repeated in the song.
posted by fizzix at 2:27 PM on March 8, 2018

The song that I knew but didn’t know the name of for years is Music Box Dancer.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:08 PM on March 8, 2018

Pater Alethias: Funny story, the Frank Mills album that that comes from is actually pretty good! It's like an album of Belle & Sebastian instrumentals with occasional disco strings, a little Herb Alpert horn, and piano in the place of vocals.

Commercial licensing might be out of bounds, but:
The New Pornographers - Bleeding Heart Show
posted by rhizome at 7:45 PM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Summer Samba
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:36 AM on March 9, 2018

Songs from this thread are now featured in a Spotify list on Lifehacker.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:32 AM on March 12, 2018

Ever since Requiem For a Dream, Lux Aeterna has become the go-to cinema music for angsty despair, but I don't think most people know the name.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:53 AM on March 12, 2018

Morricone's theme to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
posted by gyusan at 10:09 AM on March 12, 2018

Saint-Saens, you say? Rondo Capriccioso

Misirlou (Dick Dale)

Walk Don't Run (The Ventures)

Apache (The Shadows)

Theme de Camille (Georges Delerue)

Por Una Cabeza (Gardel & LePera)

I catch the version of "The Gael" used in The Last of the Mohicans being recycled from time to time. There are a few different versions in the film. (It's also possible they're just being closely re-orchestrated and not licensed.)

And I think it's likely "most people" couldn't identify a lot of classical pieces often used as hold, background or mood music by name:

Bach's Air on the G String, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, Fifth Symphony or Fur Elise, Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik or Minuet in G, Vivaldi's Spring , Pachebel's Canon in D and on and on for a while.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:16 AM on March 12, 2018

Santo and Johnny: Sleep Walk
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:34 AM on March 12, 2018

Night on Bald Mountain, for creepy stuff.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 11:08 AM on March 12, 2018

For hold music / TV voiceover background music:
Aphex Twin - Xtal
Future Sound of London - Papua New Guinea
Massive Attack - Teardrop

For car ad music: basically anything on Moby - Play

You probably heard Darude - Sandstorm once and it's been firmly lodged in some nerve cells ever since, like a sort of audio chickenpox.
posted by doop at 1:22 PM on March 12, 2018

We got this far and no one mentioned Desafinado, The Song Played As Background To Whatever Upper Class Wedding Or Jazz Brunch You're Filming?
posted by dw at 3:01 PM on March 12, 2018

posted by gc at 3:15 PM on March 12, 2018

Known colloquially as zombie nation when I was in college; Zombie Nation is actually the band name. Zombie Nation - Kernkraft 400
posted by Nitro Status at 4:42 PM on March 12, 2018

Baker Street, by Gerry Rafferty.
posted by swift at 6:18 PM on March 12, 2018

ha! I've always called Left Bank Two the Little Big Planet song that's relaxing
posted by numaner at 7:15 PM on March 12, 2018

Rhapsody in Blue, by George Gershwin
Claire de Lune, by Claude Debussy
O mio babbino caro, by Giacomo Puccini, sung by Maria Callas
posted by numaner at 7:40 PM on March 12, 2018

If hold music counts, there's always Opus Number 1, the ubiquitous Cisco hold music (This American Life did a story about it once). Or the rage-inducing CVS hold music, Golden Dragon by Karl King, of which there are a surprising number of covers on YouTube.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:35 PM on March 12, 2018

I've heard this song for ages without knowing what it was called (or its incredible popularity) and it came up randomly in an unrelated Spotify search just last week: easy listening titan L'amour est bleu (Love Is Blue) as made famous by Paul Mauriat.
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 11:23 AM on March 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Fun fact: "Love Is Blue" was #1 exactly 50 years ago.
posted by rhizome at 1:29 PM on March 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Rondeau - Jean Joseph Mouret
posted by rhizome at 8:38 PM on March 13, 2018

I am genuinely shocked this thread has gone on this long without mentioning house music song #483: Darude's "Sandstorm"
posted by koavf at 3:07 AM on March 14, 2018

Oh, and it was. Stupid me—shows what I know. :/
posted by koavf at 3:15 AM on March 14, 2018

The Meters - Cissy Strut
posted by edverb at 8:57 PM on March 15, 2018

Aaron Copeland's Hoedown, used in the "Beef. It's what's for dinner" campaign.
posted by a.steele at 2:47 PM on April 6, 2018

heh, i think the first time i heard "Love is Blue" was when i was a child in Vietnam, not sure if this was the exact one, but it might be.
posted by numaner at 2:54 PM on April 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

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